Common Holiday Injuries and Illnesses (And How to Prepare)

Dietrich Easter

Common Holiday Injuries and Illnesses (And How to Prepare)

 

Does it always seem like someone in your family is getting sick around the holidays? Does it seem like you’re constantly reaching for the first aid kit? The holidays should be a joyful time, but there are some hidden dangers and common holiday injuries. 

 

Holiday injuries can range from minor burns and scratches to major falls and car accidents. Unfortunately, even small injuries around Christmas or New Year can be really frustrating. You’re just trying to enjoy some family time when - wham! An injury or sickness strikes! Now you’re missing out on family time and wasting time off.  

 

Let’s talk in more detail about these common injuries and ailments, and then we’ll talk about how to prepare. We’ll start with the injuries, then talk about the illnesses.

Why Do People Get Hurt Around the Holidays? 

You might be wondering, why are injuries common around the holidays? Well, there are a few intuitive reasons. We’ll talk about them more in later sections, but here’s what it all boils down to: people are doing things they don’t normally do. 

 

And, when people do things that they don’t normally do, their bodies and minds aren’t as careful about keeping them safe. This is why people fall when they’re first learning to ice skate or skateboard. 

 

With that said, let’s look at some common injuries. 

Several Common Holiday Injuries 

First, let’s talk about some of the most common injuries around Christmas and New Year. But keep in mind, many of these injuries become more common around all holidays, that includes Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, etc.   

 

Here are some common holiday injuries: 

 

  • Falls 

  • Choking hazards (eating and toys) 

  • Car Accidents (Motor vehicle collisions) 

  • Cuts and scratches 

  • Fires 

 

Let’s look at these closer.

Why Falls are Common Around Christmas 

First, let’s talk about falls. Falls happen more often around the holidays for a couple of reasons, but most of them relate to one thing: decorations. There are a few things to keep in mind here. 

 

Some of the most serious falls happen when people have to climb high ladders to place decorations on their roofs. Or, they might be on their roof, trying to place decorations somewhere. 

 

However, don’t discount the small falls. These would include falls from short step ladders when trying to decorate the inside of the home – or placing a star on the tree. For many folks, these kinds of falls can still be very serious, resulting in concussions or broken bones. 

 

How to stay safe from falls around the holidays: Make it a point to have someone help stabilize any high ladders. Also, be realistic with yourself about your physical and mental condition. There are professionals you can hire to decorate your home, and this may be the safest option for some (and if you can find someone reasonably priced, it’s less work!).

Why Choking Hazards are Common Around Holidays 

Another danger around the holidays: choking. There are several sources of choking that both adults and children should be aware of. 

 

First, there is usually a loss of extra food around the holidays. Both adults and children will be eating more than usual, and some of the food might be difficult to chew (for children or adults). Also, young kids might sneak over to the snack table and grab food when the adults aren’t looking. 

 

Second, toys and objects can present a choking hazard for babies and toddlers. Holiday gatherings can cause a lot of sound and commotion, and true choking is almost completely silent. 

 

How to stay safe from choking around the holidays: The main thing is to be aware of what you and others are eating. Ensure that children are still being watched by someone, even if it’s a “safe” family gathering. 

Car Accidents are a Danger 

Car accidents and MVCs (motor vehicle collisions) are also a danger around the holidays. This danger can take several forms. 

 

First, the obvious one – more driving. This could be making long road trips to family gatherings or just driving a couple of minutes up the road. Regardless, more time on the road means there may be more chance of collisions. Also, keep in mind a few compounding factors. Memorial Day is the worst weekend for car accidents, as it consistently has the most accidents each year.  

 

Second, for those who live in snowy climates, many people are polishing their snowmobiles or four-wheelers. These vehicles can be fun during the colder months, but they present some risks. Also, keep in mind the risk of ice and snow as it relates to regular driving. 

 

How to stay safe from car accidents: The best way to stay safe is to drive slowly and stay aware. Also, if the conditions look bad, stay at home and drive later. 

Cuts and Minor Burns Around the Holidays 

Falls and car accidents are common, but smaller injuries are often more common as well. What’s the issue with these smaller injuries? Well, around the holidays, it’s like they are magnified – any injuries, be it a cut or a small burn, is just more annoying when you’re trying to enjoy the moment and spend time with loved ones. 

 

Cuts are more common, as people are spending more time in the kitchen. Burns are more common for the same reason – more time in the kitchen. But there’s another reason for burns, many people are starting fires in woodstoves and fireplaces, which creates more dangers (as we’ll talk about in the next section). 

 

How to stay safe from cuts and minor burns: Don’t forget those oven mitts when taking out the roast! Also, be careful when using that kitchen knife. It’s easy to become distracted. Before you know it, you’ve diced the potatoes and your finger as well! 

Fire Hazards During the Holidays 

There is a spike in house fires during the months of December and January. This is more to do with the cold weather and less to do with the holidays. However, it’s still wise to keep in mind that fires are more common this time of the year. 

