How to Treat Eye Injuries: Gear and Skills

Dietrich Easter

How to Treat Eye Injuries: Gear and Skills


Are you wondering how to treat eye injuries? The eyes are sensitive and vulnerable. If the eye is injured, it requires careful first aid. In this article, you'll learn the gear and training you’ll need to care for injuries to the eyes.


When treating an injury to the eye, the main concern is protection from further damage. After this, the goal is to comfortably transport the patient to the hospital. 


Let’s look at some of the most common eye injuries and how to treat them. We'll start with some of the simplest eye injuries and discuss more serious injuries as we go. 


Common Injuries to the Eyes 


The eyes are a sensitive area of the body. Any permanent injury to the eyes is a serious thing. For one, the eyes and orbital areas are prominent, so any scarring will be difficult to hide. For two, vision is one of the most important of the senses. Let's talk about eye injuries in more depth. 


Different types of eye injuries: 


  • Blunt trauma to the eye 

  • Foreign body in the eye 

  • Bleeding near the eyes 

  • Impaled object in the eyes 

  • Burns to the eyes 

  • Ruptured globe


Let's look at these in more depth. 


Blunt Trauma to the Eye 


Blunt trauma to or around the eye could result from many common things. Someone might fall and bump their head, get punched, or hit by a baseball. These injuries can often result in the common black eye, or "shiner." 


With these injuries, there's usually no bleeding and relatively little treatment. Yes, some ice can make the patient feel better. However, there's one thing you don't want to overlook. 


Don't forget about the possibility of a concussion. These types of impacts may seem less serious, but if a blood vessel ruptures within the brain, you can end up with problems. Sometimes, these symptoms don't start until a day or two. You might notice the patient has a worsening headache, nausea, or changes in behavior. If you notice any of these things, it's best to contact the ER. 


Tools to treat blunt force trauma around the eyes: ice packs and penlights (for checking pupils - they should be equal and reactive to the light). 


Foreign Body in the Eye 


A foreign body in the eye could be something as simple as sand or something more sinister like a splinter. Many times, the eye will begin to tear up, naturally flushing out the substance. However, if there's a lot of gunk that's found its way into the eye, then it's important to remove as much as possible. 


What types of things get caught in the eye? Lots. But some of the most common might be sand, chemicals at a worksite, or sawdust and flying woodchips from carpentry or home improvement jobs. 


Each of these things will be treated a little bit differently. However, there is a guiding principle for each injury: flush the eye with sterile water or saline. This is the best way to remove a foreign substance from the eye. 


Here are some things to know about flushing the eye: 


  1. Safety. If the substance in the eye is a chemical, make sure that the rescuers are careful not to get the substance on their bodies. 

  2. Flush from the center. Flush the eyes with water so that the water is flowing away from the other eye. You don't want to just flush the substance from one eye into the other eye! This would create more problems!

  3. Repeat as needed. The patient may only be able to tolerate so much water at one time. However, if there is still gunk in their eye, they should be encouraged to continue flushing the with water. 

  4. Careful with some chemicals. If the person had a chemical in their eye, try your best to identify the chemical before flushing with water. Some chemicals will react with water and create heat, causing burns. 


Note that getting some substance in your eye is very different than having an object, like a pencil, impaled in your eye. We'll talk about how to treat an impaled object in a little bit. For now, let's address bleeding near the eye. 


Bleeding Near the Eye 


The eye is a soft structure. However, the eye is protected by the eye socket, which is a construction of bones often known as the orbital bones. These bones are rather sharp, particularly the eyebrow, making it easy to split the eyebrow open. 


To control bleeding around the eye, you do the same thing you would do anywhere else on the body: hold pointed, firm, direct pressure for at least 10 minutes - especially if it's a major bleed. Don't peak at the injury; just hold pressure. 


Bleeding from the face usually looks severe; however, don't panic. Just apply pressure. 


There are some relatively large arteries on the side of the forehead, just behind the eye. Make sure you're applying pressure in the right spots and controlling these bleeds. For these types of eye injuries, you'll need some gauze to apply pressure to the wound. However, you can apply pressure with your hands. 


Now, let's talk about impaled objects in the eye. 


Impaled Object in the Eye 


Yes, these are gruesome injuries, but they happen: objects do become impaled in the eye. These could be small objects, like a large splinter, or larger objects, like a knife or a pen. Regardless, these injuries must be treated with care. 


How do you treat such an injury? Well, these emergencies require surgery for treatment. There's not much to be done in the field to fix the problem. Do not pull the object from the eye! This is a standard rule for an impaled object. Leave it in place, stabilize the object, and carefully transport the patient to the ER (call 911 and get an ambulance coming!). 


Why shouldn't you remove impaled objects from the eye? There are multiple reasons (and some exceptions!). 


First, you can cause more injury by yanking out an impaled object. Second, you can cause more bleeding. Sometimes, the object will be pressing against an open bleed vessel, essentially holding pressure.


However, if there's profuse bleeding, you can still hold pressure around the object (if it's in a leg or something). And, if there's arterial bleeding, you can still apply a tourniquet above the injury. 


Exceptions: you CAN remove an impaled object if it's impeding CPR or rescue breathing. The airway and chest compressions are the two times you can remove an impaled object. 


Here are the steps to treat an impaled object in the eye: 


  1. Stabilize. You can use a Styrofoam cup with the center punched out to secure the object. Then use some gauze to wrap gently around the wound. 

  2. Rolled gauze. You can roll some gauze up and pad around the object, stabilizing it. Again, be careful not to put any pressure on the object. 

  3. Cover both eyes. Even if only one eye is injured, you may choose to cover both eyes. This will help the patient refrain from moving both eyes. Of course, in some instances (if the patient needs to navigate their own evacuation or they're anxious about having their eyes covered), you should leave the eye uncovered. 


Tools you'll need for this: rolled gauze and medical tape


Now, let's talk about burns to the eyes. 


Burn to the Eye 


A burn to the eyes is a scary thing. If someone has sustained burns to the eyes, you should take time to flush the eyes with water or sterile saline. You need to stop the burning process. 


Though burns to the eyes are devastating, they are not the most dangerous possibility. If someone was seriously burned to the face, then they could have airway burns. Any burns to the nose, mouth, or throat could become an immediate life threat. The tissue in the mouth and throat can rapidly swell, closing off the airway and suffocating the victim.


So, as bad as burns to the eyes are, and they should be treated, don't let these burns distract you from the more serious possibility of burns to the airway. 


Ruptured Globe 


The eye is full of a liquid, and it can rupture. How do you treat this? Well, there's not much you can do in the field. However, with good surgical intervention, physicians might save the eye. Your job as a responder is to protect the eye from further harm. 


One of the best ways to protect the eye is with an eye shield. These are semi-rigid structure that rests over the eye and is held in place with a bandage. Again, like with an impaled object, you may want to cover both eyes to help the patient resist the urge to move both eyes simultaneously. 


Tools needed: eye shield and gauze


Here's the last thing you need to know about eye injuries: it's much better to prevent them than to treat them! Take some time to watch this video on good safety glasses. Always go the extra mile to protect your vision! 

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Stop the Bleed Month: How to Prepare

Dietrich Easter

Uncontrolled bleeding is a major cause of preventable death after injury. May is Stop the Bleed month, and it's all about getting people trained to recognize and treat dangerous bleeds. In this article, we'll talk about why stopping the bleed is so important and how you can prepare. 


Stop the bleed month is about raising awareness about the dangers of massive hemorrhages. There are a lot of misunderstandings out there regarding bleeding control, including how dangerous it is and the best way to treat it effectively. 


It's easy to think that we'll never be in a situation where we'll need to stop a major bleed. It's also easy to think that we'll just call the ambulance, and they'll take care of it. But, the unfortunate truth is this: major bleeds can have huge consequences in seconds, and it takes ambulances at least several minutes to arrive on the scene (if not more). 


So, let's talk more about how important it is to stop the bleed. 

What is Stop the Bleed Month About? 

Stop the Bleed month seeks to achieve several goals. It's not just about raising awareness. It's about transferring practical skills to all civilians. The more people who learn the skills to stop a bleed, the safer our world will become.


Here are several goals for Stop the Bleed month: 


  1. Raise awareness of the danger of bleeds

  2. Get people trained 

  3. Foster a movement of preparation 


Let's look at these sections in more detail. 

Stop the Bleed: Raising Awareness for Hemorrhage Control

Major bleeding isn't just something you see in the movies. It's a serious thing that can happen nearly anytime, anywhere. With that said, some areas and activities are more likely to result in serious bleeding than others. You can use this information to guide the best places to stash, store, and carry bleeding control items. 


Here are several areas with risks of bleeding: 


  • In the kitchen and garage. Anytime there are small or large tools involved - from knives to table saws - you have to be concerned about the potential for injuries. 

  • Outdoor activities. Think about chopping wood and using a chainsaw. These things are dangerous and are disproportionately likely to cause major bleeds. Being aware is the first step. 

