Accidents can happen at any time, so it’s extremely important that you’re prepared for them. Not all medical emergencies need to go through a GP or doctor; many small accidents, such as grazes, blisters and splinters, can be treated instantly with the help of a first aid kit.
We asked Dr Lotte Newman, a St John Ambulance Medical Advisor, about the importance of first aid kits:
“Having a fully stocked first aid kit on hand can make all the difference when an accident happens, whether it’s in the home, on the road, on holiday or in the workplace. The kit should be kept in a convenient location, with items being replaced immediately after they have been used. It’s also important to regularly check the kits to ensure that the appropriate items are not out of date. Coupled with a knowledge of first aid, using a first aid kit could mean the difference between life and death.”
So, having a first aid kit about you is basically essential. It’s probably the most essential item in your holiday suitcase. Below is a guide to exactly what you need to pack in your first aid kit when you’re packing for a holiday.
You can get so many varieties of thermometers, such as glass sticks, plastic, and the newer sticky forehead strips which are easy to read. They’re particularly useful for babies and young children. There are also digital ear thermometers which give you accurate readings in no time.
Note: Normal body temperate is 37 degrees Celsius and any value above 38 degrees is defined as a fever.
This is vital for skin injuries which cause the skin to break, such as cuts, bites and stings, since it is easy for germs to enter the bloodstream through these injuries. Antiseptic comes in different forms:
- Solutions contain germ-killing agents; the most popular brands are Dettol Wound Wash, TCP and Savlon. Make sure your supply is in date and that the lid is securely fastened in order to prevent contamination. Apply the solution using sterile cotton wool. For smaller injuries, wash the wound with clean running water first, before using the solution to protect it against infection. Once cleaned and dried, apply a plaster or dressing to the area to cover it.
- Sprays usually contain mild, fast-acting local anaesthetic to relieve pain from minor burns, bites, stings and grazes.
- Wipes are a more practical way to clean cuts and grazes while also preventing infection. Take a fresh wipe and begin cleaning the wound by gently removing dirt and germs in an outward direction from the wound.
3. Eye wash
For these solutions, it’s best to carry small, individually packed solutions, as larger packs may get contaminated. Break the seal and squeeze the vial to allow the eye wash to thoroughly rinse the eye. Do not use them if their seal is broken. An alternative to the eye wash is boiled water that has been cooled down.
Plasters are multipurpose essentials that come in various shapes and sizes. You could pack a variety of them:
- Fabric: For long-lasting protection with extra sticking power.
- Waterproof: Allow air to pass but prevent water and germs coming into contact with skin.
- Hypoallergenic: Suitable for sensitive skin, easily removable.
- Haemostatic: Help to stop bleeding and promote the clotting function of blood.
- Cushioned: Provide extra protection against knocks and bumps.
- Blister plasters: Specialised plasters for healing blisters. The blister area must be clean and dry and the plaster should be applied so that the blister is in the centre. If the blister does not heal or becomes infected, you should seek medical attention.
Dressings are used to cover bigger wounds. They are like plasters, but provide extra cover and protection because they are larger. There are different types of dressings for different purposes:
- Hydrocolloid: Used for small cuts and grazes which bleed continuously, as these dressings are designed to absorb excess fluid.
- Waterproof film: Clear dressing for dry wounds, simply to keep water out while you monitor the healing process through the transparent film.
- Skin closures: Thin and sticky antiseptic strips designed to hold the edges of deep cuts and grazes together.
Minor cuts and grazes, that are not continuously bleeding, should be cleaned under cold running water, sterilised with antiseptic and covered with a plaster or dressing after drying the area.
Minor burns and scalds should be cooled under rapidly running cold water for ten minutes and covered with a sterile non-fluffy dressing.
These chemicals provide fast-acting relief against mild allergic reactions like hay fever. They are usually taken to relieve symptoms such as sneezing, itching, watery eyes or a runny nose. The best companies are Piriton and Zirtec, with one tablet providing 24-hour relief and is suitable for children over 6 years. Antihistamines are also available as creams; these reduce swelling and soothe insect bites and stings.
These are absolutely essential as a headache or muscle cramps can begin at any time. They include Paracetamol, Aspirin and Junior syrup pain relief. Paracetamol is often recommended by doctors for fast-acting pain relief and is suitable for several problems, including fever, cold, flu and muscle pain. However, it is important to stick to the appropriate dose as given on the box.
Aspirin may cause stomach irritation for some people, especially if taken on an empty stomach, and has been linked with Reyes Syndrome in some childhood illnesses. Children should be given junior preparations such as Calpol.
Ensure that the painkillers are stored in a clean, dry place and that they are in date. For administering children’s preparations, you should pack a 5ml dose spoon or cup.
8. Rehydration solution
These come as sachets of powder containing a mixture of salts and sugars, and is dissolved in water and drunk in the event of sickness or diarrhoea.
9. Travel sickness pills
These are especially important for people who are prone to travel sickness. Popular companies are Quells and Kalms. You can now also get travel band bracelets which work on pressure points on your wrists and are especially useful for drivers or someone who needs to stay awake as they do not cause drowsiness.
A great natural remedy for motion sickness is ginger; ginger biscuits or grated ginger wrapped in cling film to chew on during a journey are always a good idea to pack.
When giving someone first aid, you must ensure that you are not adding to the risk of infection, for the injured person and for yourself. Keep a pair of latex gloves in your kit and use them when dealing with blood or vomit in particular.
Sharp scissors and safety pins
Always keep a clean pair of scissors and clean pins in your first aid kit in case you need them.
Tweezers are handy in case you need to remove small pieces of wood, metal or glass stuck in the skin. Sterilize the area and use the tweezers to pull out the splinter. Next, gently squeeze the wound and clean any fluid, and cover the area with a plaster. If you cannot remove the splinter, seek medical advice.
Crepe and support bandages
These bandages are useful in the event of a strain or sprain. The way to put them on is by slightly elevating the limb to a resting position and applying an ice pack. The bandage would be wrapped or pulled over the ice compress to help reduce pain and swelling. Applying Arnica cream can help reduce bruising and inflammation.
Ice pack or gel packs
These should be stored in the fridge and taken out only when needed. Apply them to bumps or bruises to reduce swelling. You could even use a pack of frozen peas instead, but make sure to wrap it in a clean tea towel before using it on the skin, as direct contact with ice can cause a cold burn.
This is used to soothe irritated skin, rashes and sunburn. You can also get gels and mousses for more severe rashes, like with chickenpox.
Giving Paracetamol and Ibuprofen to your child
Liquid forms of both paracetamol and ibuprofen can be found in pharmacies and supermarkets that are suitable for babies and young children. Use an oral syringe to measure and administer the medicine to your child.
- Older children may be able to swallow the tablets with water.
- There are also soluble tablets available, which are only suited to children aged 12 or over.
- Remember, keep all medicines out of children’s reach and sight.
Emergency contact numbers:
Be sure to have the following contact information if you’re traveling abroad, in case you experience a serious medical problem:
- Emergency phone number for ambulance
- Phone number and address of the nearest hospital to where you’re staying
- Phone number of your hotel or accommodation manager who may help in the event of an emergency.
Don’t hesitate to seek urgent medical help if the person has:
- Stopped breathing
- Is unconscious and if their lips are going blue.
- Has a deep wound, or is bleeding badly.
- Has a serious burn or chemicals in their eyes.
- Consumed something poisonous.
- Broken a bone.
- Been bitten by an animal or snake.
- Punctured an eye or ear.