|A similar bag was used as the MedKit|
I'm saying this story to emphasize the importance of useful Medical Kits in a specialised environment, and to showcase on what knowledge this post is based on.
I am not a doctor, nor will I ever be one. But being near doctors for my whole life has sensitized me on proper medical care. Although this post is based on experience and collaboration with real doctors the information should not be used as a medical reference nor should you take anything here for granted. Unless you ARE a doctor, this post should by no means substitute one. Pay attention to medication instructions and always consider the safest course of action regarding your wellbeing.
As is customary in such posts there has to be a DISCLAIMER: This post and the views and information expressed in it, are not to be used as medical reference. They are therapeutic conclusions based on personal experience and do not represent a trained and certified physician's views or practices. There, I said it, even though the data is collected and crosschecked with real physicians. Lets move on, shall we?
Now, I have witnessed difficult situations like seeing a mortar fuse blow up in a recruit's arms, severing several fingers and making me instantly thanking god that the whole mortar didn't blow up, and foot blisters that I never again want to see. I even treated an idiot who after having a dump in the forest, thought that some stinging nettle was a fern and tried to wipe himself with it... I even got through 1st degree facial burn bacause I tripped in the mess hall with a huge pot of stew in my arms and it sloshed all over my neck and lower face...
These situations helped me realise the importance of good training and well prepared Medic Kits. So, needless to say that having a decent and well thought out Medical Kit is crucial. Most of all, though, the most vital thing to remember is to play it safe...That is, I try to keep myrself out of avoidable danger. In the end of this post you'll find some reference videos regarding First Aid actions...
Without further dealy, I'll cut to the chase and begin by saying a few DONT'S. I hate to do this because I may sound patronizing but it's for good reason. For those who may do something foolish, to protect themselves and for those who already know to remember a few things...
|Don't do it Alex!|
|"What's for dinner?"|
|"My knife shoots lasers! Pew-pew!"|
|Try to hike as a team.|
Also, I try to have a teammate always with me. A friend who also likes to hike. I try to travel in pairs. If I don't have a trustworthy co-traveller and I want to hike alone, I am extra careful and pack a decent Medical Kit.
Ouch! That Hurt!...
So we come to the point where we may have to deal with some pain, injury or physical inconvenience that needs our immediate attention. What do we carry with us out there in the woods, be that for a day or for a week of hiking? First and most we need some basic knowledge about fisrt aid, even if that means administering it to ourselves. Learning how to tie a bandage, nestle/immobilize a broken limb , treat a fracture and knowing what needs to be done is paramount...This knowledge is also free, and weighs nothing.
Some of the things that we may experience in the woods are:
1. Skin irritations. If we are not clothed properly it may happen. Full sleeves always and in the summer get a pair of trousers with removable legs (can go from trousers to shorts in seconds) Skin irritations can be dealt with, with any kind of anti-inflammatory or anti-histamine ointment or oral medication. They are cheap, most may not need prescription, but generally mometasone-furoate (anti-inflammatory, needs prescription usually) and Fenistil(gel), loratadine, desloratadine (anti-histamine, oral) are best to be near you at all times.
2. Bruises, abrasions, lacerations, burns. Again proper clothing (wear leather gloves)will protect you from much of this. As for the cuts and scratches if they are not severe they can be treated by applying some antiseptic (Betadine solution) with a sterile gauze, and then covering it up with an elastic bandage or Band-Aid. Mild burns can be treated, first with running cold water for AT LEAST 15 min and then with local application of sodium fucidate (antibiotic) ointment (try to avoid cream..). Then cover them lightly with sterile gauzes and breathable elastic bandage. in case of a nasty 2nd degree burn that forms blisters, calmly treat the burn as above (for the 1st degree) but persistently return to your house or car and call an ambulance immediately! Burns may be more debilitating than initially foreseen, so please be carefull around fire...
3. Pain in general. From a minor headache (because you forgot to pack coffee for the morning) to a migraine and general not-well being, simple analgesics work well. Paracetamol, or ibuprofen are good choices and have very good pain relieving and fever reducing effects. Avoid acetylsalicylic acid at all costs. It is inferior to the above substances for its pain relieving effects and has serious adverse effects and restrictions for use. Plus it acts as an anti-clotting agent and may prove difficult to manage other wounds.