  • Car accidents. During a major car accident, bleeding can happen to any part of the body. This is one reason many people store a first aid kit in their car. 

  • Hunting and shooting. Firearms can cause injuries when they are mishandled. And, unfortunately, there are bad people who get ahold of guns. That's why it's important to learn bleeding control techniques. 

  • Industrial areas, factories. Whenever there's moving machinery, there is a chance that someone could be injured. 

  • Farms. Farming equipment can cause injuries from time to time. For those who operate heavy equipment, it's best to prepare for the likelihood of injury. 


This certainly isn't an all-inclusive list. However, it's good to have a few areas in mind as you begin your planning. The second part of awareness is understanding the risk. 

Training People to Stop the Bleed 

After understanding the gravity and present danger of major bleeds, it's time to receive the training to protect yourself and those you love. You can use bleeding control techniques on children, adults, and even pets. 


If you'd like, you can take the STOP THE BLEED course online. Then, to get your certification, you can search for one of their in-person sessions, where they'll teach you hands-on tips for stopping the bleed. 


You can take a first aid class from the Red Cross. Most first aid courses should teach you some of the most important steps to bleeding control. 


Note: While it's great to get hands-on training from medical experts (and you should when you can!), it's also wise to do some personal investigating on the topic to ensure you have the broadest and most thorough understanding. Always try to verify your sources. Don't just take someone's opinion because they're the "expert." 


While this is not the complete course, we'll give several tips to stop major bleeds below. 

Skills to Stop the Bleed 

There are three primary skills that civilians can learn to stop a bleed. Good direct pressure, wound packing, and how to apply a tourniquet. We'll talk about each of these in more depth. 


Here are the steps to stop the bleed: 


  1. Call for help and apply firm, direct pressure. You can start by placing a hand over the bleed, pushing firmly, directly over the site of bleeding. 

  2. Consider a tourniquet if needed. If the bleeding is heavy, it may be time to use a tourniquet. Using a tourniquet requires specific steps. If you're curious, watch this video explaining how to apply a tourniquet

  3. If the bleeding is from the joints, pack the wound. Using any clean cloth, carefully pack it deep into the wound, trying to pinpoint the pressure on the site of bleeding. Then, continue holding very firm pressure. The patient will be uncomfortable, but it's important to get the bleeding under control. 

  4. Continue holding pressure. Don't ever lift up the gauze to look at the wound unless there's a very good reason. You should hold firm pressure, using your body weight to your advantage, until help arrives. 


Those are just a few key points to keep in mind. While it may seem simple, it's actually quite difficult to coordinate all of this during the stress of an emergency. 


Now, let's take some time to examine the equipment required to stop the bleed. 

Equipment to Stop the Bleed

If you're looking to make a "Stop the bleed" kit, then you can use this checklist to get started. As you'll see, we'll try to order this from most important to least important. However, you'll find that you may need different tools for different places. 


Here are the tools to carry with you: 


  • Tourniquet. The tourniquet is the go-to for the major bleed to the arms or legs. It can cut off arterial blood flow fast, saving blood and saving lives. 

  • Packing gauze. You can use packing gauze on deep wounds to the arms, legs, and necks. And, packing gauze works well for the joints - the armpits and the groin. These areas bleed heavily, but they're too high on the limb for a tourniquet. (you can get packing gauze with hemostatic agents. These may help stop the bleed faster). 

  • Pressure bandage. The pressure bandages, like the Israeli bandage, can be used to help slow and stop moderate bleeds. Also, some of them are so modular that you can use them as splints, slings, and even a tourniquet in a pinch. 


Those are some of the most common tools for bleeding control. The best tools are the ones holding your phone or computer: your hands. Even if you can't find a tourniquet, you can hold pressure with your hands. It's ideal to have gloves to protect from blood, but if you don't have any cuts or open sores on your hands, you could use bare hands and wash them later. However, this is a personal decision. 


Note: if you don't have some of these tools, that's okay. For one, direct pressure will work with your bare hands. For two, you can use a t-shirt for wound packing or an improvised tourniquet. 

Fostering a Movement of Preparation 

Bleeds are a very serious thing. However, people who are dedicated and effectively trained can prevent bleeds from being fatal. With that said, stop the bleed month should also be a time for people to consider other aspects of their emergency preparedness and survival. 


Here are several areas to consider when trying to raise your medical emergency awareness: 


  1. Survival situation. If you do any backcountry camping or you live in a remote location, then it's prudent to think about long-term survival needs (of course, everyone should be prepared!). These include shelter, water, and food. If you haven't already, see this article on how to build a survival kit

  2. Airway and breathing. There are frequent instances where you may need to give someone rescue breaths and help them breathe. These instances are nearly as common as a bleeding emergency, and they can be just as life-threatening. See my article on rescue breathing for more information.  

  3. CPR. Learning CPR for all the different ages is important. Things can vary quite a bit between small children and grown adults. Being proficient in CPR will ensure you're ready if something happens. 


Let's go over our final words.

Conclusion on Stop the Bleed Month

Stop the bleed month seeks to raise awareness of the dangers of massive hemorrhage. Many people have no idea how to address a major bleed. And, unfortunately, many people think they know how to treat a major bleed but, in fact, do not. 


Take some time to seek out good training and to do your own study. You don't want to just know the "how"; you also want to know the "why." You want to learn as much as you can about stopping a bleed. That way, when duty calls, you're ready. 


After you’ve learned to stop the bleed, check out this video on building your own trauma kit.


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The Best Splints for First Aid Kits

Dietrich Easter

The Best Splints for First Aid Kits

Responders use splints for sprains, strains, and broken bones. Learning the principles behind caring for a musculoskeletal (bones and muscle) injury will help improve your confidence during an emergency. This article will talk about different types of splints, how to use them, and which are best for your trauma kit. 


There are splints for just about every bone and joint in the body. There are splints for the neck, the back, the shoulders, legs, knees, ankles (and all the others!). Splints are a great thing to carry in a first aid kit, as they can reduce internal bleeding and damage and help someone be more comfortable while traveling to a hospital.


This article will talk about some of the common splints used by paramedics and EMTs. We'll also highlight splints that are easy to carry in a first aid kit. Finally, we'll cover several steps for treating sprains and breaks. 


Time to splint! 

Common Splints for First Aid Care 

Let's talk about some of the most common splints used in first aid care. Breaks, sprains, strains, and dislocations are all splinted from time to time. For splinting to be effective, responders must use the right splint. Otherwise, the patient could suffer undue pain or further damage. 


Here are some of the most common splints for first aid: 


  • Arm slings  

  • Traction splints 

  • Cervical collars 

  • Pelvic Splints

  • Moldable splints 

  • Improvised Splints 


Let's look at these in more depth. 

Splints: Arm Sling 

Arms slings are some of the more common forms of splints. These slings are often made from a triangular bandage. However, if someone must wear a sling for a long time, they usually have one specially made. 


What does a sling do? It supports the major joints of the arm, including the shoulder, the elbow, and the wrist - this allows the arm to remain at rest while it heals. 

Traction Splints 

Civilians don't commonly carry traction splints; however, all ambulances should have them. The traction splint comes in several forms, but they all do the same thing: they provide traction to an injured leg, usually for a break in the middle of the femur (the long upper leg bone). 


Tractions splints do a great job of reducing pain and preventing further injury. One reason civilians don't often use them is that femur fractures require a careful diagnosis. Otherwise, the leg could be injured. Also, they require the patient to extend the leg, which is difficult without an ambulance. 

Neck Splint: Cervical Collars 

Cervical collars are used for suspected injury to the spine, particularly the cervical spine - the bones in the neck. Cervical collars help hold the head perfectly still, ensuring no further damage to the neck. 


Civilians sometimes carry cervical collar splints, but again, care must be taken when they're applied. 

Pelvic Splints (Pelvic Binders)

The pelvis can sustain fractures. When it does, it often results in serious internal bleeding. A pelvic splint, also called a pelvic binder, is wrapped around the waist (similar to a belt, but lower) and then tightened to hold the fractured pelvis together. 


Alright, now let's talk about moldable splints. 

Moldable Splints 

Moldable splints (with brand names like "SAM" or "Actisplint") are super. These splints have a bendable metal core covered in foam. With a little practice, responders can learn how to mold these splints to support nearly every joint. 


However, when I've seen them used in the field, they are most helpful for injuries to the forearm, hand, and wrist. 


There are also especially small moldable splints made for the fingers, and these are easily packable and useful. 


Moldable splints are a more modern version of good old-fashioned improvised splints - let's talk about these in the next section!

Improvised Splints

If you don't have a formally made splint, there are plenty of ways to improvise them. Yes, you might not get the most consistent results from improvised splints, but they will get you by until you can find something more permanent. 


What do you use to improvise a splint? 


Almost anything. You can use a shirt to make a sling, a stick to make a long bone splint, and a pillow works great for splinting ankles, knees, or elbows. There are plenty of videos out there if you'd like to learn more about improvised splints. 


