I started thinking, as summer is coming up, just what I want in my first aid kit for the range and any firearms classes I will be attending. Then I tried to decide what would be a good kit for just about anything I would do outdoors that might cause a traumatic injury. I thought about what we had at work (local fire/EMS department) and what changes have come along since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan we have revamped a number of things we do in treating traumatic injuries. Probably the most significant change in this care has been the reintroduction of tourniquets. What for well over 20 years had been a major No-No is now initial care. In the “old days”, care was done by ABC; Air way, Breathing, Circulation.
Now the standard is EABC. The E, standing for Exsanguination or better known as “bleeding out”, is the number one killer on the battlefield. So our first step is to stop the bleeding with direct pressure. If direct pressure will not stop the bleeding we then can go to a tourniquet. Just to clarify, we do not use tourniquets for bleeding on one’s neck, ok people.
Treating trauma is pretty simple when you get right down to it. It involves stopping the bleeding with direct pressure and protecting the airway. Past that there is not much else one can really do outside an operating room. Trauma is cured by surgeons, and the only place we find those these days is in hospitals. That being said, my favorite kit item is the Israeli Bandage, also called the Emergency Bandage. It is a pressure bandage, tourniquet, sling, and just about anything else you can figure to use it for.
Israeli emergency Bandage
In addition to my favorite and most important item, here is a quick list and explanation of what else I would carry.
- Gloves: Latex or if you have a Latex allergy, Nitrile. Who wants to get covered by somebody else’s fluids?
- Trauma Shears: Excellent for cutting away clothing and light gear to get to an injury. Hell, you could strip your favorite person naked with these things in less than 30 seconds.
- ACE Bandage: Standard, which can be used in many ways, the same as an Israeli bandage.
- Kling Bandage: As with the ACE bandage, can be wrapped tightly to create a tourniquet or hold a 4x4s over a wound.
- Cravat / Tri-Angular Bandage: Good for making a tourniquet, securing a limb to a splint, or making a sling.
- Tape: I prefer cloth medical tape because it is strong. The other great tape to use is 100mph or Duct Tape. As any real man knows, you can fix anything with Duct Tape.
- 4X4 Gauze Pads: Can be used to cover just about any injury and then secured with either tape or Kling bandage.
- Band-Aids: For the little boo-boos.
- Neosporin Ointment: Good for small cuts and scrapes. More importantly, it is excellent for burns.
- Bee Sting Swabs: Can be used for any painful bug bite.
- Benadryl: For allergic reactions, which can be caused by a bug bite or sting, plants or even foods.
- Aspirin: For all of us old farts that still have the strength to lift a weapon and fire it. Keep some chewable aspirin with you just in case the Big One should rear its ugly head. Aspirin is the first line of defense for heart attacks.
- Ice Pack: For the bumps, bruises, sprains, and fractures. Cold should be used as much as possible for 48 hours to keep swelling down. Don’t apply the Ice Pack directly to skin as this can cause frost bite which is an injury you really don’t want.
- Plastic Bags: Use baggies to organize and separate out the above contents. Baggies can also be used in conjunction with the aforementioned tape to help seal a wound to the chest, back or abdomen.
Basic First Aid Kit Contents
I have not listed clotting agents like Quick Clot. The reason for this is despite its supposed efficacy in the movie, what Mark Wahlberg does with it when he gets shot in the chest in Shooter is an improper and dangerous use of the product. When used incorrectly these agents can do more harm than good. Become proficient with the other items listed above and you will not need them.
Now come some extras I believe one should also carry which are not really part of a first aid kit usually, but in my opinion should be.
Water, sunscreen (I prefer Coppertone spray SPF 70+), cell phone with fresh batteries, a multi tool, flash light with extra batteries, a good knife, and a GPS that gives latitude and longitude (now found in many cell phones).
These are items that in an emergency can truly mean the difference between life and death. Not all of us live in the big city and out there in the woods or our favorite isolated from civilization shooting spot that GPS, phone and light can mean the difference between a MEDEVAC helicopter getting to you and having to search for you.
What do you all keep in your FAK?
Contributing Medical Correspondent
Andrew R. has been involved in EMS for 24 years with 18 of those years as a paramedic for a fire department just outside the Washington DC. During this time Andrew has also served for 10 years on a Federal WMD Decon Team, 5 years as a Forensic Investigator for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maryland, done ride-alongs with MDA (Magen David Adom, the ambulance service of Israel), and has been involved in the training of Navy SEAL and Air Force PJ paramedics.