Important: If for any reason you feel really sick, (I'm not talking about some minor flu symptoms such as runny nose or sore throat) pack your things and go home to see a doctor. You might have a microbial infection that needs antibiotics and professional treatment.
6. Cold and Cold Weather. In cold weather it is absolutely crucial to have proper clothing and proper sheltering. Here, I won't go into details about what to wear. You can find excellent clothing techniques at Woodtrekker's Blog so I won't go into that now. Nor will I discuss extreme enviroments. I am sure there are hundreds of special blogs and sites for that. The only thing I will comment on is, have a small towel with you to wipe sweat, and keeping your neck and scruff warm is important. When you excert yourself, even in -10C, you will start to sweat but your neck is exposed and since it hasn't any large working muscles it gets cold. So, when you get cold you might catch a cold...but most probably you may experience symptoms of hypothermia and dehydration. Make sure you pack a tent or other light,windproof shelter with you, suitable sleeping bag and always have a fire around your camp. Keep it tidied up and well stoked, and have the means to start one quickly and easily. Also some instant hand warmers may be handy in cold weather.
|"Your trousers are so tasty!"|
These are basic afflictions that may or may not happen to you and are based on my experience and discussions with experienced mountaineers. The list is not absolute nor final.
If you think I left something out that is commonplace elsewhere please comment and I will see if it can be included in the guide along with directions.
The Medical Kit.
After having said all the above, I think it is time to review the items in a well prepared, casual hiker's Medical Kit.
1. Sterile gauzes. Usually they come in packs of 10 and they are small and light. They come individually packed. They are used to clean and dress wounds.1 pack of 10 (or 12 in some cases) is enough.
|Sterile Gauze - 5 pack|
2. Self adhesive sterile gauzes. Individually packed, they can vary in size. Usually 2 palm sized are enough.
|Self Adhesive Sterile Gauze|
3. Hansaplasts or Band-Aids. A packet is enough to last you years or until they expire. Make sure there are big ones in the packet. Also some specific finger-hansaplasts and rubber finger protectors are good items.
4. Elastic Bandages. I cannot begin to describe the importance and versatility of this item. It will bandage wounds, keep injured limbs firmly in place, dress a sore foot or a sprained ankle. The ideal size is no.10 displayed in the photo.
5. Small scissors. This one is from fishing accesories and is an excellent choice for 3$(2 euros). You can find small treasures in the weirdest of places.
6. Small soap. Either get one for free at a hotel or buy one from hotel acessories. Ultra cheap and useful to sanitize your hands and face.
7. Dental floss. A material that can be used to clean your teeth, sew cloth, tie up bags etc. Can be ommited in the final cut...
8. Betadine Solution. Povidone Iodine 10% is a must have... Besides it's main use as wound dissinfectant, it can be used as a water purification means. Usually 4 drops per litre is enough. Water may become somewhat sweet flavored but it's safe to drink and it's better than chlorinated water. Check out these Water Purification Methods.
|Povidone Iodine 10%|
9. Burn dressings. These are a must. Sodium Fucidate soaked gauzes for treating burns or wounds or WaterJel packs for soothing burns. If your Pharmacy has specific burn dressings get some. 2 are enough if you are so careless as to burn yourself.
10. Antibiotic Ointment or Cream. Sodium Fucidate is one of the best and quite cheap. May need prescription.
Important: Don't open containers just to see what the substance looks like because the expiration date gets set at 2 to 6 months after opening, whereas they can be stored for mare than 2 years. Check expiration dates on purchase to get the maximum shelf life out of your medication.
|"Psst....I have some Immodium if you want..."|
12. Nasal decongestant. Any one will do, as long as it doesn't contain steroids in it. Usually they don't need prescription. Their capillary dilation action makes sure you can breathe right if you get sick and need to return home quickly.
13. Paracetamol, analgesic. I use dispersible in mouth tabs that need no water. Each tube contains 8 tabs of 500mg of paracetamol. As per the SPC, dosage can vary from 500mg x 3 times daily to 1000mg x 3 times daily to a maximum of 4000mg daily dosage.