Now, let's talk about the best splints for your vehicle or family first aid kit. 

Best Splints for Your First Aid Kit 

For an off-duty first aid kit, it can be difficult to pack a bunch of large splints into a small or medium-sized bag. Thankfully, there are some clever ways around this. 


Here are the best and easiest splints to carry in your first aid kit: 



Let's look at these in more depth. 

The RISE Splint 

This is an intuitive splint that folds down small and can be used to splint just about any joint! You can even pair this splint with a tourniquet and use it as a pelvic binder. 


If you're curious, you can watch this video showing how to use the RISE splint. 

The Molded Splint 

As we discuss, moldable splints are easy to store. Some fold down, and others roll into a tight ball. Either way, they're both great for carrying the med kit. 


Also, you can carry small moldable splints for fingers. However, you can also use trauma shears to cut the larger splints down smaller. Just be careful about sharp edges! 

The Triangular Bandage (Sling)

If rolled gauze and a tourniquet are the go-to's for the bleeding control world, then the triangular bandage and the RISE splint are the go-to for the splinting world. You can do just about anything with a triangular bandage! You can use them for improvised tourniquets; you can use them for slings, pressure bandages, or cravats. 


On top of that, they're cheap, light, and super easy to pack. There's no reason not to carry a couple triangular bandages!


Now, let's talk about a few tips for treating sprains and broken bones. 

How to Splint: First Aid for Sprains, Strains, and Broken Bones

Sprains and broken bones are serious injuries. They can cause serious pain and long-term problems. For this reason, it's smart to proceed with caution. This section will talk about a few steps to treating breaks and strains. 


First aid steps for splinting arms and legs: 


  1. Call for help if it's serious. If there's a serious injury, it's best to get help on the way. Call 911 if needed and have someone stay with the patient. 

  2. Address any major bleeds. Sometimes, fractures can pierce the skin and cause bleeding - this takes the first priority. Even though it will be painful, ensure you stop the bleed

  3. Position of comfort. Allow the patient to maintain a position of most comfort. If the bones are misaligned, it's best to avoid any dangerous manipulation of the limb if you're not specially trained. 

  4. Splint above and below the joint/break. The splint should immobilize the joints above and below a break and the bones above and below a sprain. 

  5. Pad the splint. Use some soft material to create padding around the splint - regardless of the type. This will make it more comfortable and more effective, as the padding will help the splint form to the area. 

  6. Check pulses and feeling. Sometimes, the blood supply to areas beyond the break is affected. This is dangerous. Check the patient's feeling in hands and feet and check pulses. Check before and after splinting!

  7. Use the RICE method. This stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The RICE method is for sprains and strains, not necessarily breaks, though you can still apply ice to a break if it comforts the patient. 

  8. Let it heal. Some people start jumping around before they're ready - this risks further injury. And the next injury might be even more serious. Take some time to heal!


Here's a video showing how to splint an ankle if you're curious. Now, let's go over our last takeaway on splints.  

Key Takeaway on Splints for First Aid Kits 

If used right, a good splint can provide comfort and healing to a broken bone or a sprained ankle. Some people might think they cannot carry splints in their first aid kit. However, with new technology and smaller splints, it's easy to carry them with you. Also, if you know how to improvise, you can make a splint from T-shirts, pillows, and even magazines and newspapers (wrists). 


The best splints for EDC carry in an IFAK would be the moldable splints, the RISE splints by TacMed, and the good old-fashioned triangular bandages. If you're trained, you could carry larger splints in your vehicle. 


The key is to get trained. Take a CPR and first aid class. Learn about bleeding control, airway management, and CPR. Emergency medicine and first aid aren't easy - getting skilled requires dedication and constant vigilance. 


Browse different splints, and take some time to read this article on rescue breathing!




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How-to: First Aid Kit Tips, Tricks & Hacks

Dietrich Easter

How-to: First Aid Kit Tips, Tricks & Hacks

We've all seen the movies. Someone opens a closet to grab something important, only to have stuff fall into a huge mess as they open the door. It makes for laughs on TV, but it's best avoided during emergencies. This article will show you first aid kit hacks to keep you organized and efficient. 

First aid kit hacks are about finding ways to make your first aid kit and emergency care more intuitive. It's about putting on your detective hat and asking: what will slow me down in an emergency? How can I make this process better? 

Maybe you've got a great first aid kit with high-quality emergency supplies. Blue ribbon for you! But, before we get carried away into the clouds of victory, let's make sure there aren't any hidden evils ready to rain on your parade. 

7 Hacks for a Better First Aid Kit 

Emergencies are weird. They aren't like preparing for an exam. For a test, all you need to do is study hard, and be sure to bring your mechanical pencil and pink eraser.

However, imagine that, while taking the biggest exam of your life, instead of a nice quiet library - where there's a teacher watching, ready to stomp out anyone who dares break the code of silence - instead of this calming oasis, imagine that a drill sergeant is screaming in your ear during the entire test. Sounds a little difficult, doesn't it.

Let's come back to earth. What am I talking about? People tend to forget that they will need to prepare even beyond competence for an emergency - they will need to overcome the fight or flight response (not easy) and concentrate on the mission. 

Simply put, when making a first aid kit, you need to keep it simple. You need to realize your mind will be playing tricks on you, and you'll have to overcome it. 

Here are seven ways to hack your first aid kit: 


  1. Zipper pulls 

  2. Rip tabs (or pre-open)

  3. Clear labeling 

  4. Redundancy 

  5. Modularity 

  6. Improvisation 

  7. Organize in order of importance and compartments 


Let's look at these hacks in more depth. As you'll see, many of these tricks are simple - but they can make a big difference. Remember, small problems in "normal" life become big problems during an emergency. 

Zipper Pulls 

Think zippers are easy to grab? To some people, they are. However, others have a bona fide zipper-grabbing illness. I'll admit, sometimes those little buggers are hard to find! 

During an emergency, the last thing you want to do is waste any time trying to find or grab a zipper. Remember, your hands may be covered in blood if you're in the middle of an emergency - at the least, your fingers will be shaking and sweaty. So, don't laugh. I've witnessed my share of zipper-fumbles, and just like watching your super-bowl team drop the football, they are heart-wrenching. 


Now that I've convinced you that this is a real problem, here's how you fix it.  


Get some zipper pulls or make some yourself. Zipper pulls are often neon-colored and sometimes glow in the dark (we wouldn't forget our black-ops friends).  


Place them on your first aid kit zippers, and you'll never worry about it. 


Tip: it's also common practice to "stage" your zippers. Don't push them off to one side of the zipper. Instead, place them in the middle, where they're easily seen and grasped. 


Another tip: Don't ever use a first aid kit with cheap zippers! A broken zipper is a travesty that I wouldn't wish on friend or foe. 

Rip Tabs 

In the same tradition as zippers, it's also easy to fumble opening the packaging of many medical supplies - for all the same reasons: blood, sweat, it's dark, it's raining, hands are trembling, and someone is screaming. 


So, it's best to take action before you have a problem. How? 


You can do two things. First, you can pre-open anything that doesn't need to be in a vacuum-sealed container. Chest seals, hemostatic gauze, and anything that needs to remain relatively clean should be left in its original containers. However, some things, like dressings, bandages, and tourniquets can be pre-opened with little issue. 


Second, you can attach pull tabs for those things that cannot be pre-opened. Duct tape works pretty well. Just place a strip of tape across the recommended "tear here" location and fold it across. You'll find that the tape is easier to grab and makes a cleaner tear. 



Note: Always pre-open and stage your tourniquets! Watch this video to see how to stage a tourniquet the right way. 

Clear Labeling 

We label things in the kitchen because we don't want to accidentally place salt in the cookies instead of sugar. Well, you should also label things in your emergency kit. You don't want to be rifling through the airway supplies when you need something for bleeding control! 


You can label your pack however you'd like; just make sure it's clear and that the average seven-year-old could read and understand it. That means, instead of writing "hemorrhage control," write "stop the bleed." Even if you understand some medical jargon, it's best to prepare for a situation where you'll need to direct someone non-medical on how to use the kit. 


Using medical patches can help too!


In addition to clear labeling, it's smart to think about redundancy. How does this work? 


Redundancy follows the "two is one and one is none" principle. You should always have a backup plan. This applies on a small and a large scale. 


For example, don't just have one first aid kit in your car, have one in the kitchen, one in the car, and one near the front door. That's redundancy. 


On a smaller scale, don't just have one tourniquet in the med kit in your car. It might also be helpful to have one in the glove box and one in your pocket. 


Redundancy isn't always practical; however, there are ways to do this, even if you need to carry minimal gear. 


If you learn to improvise and tourniquet and a pressure bandage, you're giving yourself a layer of redundancy without carrying more gear. While improvisation is great to know and incredibly useful at times, it shouldn't be your primary source of first aid care. 


Take some time to learn advanced techniques for bleeding control. Once you know how to use your hands to control a bleed, you'll be much more effective at controlling a major hemorrhage. Here's an article on bleeding control. It discusses some of the common misconceptions. 


Maybe you don't have the cash for fifteen first aid kits. Understandable. However, there are ways to stretch a single first aid kit if needed. 


Here's how. 


Perhaps, you only have one fully stocked first aid kit in your home. How do you stretch its use? Well, instead of filling each compartment of the kit with different things, you might also place a smaller kit within the kit (sort of like the nesting dolls your grandma likes). When you leave the house, you grab the smaller kit (containing the essentials) and bring it to the car. 


What about when you leave the car? Well, maybe you have an even smaller kit within your car kit - something like a pocket trauma kit or an ankle first aid kit - now when you leave the car, you can conceal an even smaller kit with the bare-bones essentials, like a tourniquet and gauze. 


Just an idea. It's probably not ideal all the time but creating some modularity in your kit can be helpful. 

Organization and Order of Packing 

Should the splint be at the top of the kit? What about the CPR mask? How about the tourniquet? When you first open that first aid kit, what's the first thing you should see? 


Think about the order of importance when organizing and packing your first aid kit. Remember the M.A.R.CH pneumonic - Massive bleeding is the most deadly injury, so tourniquets and bleeding supplies should be at the top. Airways supplies are the next most important, and so on. 


Don't stuff your kit like a jack-in-the-box - you don't want it popping open at the wrong times. Getting a good medical bag is essential for a quality first aid kit. You don't want the bag too small. 

Final Thoughts on First Aid Kit Tips, Tricks & Hacks 

What tips and tricks do you know for first aid kits? If you have any, share your hacks with us. It's helpful to learn. As you build your first aid kit, put on your engineer cap and ask: how could I make this better? What are the problem points? 

Remember, emergencies will make small inconveniences a BIG problem. 

Don't neglect training. Take the time to learn how to perform good first-aid - bleeding control, rescue breathing, and good CPR - these are the three skills to focus on. Contrary to popular opinion, they are difficult skills to perform well (sure, you can learn them in a day, but it takes many hours of training to master these primary skills). 

Check out the recent article on first aid kits for children - never forget the kids! 

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First Aid Supplies for Children: Did You Forget the Kids?

Dietrich Easter

First Aid Supplies for Children

first aid kit for child

Whether it's your kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews, there are times when you'll have to help an injured child. Preparing your first aid kit for children is very helpful. Kids are prone to getting cuts and bruises; however, they also sustain their share of serious injuries. 


In this article, we'll talk about all things pediatrics (kids), and the supplies they require for first aid kits. We'll talk about the medical gear you should have and how you should store it. 


First Aid Gear for Toddlers and Babies 


Usually, the age of 12-14 is when children begin being treated more like adults. Children under this age category may need special first aid techniques and equipment. However, this can depend on the child's size and the nature of the illness. 


As you might know, not all medical gear made for adults will work with young kids. All parents and caregivers should be aware of how to care for children in an emergency. 


To prepare for a battle, you must study the enemy (or injury). 


Most Common Injuries in Children 


While adults are more averse the medical conditions (such as heart attacks, strokes, breathing problems, etc.), children are more likely to be victims of trauma - such as falls, burns, drowning, and cuts and scrapes. 


Here are the most common injuries: 


  • Falls 

  • Foreign bodies (choking and swallowing)

  • Burns 

  • Bites and stings 

  • Car accidents

  • Cuts and punctures 

  • Blunt force injury (hit or struck)

  • Drowning 


Let's look at these injuries and discuss the first aid gear to treat them. 


Childhood Falls and Injuries 


It's no secret that children run and around like crazy! From jumping on the couch to running through the halls to swinging from the monkey bars - falls will happen.

However, on a more serious note, it's also fairly common for infants to roll off beds or couches. Though, many times, children's flexible bones a resilient to a fall, they will get hurt from time to time - especially if they fall on a hard surface. 


Child first aid gear for falls:


  • Ice packs. Even if the child isn't seriously injured, a cold pack can soothe a bruise. 

  • Moldable splints. Kids will be less tolerant of uncomfortable splints, so a good moldable splint will go a long way toward bringing comfort. And they are easy to pack! 

rise splint

  • Medical tape and pressure wrap. These work well for strains and sprains and for holding ice packs in place. 

  • Triangle bandages. Have a ton of uses, as a splint, bandage, or even a modified tourniquet. 

These are some of the best tools for treating broken bones and minor bumps and bruises. 


When to go to the ER: Always call 911 or go to the ER if you feel unsure. In general, if the child hits their head and loses consciousness or isn't acting themselves, you should consider greater medical treatment.

Foreign Bodies - Choking Hazards - Splinters 


In the medical world, a foreign body is anything that becomes lodged or placed in the body that isn't supposed to be there—for example, a child swallowing a coin, or choking on a Lego. 


However, this could also be things like a splinter or sand in the eye. Although these things aren't life-threatening, they can still cause children considerable discomfort. 


First aid items to treat foreign bodies: 


  1. Training. Be sure you know how to help a child who is choking! 

  2. Tweezers. This tool is mostly helpful for splinters but could also be useful for small bits of glass or small nails. 

  3. Suction units or anti-choking devices. If you're curious, you can read about some advances with suctions devices for choking. There have been some successes and reported concerns. 

  4. Bulb syringe. Mostly useful for clearing infants' nostrils, but clean ones can also work for wound irrigation. 

bulb syringe

Let's continue. 


Child First Aid Supplies for Burns 


Even minor burns can be especially painful for children. Besides getting the child away from the burning object and providing some cooling (it's important to stop the burning process), parents and caregivers can carry some medical gear to help a child if they're burn. 


Note: large burns are very serious. If a child has sustained a significant burn, call 911 or get them to the ER quickly. 


Here are some first aid supplies to treat pediatric burns: 


  • Burn dressing. The burn dressing can help protect and provide relief to a small burn. 

  • Burn gel. This type of gel works for small burns and can provide some relief for sunburns - a little bit of aloe vera will also do the trick!


Let's move on to bites and stings. 

Bites and Stings 


Kids can have dangerous reactions to animal bites or insect stings. If your child has ever had a serious reaction to a sting, carrying an Epi-pen is advised - talk to a doctor, as these usually require a prescription. 


Keeping a child calm and providing some pain relief can go a long way toward preventing the spread of insect or snake venom. 


First aid gear to treat a child who has been bitten or stung: 


  • BenadrylOral Benadryl probably won't ward off a serious reaction (you'll need epinephrine), but it can reduce swelling and discomfort. 

  • Triple antibiotic ointment. You can apply this to help prevent infection after animal bites. 

  • Sting pads. These will help relieve the area around the site. Again, for a serious reaction, you'll need greater medical care. 


Note: You can get all this stuff in one package. Check out my boo-boo kit for treating minor injuries. 

Car Accidents 


Children are, sadly, the victim of many car accidents. One of the best things you can do to protect your child from a car accident is to practice safe driving and double-check that their car seat is up to code. Make sure you know how to secure the child safely and that they haven't outgrown the car seat. 


Unfortunately, car accidents can cause nearly any type of injury, requiring a whole range of bandages, airway supplies, and tourniquets. To learn more about those things, read my article on building a vehicle first aid kit. 


Here are a few child-specific first aid items to consider: 


  • SWAT-T Tourniquet. This tourniquet will be the most comfortable for children, and it has multiple uses. 

  • Compressed gauze. This stuff is the peanut butter of any first aid kit - it works for tons of applications. 

  • Toys. Small items like a toy can help a child stay calm during a scary situation. 


These are just a few ideas. For car accidents, consider carrying chest seals, airway supplies, and emergency blankets. 

Cuts and Punctures 


Kids poke themselves on sticks, slice open their heads after falling, and seem to cut themselves in the strangest ways. Ensuring you wash injuries with clean water and cover them with a band-aid should do the trick. Carrying some triple antibiotic ointment may also come in handy. 


Medical items to treat cuts on a child: 


  • Butterfly band-aids. These little strips can help close a gaping wound.

  • Standard band-aids. These things can solve most problems! 

  • Syringe. A clean syringe is useful for cleaning off wounds, especially in awkward places like those hidden in hair or the ear. 


Now, let's talk blunt force. 

Blunt Force 


Blunt force is also related to falls and car accidents. However, this specifically pertains to being hit by something like a baseball or a large stick (probably from another kid!)


For blunt force injuries, remain suspicious for any internal injuries - especially if the force was to the head, chest, or the abdomen. For these injuries, usually, an ice pack will help with bruises. Also, you might consider some child-rated over-the-counter pain medication to keep them comfortable. It's always smart to talk this over with a physician! 


Drowning First Aid Supplies for Children


Drowning and water-related injuries are not uncommon in children. To treat drowning, you can carry OPAs and NPAs, rescue masks, and suction devices, but it will be most helpful to know CPR and how to perform rescue breathing. 