14. Sulfonamide or similar powder. A great and tried antimicrobial powder. Sprinkled on a bleeding wound will help clot the blot and dissinfect the wound. Usable on open wounds where cream or ointment application is impossible.
15. Adhesive tape for medical use. 1 roll of hypoallergic adhesive, easy-cut tape.
16. DDT Insect repelant. For those "friendly" insects that want to sleep with you...
|Poison Ivy skin rash|
18. Personal Medication. If you are allergic to bee stings, pollen or other natural phenomena or have some other affliction that need special medicine always have your medication with you.
19. Anti inflammatory Ointment. This may need prescription from a doctor but the safest of them all is a steroid called mometasone furoate. Ointment is vaseline rich and helps keep the skin moisturised. Apply 2 times daily to the affected spot. DON'T use on open wounds. (It may be ommited from final kit if you feel unsure of its use...).
20. Snake bite kit. Carry only if you know there are poisonous and dangerous snakes in your area and you happen to go poorly clothed in a snake riddled enviroment.
21. Baby wipes. Small travel pack or sanitizing mild antibacterial wipes for travel. They are a must if you can't find a good water source to wash your hands or face. They are practically magical. Have used them in the army for gun cleaning to boot shinning to personal hygiene purposes...
22. Sterile surgical gloves. I suggest one packed pair of your size.
23. Stitches and scalpels. Adhesive sutures or 2 packets of self absorbing needle-threaded sutures size 3-0 are important to have with you. Also 2 sealed scalpel bits are needed.
24. Sodium Choride 0,9% Solution. 500ml is enough to wash wounds and use as natural tears.
25. Syringe. One syringe of 5 or 10 ml cpacity with big needle. The syringe goes with the sterile Sodium Chloride solution and is used to extract liquid from the bottle and to spray at the wound or eye. You stick the needle in the plastic bottle, draw liquid and pull the syringe from the needle. Needle stays stuck at the bottle and you can spray or jettison the solution safely without the risk of puncturing yourself. Caution: Don't get those "insulin syringes" that are super thin, because they have a hair like needle which is useless for our purposes.
26. Triangular Bandage. 1 bandage is enough for you. Pack 2 if you travel with a friend.
And after all that we come to the end of this analysis.
The Medical Kit is kept simple with only the most essential provisions that relate to the dangers ahead. Sure, there are larger and more elaborate or expensive Kits out there, but let's be honest, we're not trying to equip an ambulance here. Unless you are a surgeon you won't need anything more. This medical kit has the essentials to help you cope with common mishaps that may happen even to the most careful of us. And I leave to you the possible containers for this small kit, as you may subtract or add stuff depending on the scale and the conditions of your trip but I suggest you keep these items as they are. Total weight for the kit is 700grams or 1.4 lb (approx.) without the Sodium Chloride Solution. With the 500ml solution it gets to about 1,4kg or 2,8lbs. If that is too much for you, feel free to remove any item you think that won't be usefull for your trip. For example in the summer you won't be needing nasal decongestant, or you may skip the dental floss.
So, if you have any questions, tips or whatever please comment.
Notice: All the suggested dosages and indications in this post are taken from the product SPC's of these drugs.
These links provide some good videos on first aid. Although all are not that recent, they are directed to untrained work personnel, and they are directly correlated to the possible dangers in the wild. For example a laceration from a splintered wood or a misused tool/knife is still a laceration. or a burn from a fire ember or coal is still a burn...
First Aid: Injury Management.
First Aid: Burns1, Burns2, Burns3.
First Aid: Arm Laceration
First Aid: Severe Bleeding
First Aid: Minor Wounds
First Aid: Triangular Bandage
Also this PDF file may come in handy to have printed with you. Its a ship captain's Medical Guide but it is generic and has solid guidelines. Plus it is very comprehensive about what to do.
I leave you with the only safe advice I can give about medication :
IMPORTANT : ALWAYS, READ THE PRODUCT SPC REGARDING PRESCRIPTION OR OTC MEDICATION FOR ADVERSE EFFECTS, SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS BEFORE OR AFTER USE, AND CORRECT DOSAGE AND INDICATIONS FOR USE. THERE IS NO MEDICATION WITHOUT ANY ADVERSE EFFECTS SO BE CAUTIOUS.