The best way to treat drowning is to make sure that it doesn't happen. Even bathtubs and shallow pools can be very dangerous for young children. Also, just because a child knows how to swim doesn't mean they shouldn't wear a life jacket while in a boat or around any deep water. 


Best Place to Store a First Aid Kit for Children 


You should build your child first aid kit within your main medical packs. If you're stocking tourniquets, you should have both adult and child tourniquets ready to go - we mentioned the SWAT-T earlier.


You should consider getting those Dora the Explorer band-aids and maybe even a stuffed animal for kids. Children are highly responsive to distraction techniques, which are especially helpful during an emergency. 


The most important pediatric first aid kit is the one you store in your head! Knowing how to perform infant CPR, how to help a choking child, and how to perform bleeding control is absolutely invaluable


The more you learn, the better you will understand when to take the child to the hospital. However, it's always better to er on the side of caution if you're unsure. 

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The Complete Guide to Small First Aid Kits

Dietrich Easter

The Complete Guide to
Small First Aid Kits

Just because it's a small kit doesn't mean it can't treat major injuries! While many advocate for carrying a large medical kit (there's certainly a time and place), there's something to be said for the philosophy of a small first aid kit. In this article, you’ll learn about the different types of small first aid packs, their uses, and their downsides.


Some small first aid kits hold band-aids . . . and more band-aids. There’s nothing wrong with band-aids; however, many people prefer to also pack lifesaving gear. That’s why some small first aid kits go by the name "micro" trauma kits. These kits are designed to carry the most versatile equipment to treat the largest range of injuries.


Below, you'll learn about the advantages of a carry-sized first aid kit. And we'll explore some of the best items to place in a micro first aid or trauma kit.


Let’s figure it out.

What's a Small First Aid Kit?

The first aid kit can take many forms. This article will talk about several categories of easily packable first aid kits.


Here are the categories we’ll cover:


1. Travel size/backpack size portable kits

2. IFAKs and first aid kits for one person

3. EDC first aid kits


Let's examine them closer.

Travel-sized first aid kits (That fit in backpacks)

Backpack-sized first aid kits will fit inside a backpack - these are not a full backpack of first aid gear! (A full backpack of first aid gear would fit into the medium-to-large-sized category).


A travel-sized first aid kit is great for hiking, road trips, or camping. In this first aid kit, you'll place enough equipment for yourself and perhaps your family. This is still a small first aid kit, and it may contain some essential medications and a few pieces of trauma gear.


If you're curious to learn more about a first aid kit specifically for backpacking and hiking, read this article on the ultimate guide to backpacking first aid kits.


This travel size is the largest "small" first aid kit. Now, let's go a step-down.

Individual First Aid Kits (IFAK)

This first aid kit is larger than an EDC kit yet smaller than a travel or backpack kit. The IFAK is designed to treat one person, hence the name. Ideally, everyone on a team will carry an IFAK - even if the members are not formally trained in emergency medical care. I talk more about IFAKs in my article, your guide to IFAks, but I'll provide a summary here.


IFAKS are usually carried on the body. Some people have a pouch on their belt, and others have them mounted on their backpacks or vests. The IFAK is typically trauma-related - it's made to quickly address life-threatening bleeds, wounds in the chest, and airway management. A typical IFAK will have a tourniquet, a chest seal, some gauze, and a pair of gloves. Also, IFAKs may have different items based on the user's needs.


However, an IFAK is geared toward outdoors, duty, or tactical environments. While it's invaluable in these settings, it's not something to carry with you to a wedding or a casual day at the mall (unless you’d like to!).

In the next section, we’ll talk about the smallest of small first aid kits - the EDC kit or micro trauma kit.

Everyday Carry (EDC) First Aid Kits

The everyday carry (EDC) first aid kit is made to be carried with you everywhere, anytime, in any weather. Usually, the EDC first aid kit is concealable. A quick word on that.


The EDC first aid kit can take several forms:


1. Ankle medical kits

2. Wallet Medical Kits

3. A simple rubber band


These are the three main options for small first aid kits.

Ankle Medical Kits

Ankle packs are nice. They can hold nearly as much as an IFAK, and you can take them with you everywhere. Ankle medical kits are a great go-to off-duty EDC kit in the winter or whenever you're wearing long pants.


A few notes and potential downsides to ankle kits:


· First, they can get warm in the Summer. Not terrible, but definitely a little warm. If you're just going to the store, you probably won't notice, but you'll feel it more if you're taking a hike.

· Second, the ankle medical kit can be a little bulky. However, remember that this isn't 2003, and nobody is interested in examining bellbottom jeans. Regardless, there are many types of ankle kits out there, both high capacity and minimalist, and you'll need to consider the one that works for you.


Now, time for the pocket first aid kits.

Wallet Sized Medical Kits

These are made to fit in a pocket comfortably. The wallet-sized medical kit usually carries one pack of gauze, a chest seal, and maybe a SWAT-T Tourniquet (as these fold nicely).


The wallet-sized kit is a great go-to for the summertime and can often be worn comfortably with shorts. Also, you can throw one in a purse or tuck one in the glove box of your car. Hide them like easter eggs - just make sure you can find them!

Rubber Band for Small Med Kit

The full minimalist! You can use a small rubber band or pouch to hold together a tourniquet and some gauze if you have to - this will get you through emergencies involving heavy bleeding.

Hint: Learning to improvise items will reduce the amount of gear you should carry. Also, getting better medical training will help make you more effective at treating emergencies.


Skills like bleeding control and airway management are more difficult than they may appear - especially when trying to execute them in a high-stress situation. You need to take the time to practice and prepare.


Now, let’s talk about some of the items to place in your small med pouch.

What Should I Put in a Pocket First Aid Kit?

Think about the ABCs (airway, breathing, and circulation/bleeding) when deciding what items to include in your small kit.


Here’s a list of items to place in your small med kit (lifesaving first):


· Tourniquet (SWAT)

· Gauze (compressed)

· Chest seal (Mini)

· Rescue mask (flat)

· Bandana or triangle bandage

· Anything else you need/want


Now, for some important but less lifesaving gear:


· Aspirin

· Benadryl

· Ibuprofen

· Butterfly band-aids

· Band-aids

· Anything else you need or want

You can get this stuff in my boo-boo kit!

Concealing a First Aid Pack You may want to conceal your EDC first aid kit. It's not particularly comfortable to have a large kit hanging from your belt if you work a desk job. Some people like to keep a low profile. However, medical gear is not prohibited from TSA, schools, or cities (how weird would that be? "Sorry sir, no band-aids allowed" These days, I guess you should never say never).


The point: if someone sees you're carrying an ankle medical kit, so what. It's not illegal, so don't get too hung up on perfect concealment.

EDC First Aid Kit: Philosophy

Some people might think that they should reserve their small first aid kits for less important gear, like band-aids and bits of burn cream. There's nothing wrong with this, but it's smart to consider both sides.


If you burn yourself on your stove, it will hurt, but it's not a life threat. You've got time to walk over to the medicine cabinet and grab that burn cream.


However, if you cut off your hand on the table saw, you've got seconds to act - which tools would you rather have in your pocket? A small pack of insect cream? Or an effective tourniquet?


You should consider the situations you might find yourself in. If you want to combine some small gear with some serious gear, there's nothing wrong with that.

Final Words

Would you rather have a small first aid kit or no first aid kit at all? That's really where these "micro" kits do their best work. Yes, we talk a lot about carrying a ton of gear, and there's nothing wrong with that. Those who have seen plenty of injuries know the value of quality gear and quality training.


Why carry a small first aid kit? Small first aid kits are just like wallets. You don't carry your whole bank with you; you just carry what you need. This is the principle behind a micro first aid kit - we don't need the entire ER; we just need a few small pieces of gear to get the job done!


If you carry a pocket first aid kit, you will get into a habit that forces you to always have some essential gear with you. When you grab the car keys, you’ll remember to grab your first aid kit. Yes, knowledge trumps gear - but the right gear is still important.

Take some time to read these articles on bleeding control and rescue breathing. Also, seek out local first aid courses. Better to know it and not need it than need it and not know it!

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The Complete Guide to Bandage Tape

Dietrich Easter

The Complete Guide to Bandage Tape

bandage tape

In the medical field, the different types of bandage tape are an important point to consider. If you're curious to learn about the hidden power of medical tape, stick around.


Bandage tape comes in several types, including plastic tape, cloth tape, self-adhering bandage tape, and even Tegaderms. Medical professionals use tape for everything from securing airway tubes to holding bandages to securing splints.


In the sections below, we'll cover several types of bandage tape, also known as medical tape. We'll also dig into their uses and examine their hazards (tape can be dangerous).


At the end of the article, we'll also talk about some tips and tricks to using bandage tape.

The Different Types of Medical Tape

There are many types of medical tape, and each serves a purpose. This seemingly small thing (tape) can create some big issues if it's used improperly. After we get into the different types of medical tape, we'll talk about the dangers of using the wrong kind.


Here are the main types of bandage tape:


1. Simple plastic medical tape

2. High strength medical tape (combat tape)

3. Cloth tape

4. Self-adhering bandaging tape

5. Duct tape

6. Tegaderm (acts like tape and worth mentioning).


Note: Throughout this article, we will use the terms medical tape and bandage tape interchangeably. However, some types of tape may be used exclusively for bandaging.

Simple Plastic Medical Tape

This simple plastic tape is usually about a half-inch thick. This is some of the lightest medical tapes and it's good for securing low-tension bandages.


Many medics use this tape with a Tegaderm to secure their IVs. This plastic tape is nice as it's light, easy to tear, and it lets you see what's going on underneath. Why would you need to see what's under the tape? This is a nice feature when you're trying to monitor bruising or leakage around an IV site or wound.


However, this tape is notorious for unsticking. It's important to ensure the patients' skin is relatively clean before using it.

Note: some people say they are allergic to plastic tape - even if it isn't latex. So, it's wise to ask the person if they've had any reactions to tape.

High Strength Bandage Tape (Combat tape)

This tape is much more durable than plastic tape, and it's made of natural rubber. A common brand is Gecko Grip Tape. This stuff is easy to tear, and you can use it for more serious bandaging applications.


Sometimes, you'll hear this called combat tape, as it's prevalent in the military. You can use this tape for just about anything, so it's nice to throw a roll in your first aid kit.


Now let's talk about the crowned jewel of medical tape.

Cloth Medical Tape Cloth medical tape is common because it's versatile. Everyone has their opinion on tape: some people love one type of tape, while others hate it. That said, cloth medical tape is like the Ronald Reagan of bandage tape - it may not be your favorite, but you can't hate it.


You can get cloth medical tape in many sizes, which is another nod to its popularity and versatility. Some patients state that they can only have cloth medical tape, as they aren't as sensitive to it. I don't study contact dermatitis resulting from medical tape for a living, so I can't call any bluffs, but that's what they say.


Now that I think about it, it was premature to declare cloth tape the monarch of medical tapes. The next type of tape probably isn't the most loved, but it definitely has the strongest fanbase.

Self-Adhering Bandage Tape Wrap

You could call this type of wrap "magic tape" because it makes EMTs ' eyes light up like a child who has just seen Santa Claus.

Self-adhering bandage wrap sticks to itself as you wrap it, though it has no sticky side. Admittedly, it's cool. It works well for circumferential wrapping. Since it's also elastic, it has some flex that prevents it from becoming uncomfortable.


I'll be honest; this tape has vexed me. Part of the magic is finding where the tape starts. I've spun this type of tape around in my fingers for weeks trying to find the start, only to hand it off to someone more committed.


If you do find the start, it's great stuff. Personally, I think this tape should ship from the warehouse with a little satellite GPS that's programmed to lead us to the start. Jokes aside, it's a useful product. You'll be fine as long as you spend some time getting it started before use.


Now let's discuss a tape that's familiar to everyone.

Duct Tape for Medical Use

Yes, this isn't traditional bandage tape, but duct tape is often used in the medical field. So, I thought we'd better mention it and explain its role.


Duct tape is often used to help secure a patient's head to backboards (those large devices used for extricating trauma patients). However, this stuff is strong enough to completely replace backboard straps if needed (we've all seen the video of people being duct-taped to a wall).


Also, you can safely use duct tape to secure splints. If you're building a rescue kit, it's some great stuff. We all know: duct tape can fix anything.


The Tegaderm works like another layer of skin. Most often, it's used to secure IVs. However, you can use the Tegaderm for all sorts of things if you get creative. It does a good job of keeping dirt from encroaching on the edges of a wound.


Alright, let's talk about the dangers of tape.

Hazards of Improperly Using Bandage Tape

Medical tape requires respect. If you don’t respect it, it could come back to bite.


Here are some adverse reactions to improperly using medical tape:


1. Reactions

2. Contamination

3. Circulation

4. Skin Tear


Let's take a closer look.


Some people are allergic to tape, especially latex tapes (though these are much less common these days). Just be sure to ask people if they're okay with you using the tape; they'll know if they've had a reaction.


Can people have anaphylactic reactions from medical tape? I've not seen this personally. Usually, it’s just a local reaction. With that said, it’s better to be safe. Just be sure to ask the person before using a specific type of bandage tape.


If you're taping near an open wound, do your best to keep the tape clean. If possible, use cleaner tape near the wound, like a Tegaderm. Try to keep regular bandage tape away from an open wound.


Also, realize that the edges of tape will attract dirt and dust, so you want to make sure you get good adherence the first time around. Make sure you're taping on a clean, dry surface.

Circulation If you must circumferentially wrap, make sure you don't wrap too tight. You can create pain and injury. If you must wrap circumferentially, try to use elastic tape (cue the self-adhering tape!) – but be careful! Even this type of tape can cause damage when it’s too tight.


Now, let's talk about one more thing.

Fragile Skin and Pain

If you're not careful, tape can tear fragile skin. This usually occurs when someone is trying to pull the tape off an older adult. It's best to pull the tape off slowly and, if needed, use some water to begin loosening it.


Also, if you're using medical tape, you probably aren't in a beauty salon - you're not trying to wax people's arms. If you must tape near or around the hair, use a medical razor to remove the hair before taping. This will make the tape adhere better and prevent pain on removal!


Now, let's cover a few tricks to make your time with bandage tape more pleasant.

Tips and Tricks to Using Bandage Tape

Let’s talk about a few tips and tricks for using bandage tape more effectively.


Here are some tips and tricks:


1. Create a pull tab. Remember the struggle I talked about with self-adhering tape? This can happen will all tapes, including cloth tape. Do yourself a favor and fold over the end of the tape, creating an easily grasped pull tab. Wearing medical gloves makes it even harder to start a roll of tape. Prepare!

2. Split the tape down the middle. If you want to create a nice stabilizing wrap, take your piece of tape and tear it down the middle. Now, you can easily wrap it on two sides of an object or around an ET tube.

3. Keep it on a carabiner. Get one of those carabiners and slap your tape in there. Then, you can secure this to a loop in your pants. This is a nice trick for medical personnel.


We could fill a book on information about bandage tape, but we'd better stop here. Let's cover our key takeaway.

Last Thoughts on Bandage Tape

Bandage tape has a ton of uses. Learning the different types ensures you have the best chance at avoiding sticky situations. What are your thoughts on bandage tape? Hopefully, this article took a somewhat boring topic and gave it some life.

Also, take some time to read our article on trauma shears.

Read more →

Backpacking First Aid Kit Essentials

Dietrich Easter

Backpacking First Aid Kit Essentials

The backpacking first aid kit requires careful planning. The backpacker should consider the size of their group, the length of their journey, and the amount of weight they're willing to carry. Even backpackers who strive for ultralight status still realize the importance of the first aid kit.


This article will discuss the balance between essential gear and avoiding too much weight. Also, we'll give some tips to those backpackers who want to carry as little as possible.


When you're planning to create your backpacking first aid kit, know that the biggest mistake you could make is not to carry one - there are plenty of horror stories, but we'll spare them now. Bottom line: don’t get caught without lifesaving gear.

Building a Backpacker First Aid Kit

There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to backpackers. People backpacking alone might need to carry something different from those in a group. Furthermore, if you're only heading out for a local day hike, you'll need to carry something different than a week-long trek.


Now, it's also wise to widen your scope and learn some first aid principles. If you know the principles, you'll be able to make decisions based on your specific needs.


Here are the sections we'll cover:


· Common backpacker injuries

· Essential first aid supplies

· First aid supplies for a large backpack

· Tips and tricks for lightweight backpackers

· Don’t lump first aid supplies with other gear

· Key takeaway


Alright, let's get started.

Most Common Backpacking Injuries

The best place to start is to ask: what types of peril will you most likely encounter when backpacking? If you've been backpacking for years, you are probably already painfully familiar with many of these injuries. However, even if you've had pretty good luck, unfortunately, there's a first time for everything, and it's best to be prepared.

Here's a list of the most common backpacker injuries:


· Blisters

· Sunburns

· Sprains and Strains

· Environment (heat and cold)

· Cuts and scrapes

· Bug bites

· Traumatic injuries, animal bites (not common, but more likely)


In addition to these injuries, there are also some common ailments:


· Diarrhea

· Stomach cramps

· Allergic reactions

· Flu-like ailments


So, now we know some of the monsters we're dealing with, let's see how we can fend them off.

Most Important First Aid Supplies for Backpackers

When you're out in the wilderness, there are several theories of thought. Some people believe you should bring supplies for the things you're most likely to encounter - blisters, sunburns, and bug bites.


However, others believe you should bring supplies for the most life-threatening things: arterial bleeds, hypothermia, animal attacks.


So, what's the answer? As always, it's somewhere in the middle. You should have gear for the "small" things (though they can become major things if left untreated) and the big things.


10 first aid items to bring on a backpacking trip:


1. Tourniquet

2. Bandages (Gauze)

3. Band-aids

4. Insect repellant

5. Burn cream

6. Sunscreen

7. Emergency blanket

8. Moldable Splint

9. Over the counter medications

10. Prescription medications


This is a general list. Depending on your situation, you may need to carry specific things. With that said, in the next sections, we'll talk about how you can get all these items to work in a small package.


Note: We're talking about first aid gear in general. On a backpacking or long-term camping trip, you certainly shouldn't neglect to carry personal hygiene tools, like a toothbrush. Some people lump both in the same category, though the two should be separate. We'll explain why later.

First Aid Supplies for a Complete Backpacker First Aid Kit

For a complete first aid kit, you want to make sure you have trauma covered. Often, first aid kits from the store are just stuffed with band-aids. We all love band-aids, but they don't help you if you have a serious bleed. So, be sure to have something like a trauma dressing and a tourniquet.

If you're not super concerned about weight, carrying a nice standard first aid and trauma kit will serve you well. If you're taking a long trek in the backcountry, consider breaking things up between members.


For example, one person might carry the bug spray, one person might carry the splints, and another might carry the emergency blankets. However, keep in mind that the group must stay together in these cases. You don't want to be running a mile to grab something important.


Also, know that each person should carry items for bleeding control. Don't let one person carry all the tourniquets. Even a minute delay in bleeding control could cause a poor outcome.


In the next section, let's talk about some tips for people who want to be light as a feather (first aid for ultralight backpackers).

First Aid Kit Supplies for Lightweight Backpackers

For those who don't want any bulk, remember that it's still important to carry essential gear. That's why they call it essential. You might think a tourniquet seems bulky, but a CAT tourniquet is actually very light. Further, if you carry gauze, you can use it for almost anything: splinting, bandages, pressure dressings.


Also, learning how to improvise certain supplies can go a long way and reduce the amount of extra gear you need to carry. However, keep in mind that improvised equipment means you'll have to sacrifice another piece of gear. You can learn how to improvise a tourniquet with a T-shirt, but that may not be practical if you're in a cold environment.


You can also improvise splints and pressure bandages. You can use a straight stick for a splint or a jacket to make an arm sling.


Note: make sure you practice these techniques. Don't expect your inner MacGyver to come bursting forth during an emergency. Using improvised equipment effectively requires even more training than using regular gear.


Let's talk real quick about why backpackers should keep first aid gear and other backpacking gear separate.

Why You Shouldn't Lump First Aid Gear with Other Backpacking Supplies

Some people choose to lump together personal hygiene and first aid supplies. This is understandable, as first aid and hygiene certainly overlap and fall under the umbrella of bodily care. However, throwing all your personal hygiene and first aid supplies in the same plastic bag is a mistake. And, there are several reasons why.


First, first aid supplies often require fast access. If you need to grab a tourniquet to stop bleeding, you don't want to be digging deep into your backpack to find it. The same could be said for a pressure bandage; when you need it, you need it fast. You don't want it buried with your toothbrush, hidden under a pile of other supplies.


Second, sometimes you need to use your first aid supplies in bloody or dirty conditions. In these cases, you don't want to risk soiling your personal hygiene items, which are supposed to keep you clean.


Finally, it's important to emphasize the seriousness of first aid care. Lumping everything together with your other supplies will create disorganization in your first aid kit. With all that said, learning first aid skills is just as important as carrying the right gear.

Final Words on Building a Backpacker First Aid Kit Do your best to get trained for a backpacking emergency. Gear is important, but in the end, if you have gear without knowledge, you pretty much have nothing. However, if you're in a situation where you lose your gear, knowledge can still help you prevail.


Preparing a first aid kit for a backpacking trip is similar to preparing any other first-aid kit; however, you need to account for the unpredictability of the environment and the possibility that help isn't right around the corner.

After you've got your backpacking first aid kit all set, read our article on how to build a survival kit. Prepare yourself for what the wild will throw at you.

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Psychological Mistakes of Emergency Preparedness

Dietrich Easter

Psychological Mistakes of Emergency Preparedness (Have You Been Hoodwinked?)



Have you been caught in a psychological trap? Many people like to believe they’re prepared for an emergency. Maybe they have some gear or took a first-aid class in college. Are you prepared? Or not? This article will talk about the psychological mistakes people make when preparing for an emergency.


When people think about emergencies, they tend to overestimate their strengths and underestimate their weaknesses. This could be for the simple reason that it's generally unpleasant to think about hard times. But, unfortunately, if we don't spend time preparing for hard times, the hard times can be a lot worse.


Let's talk about how your own mind can play tricks on you.

How to Avoid Common Mental Pitfalls of Emergency Preparedness

Are you wondering about how to prepare for an emergency? Before you grab a bunch of gear and stuff it in your closet, let's make sure you're not making one of these major mistakes.


Here are several mistakes we'll cover:


1. Overestimating your training

2. Expecting others will be there to help

3. Underestimating the risks

4. Overlooking obvious dangers

5. Becoming fixated

6. It won't happen to me

7. Failing to prepare for the aftermath


Let's look at these in more depth.


Note: This article lists some common mental mistakes for emergency preparedness. This is not meant to be professional psychoanalysis.

1. Overestimating Your Training

If you've been formally trained in emergency preparedness, you might feel pretty confident. That's awesome. Just be sure you're taking an honest assessment of your skills. You'd be very surprised how easy it is to overestimate skill level.


As someone who trained new paramedics, I've seen a vast array of people prepare for emergencies. Here's a secret: some of them knew what they were doing, and some of them were totally clueless (myself included, especially as a rookie recruit).


However, one thing was always puzzling: the most clueless paramedics were almost always the most arrogant (falsely confident), and the most skilled paramedics were almost always the ones who were humble, a little bit scared, and asked a lot of questions.


I can admit, as my career in emergency services progressed, I realized that things I thought simple were actually more complex. Reality has a way of slapping us in the face.


Key takeaway: take a sober look at your emergency skills. Ask others to assess you and seek advice from experts in your field. Realize that taking a first aid class or even a paramedic course is just the beginning. Just because you've had training doesn't mean you're well trained.

2. Expecting Others Will be There to Help

If something happens, just call 911, right? You should certainly call 911 during an emergency. However, don't let this false sense of security prevent you from adequately preparing for an emergency.


Here's an industry secret: the 911 system is very strained in many areas and completely broken in others. You could easily be waiting extended times for paramedics, firefighters, or a police officer.


However, even if the 911 system is top-notch in your area, responders won't be there instantly. Furthermore, if it's something like a natural disaster, there may be no responders at all - they'll be taking care of their own families or completely overwhelmed with other calls.

3. Misunderstanding the Major Risks

There are several types of people: those that are constantly worried about doomsday scenarios, those who are obsessively worried about daily emergencies, and those that laugh at anyone concerned about either : "Are you a dooms-dayer?" they mock.


There's nothing wrong with being level-headed, but too often, we embody the extremes: either frantically worrying, or acting like nothing bad will ever happen.


Look, things like grid-down situations, EMPs, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and earthquakes are all very real. The US government itself suggests that people be prepared for at least three

weeks without access to food or water. Do you have three weeks of food and water stored? That's the minimum.


Realize both big things and small things happen, and eventually, if you're blessed with long life, chances are some bad things will happen to you.

4. Overlooking Obvious (simple) Dangers

Do you know one of the things that hospitalize most elderly adults? Falls. That's right, the simple, hidden fall. Not break-ins or muggings. Falls.


One of the most common reasons people fall is failure to use some sort of handhold. But, things like rugs (tripping hazard) and stairs are also dangerous.


What's the point? Yes, it's important to think about the nuclear bombs, the super-volcanoes, and the EMPS, but it's also wise to think about the things that (statistically) are more likely to cause problems in your life.


While you're in your home, consider fall hazards. Realize that driving is a deadly activity! More people die every day from car accidents than they do wandering the streets of major cities.


Why is it that when you're in a dangerous neighborhood, you're on high alert, but when you're in your car, you're driving 90 without a seat belt (with a phone in your hand) and the music blasting? Just something to consider.


Key takeaway: Just because we're familiar with something doesn't mean it isn't dangerous. Even good dogs bite sometimes.

5. Becoming Fixated on One Thing

In addition to overlooking something small, we all also tend to become fixated on one thing. For example, perhaps you recently watched a documentary on the zombie apocalypse. Now it's all zombies, zombies, zombies.


Preparing for a zombie-like scenario may be important (maybe not); however, other disasters are even more likely. Many people become fixated on things like hurricanes or robberies, or financial collapse.


Here's the point: make sure you've checked all your flanks. You may have one area of your life fortified, but as is commonly said, a defense is only as strong as its weakest point. What's your weakest point?


In addition to becoming fixated on one disaster, it also seems like people become fixated on one means of preparation. For example, some people believe that they're totally set for any situation

because they have a firearm and a large stash of ammo. Others believe that having a year's supply of food is the answer.


Here's the thing, of course, having a firearm and having food are good ways to prepare - but they are not the only things to consider. For example, bullets are great, but will bullets provide you with a steady water supply? Food is essential, but what happens when one of you becomes sick? What will you do if you encounter a medical emergency? Do you have medical supplies and training?


Further still, what will you do if there's a fire in your home, and it burns your food supply and your ammunition? After all, the definition of a disaster is a disaster.


This can all spiral down a rabbit hole. The main thing is this: don't become fixated on one disaster, and don't become fixated on one means of preparation. Just like investing, you need to diversify your emergency preparedness.

6. It Won't Happen to Me

Just scratch this ridiculous idea out of your mind. Anyone who silently believes that bad things won't happen is not facing reality. We won't go out of our way to create fear because too much fear is counterproductive, but let's just say we need only look around at our own lives and the lives of our families to realize bad things can and will happen.


This doesn't mean we should shake in fear. However, it means people should consider the real risks in the world. And, as morbid as it sounds, most people don't escape this life alive.


Now, let's talk about being prepared for the aftermath.

7. Being Prepared After the Crisis

Even though we may prepare for a crisis, we should realize that just because we are prepared doesn't mean bad things won't happen. Friends and family could become injured, and that's something we should also prepare for.


Consider researching how to help someone grieve. Certain things are more helpful than others. Also, we should realize the mental toll a crisis can have on people. If you look at any emergency response organization, such as FEMA, there are steps to handle the aftermath of a crisis, including chaplains and critical stress debriefings - a meeting where those involved in a disaster talk about what happened.


Now, let's go over our key takeaways.

Key Takeaway on the Psychological Mistakes of Emergency Preparedness

Unfortunately, when planning for emergencies, our emotions are not our friends. Some folks are worried about what people think of them and don't want to be labeled "fanatics" or "preppers." Just like you have insurance for your car or home, you should prepare for emergencies - there's nothing fanatical about it.


Others become fixated on one emergency, leaving themselves open to other disasters. What's the best approach? Balance. Try to take a sober, calculated approach to disaster preparedness. Watch out for the psychological traps that could cause more harm than good.

To learn about preparing for medical emergencies, check out this article on how to set up an IFAK (individual first aid kit).

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Bandage Scissors and Trauma Shears: What are They Used For?

Dietrich Easter
Trauma Shears

What's the big deal with bandage scissors? If you're curious about trauma shears and bandage scissors, you're in the right place. This guide will explain the differences between bandage scissors and trauma shears and show you how first responders use them.

 What are bandage scissors used for? Responders use bandage shears to cut and size dressings, ace wrap, and clothing. Bandages shears are similar to trauma shears, and some people might use the terms interchangeably. 

With that said, we will discuss the importance of a good set of bandage scissors and trauma shears. Not only that, but we'll give you a few "off-label" uses.

Let’s begin by getting an overview of trauma shears and bandages scissors, and then we'll talk about different types of shears and their uses. 

What are Bandage Scissors? 

Bandage scissors are sometimes known as trauma shears (though the two aren't exactly the same). Medical professionals use bandage scissors and trauma shears for all sorts of different things. Paramedics and nurses often have a set of shears ready to cut extra gauze or cling wrap.

Differences between bandage scissors and regular scissors: 

  • Angles. They are angled, so you can easily slip them underneath bandages or clothing. 

  • Blunt. They have a blunt tip that removes the risk of injuring the patient. 

  • Stout. Bandage shears and trauma shears are usually thicker than regular scissors. They rely more on leverage than slicing power. 

Often, medical professionals might be dealing with a combative patient - someone who isn't cooperative (perhaps after a head injury). The blunt nose of the bandage scissors protects the patient from accidental stabs or cuts.

Many bandages and trauma shears also have small serrations on one of the blades. These small serrations help the scissors grip the material, preventing slippage. 


Note: We'll talk about both bandage scissors and trauma shears in this article. However, we'll explain some key differences in the next section.


What's the Difference Between Trauma Shears and Bandage Scissors? 

There are differences between bandage shears and trauma shears. Bandage shears tend to be smaller and slightly less robust. However, both can accomplish similar tasks, albeit with varying effectiveness.  

For example, if you need to remove a bandage or a cast, then the more nimble bandage shears will be a better tool. However, if you need to cut a leather jacket, then a set of sturdy trauma shears will be more appropriate. 

Below, you'll learn some of the practical differences between trauma shears and bandage scissors. 

Three differences between bandage scissors and trauma shears: 

  1. Bandage scissors are usually full stainless steel. A fully stainless-steel bandage shear allows the blades to be cleaned and sterilized if needed. While these are not for surgery, nurses might remove a bandage covering an open wound - in these cases, you wouldn't want regular trauma shears, as there could be gunk around the handles. 

  2. Bandage scissors are usually smaller. You might use bandage scissors to make precise cuts – for example, small bandages for fingers. Trauma shears are usually larger, so you can quickly find them remove clothing in an emergency. 

  3. Trauma shears are usually stronger. Trauma shears will cut through thick, tough material. Many professional shears can cut thin metal in a pinch (not advised for routine use). However, trauma shears also have larger grippy handles, so you can easily grab them, and they won't become slippery when contacting fluid.

You can share some uses for trauma shears and bandages scissors; however, it's important to know each tool's limitations. 

Why Do Paramedics Carry Trauma Shears? 

Paramedics, EMTs, and nurses all carry trauma shears or bandages scissors. In fact, aside from a good stethoscope, scissors shears are one of the most popular pieces of gear. 


Jobs for bandage scissors:  

  1. Cutting bandages. If you work in a wound clinic or a hospital, you'll likely use bandage shears for cutting dressings, light casts, or thin clothing. If needed, you can clean stainless steel bandage shears - important if you're working around an open wound. 

  2. Removing patient clothing. A more robust shear - often called trauma shears, will cut clothing from a patient. First responders used trauma shears when responding to accidents, gunshots, or falls. The shears rapidly remove clothing so that paramedics can assess and treat injuries. If you can't see it, you can't treat it! 


Let's talk about these uses in more depth. 

Note: Be careful about using a sharp knife for these tasks. However, if you want a knife for backup uses, you can buy specially made "rescue knives" - these knives have a blunt tip that won't harm the patient. 

Secret Uses of Trauma Shears and Bandage Scissors 

For people in the first responder community, the ideas in this section are no secret. However, for those curious about trauma shears, you may be interested in learning some of their “off-label” uses. 


Off-label uses for trauma shears. 

  • You can use trauma shears as the windlass on an improvised tourniquet. In a mass casualty incident, you may need to make extra tourniquets. With a triangular bandage and a set of trauma shears, you can improvise a tourniquet. After wrapping the bandage around your limb, you can tie a knot below and about the center of the shears - then you just twist the shears until bleeding stops. If you're curious, check out this video on improvised tourniquets. 

  • You can use trauma shears to open an O2 tank. If you're helping someone who needs oxygen, you'll know that it's easy to lose the wrench to open the tanks - this is a big deal! With trauma shears, you can just place the inside of the handles around the O2 tank nut, squeeze and twist the tank open. If you need to, place some tape inside your handles to give you more grip. 

  • Trauma shears as an extrication tool. Trauma shears are a good tool for cutting seat belts. Often, a sturdy pair of trauma shears will give you more control than a standard seatbelt cutter. Also, some trauma shears come with a glass breaker on the handle.


Now, let’s talk about some common types of trauma shears.

What are the Best Trauma Shears? 

The best type of shears will depend on your situation. However, in this section, we'll show you several types of trauma shears and discuss the pros and cons. 


Types of trauma shears: 

  • Low-budget trauma shears. Inexpensive trauma shears will still get the job done - though they'll struggle with thicker material. If you often lose trauma shears, or like to have a backup pair, then getting some standard shears is smart. 

  • Robust trauma shears. Some trauma shears – like the X-Shears – will take abuse. The X-shears are extra strong, extra smooth, and can cut through lots of layers. The x-shear makes for good primary scissors - especially for the first responder. 

  • Rapid-cutting tool. The rescue hook will expose injuries fast - nice when treating penetrating trauma. Many battle-field medics prefer rescue hooks. With that said, you need to keep them sharp. 


With all these tools, it's easy to lose them in the heat of an emergency. For this reason, it's smart to attach them to a scissor leash. You can attach the leash to your belt or backpack, so your trauma shears don't walk away. 

Key Takeaway on Bandage Scissors and Trauma Shears 

Both these tools have some overlap in their uses. With that said, you probably want to stick with bandage scissors for clean environments. Trauma shears work best for use in the field. 

Gadgets are fun, but it's important to have the knowledge to treat an emergency. If you haven't already, enroll in a Stop the Bleed course, and be sure to update your CPR and first aid certifications. 

For more on treating injuries, check out these articles on avoiding mistakes during bleeding control and how to perform rescue breathes

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