 

Here are a few ways to stay safe from fires during the winter months: first, ensure that you’ve had your heating system checked for safety. There are a ton of different ways to heat a home, so it’s not possible to cover them all here. The main thing is to ensure the system is cleaned and working as it should, and that nothing flammable is near the heat source. 

 

Also, ensure that you have your smoke alarms and your carbon monoxide alarms tested and in the right places. These devices are life-saving, so don’t neglect them! 

Common Illnesses During the Holidays (Christmas and New Year) 

Now, let’s talk about a few common illnesses around the holidays. Most of these are related to two things. First, the colder weather, and second, the increased exposure to people. 

 

Here are a few common sicknesses around the holidays:

 

  • Influenza (Flu). The common flu begins to rise in prevalence around the holidays. Usually, flu season is from around October to early spring.  

  • RSV. This virus has been impacting both children and adults and can be dangerous in some cases.

  • Food poisoning. When you’re eating a bunch of new foods from some unknown origins, there is an increased likelihood of becoming sick. 

 

Now, let’s talk about how you can stay safe from common sicknesses

How to Avoid Holiday Sickness 

Let’s go over a few ways to avoid sickness around the holidays. With these techniques, you’ll be in the best position to avoid illness. However, sometimes sickness happens, and the best thing you can do is have some chicken noodle soup and warm blankets ready so you can make a swift recovery. 

 

Tips to avoid illness around the holidays: 

 

  • Keep your immune system strong. Keep yourself and your family in the best health possible. Eat right, take those vitamins, and do your best to maintain overall health. This will keep your immune system strong and help you avoid and fight illness. 

  • Avoid sick people. If you know someone is or has been sick, it’s best to avoid them. Yes, it can be easy to overlook this, but if your family catches the ailment, it could be weeks and weeks before you all recover. 

  • Wash hands. Keeping hands washed is one of the best ways to avoid illness during the holiday season. Our hands introduce many germs, so keeping them clean should be a priority. 

 

Those are a few ideas to stay safe and stay healthy. Now for our final words. 

Final Thoughts: How to Stay Safe During a Holiday Week 

Injuries and illness can increase around the holidays. Everything from car accidents to burns to falls can become more prevalent. Also, the risk of viruses can be a problem. 

 

Use common sense when driving and putting up Christmas decorations. Also, do your best to maintain general health and avoid being around people who are sick. 

 

Keep that first aid kit stocked! Have a small boo-boo kit around for the small stuff, and keep something like the Civilian Medical Trauma Kit around for the bigger injuries!

 

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How to Build a Cold Weather First Aid Kit

Dietrich Easter

Preparing a cold-weather first aid kit is essential. Becoming a victim of cold weather injuries, be it hypothermia or frostbite, is often the result of a lack of preparedness. Even if you live in a “warmer climate,” there is still a risk of cold-related injury.  

To create a cold weather first aid kit, there are several key components to consider. These key components include emergency blankets, hand warmers, and hot packs. Also, you should store various emergency supplies in your vehicle. Here’s one of the most important things to remember about cold weather: it’s sneaky. 

With that said, let’s talk about the risks of cold weather (even for those who don’t live in a traditionally “cold” climate). Then, we’ll outline the items you should have to stay safe. 

Why Cold Weather is So Dangerous 

Cold weather? What’s the big deal? I’ll just put on my winter coat, crank up the heat, and call it good. Hopefully it’s that simple. Before we go on, let’s talk about the reasons you shouldn’t overlook cold weather emergencies.

Here are several reasons cold weather is so dangerous: 

  • A warm climate can fool you

  • It’s like a slow cooker (but cold) 

  • Many people overlook the danger

 

If you take some time to prepare, you can overcome these dangers. Let’s look at them in more depth. 

Why Living in a Warm Climate Can Be Deceiving 

Those who don’t live in traditionally cold or snowy states are at risk of overlooking the dangers of cold weather. Even areas that are typically thought of as quite warm, such as Florida, still have regions that drop down into the 40s at night during the winter months. 

We’ll talk about this in more depth later, but even temperatures that aren’t thought of as “cold” such as temps in the 40s and 50s, can still be dangerous if someone is left exposed. 

If you live in a warm environment, and you’ve typically overlooked a cold weather first aid kit, consider the following scenarios. 

 

How it gets cold in warm climates: 

  • The power goes out at night. This can happen anywhere. And, even if the temperature is only dropping to the 50s, hypothermia can still result if there is no way for the person to keep warm, or if they are already at risk. 

 

  • Your car is stranded in a multicar pileup (and you run out of gas). This is one that many people completely forget. Sadly, pileups happen. Sometimes due to rain, fog, or a winter storm. When these pileups happen, it can be days before people are rescued – sometimes they happen in remote areas, where the nearest town is miles away. 

 

  • You have impaired mobility, and you fall outside. As a paramedic, this is one we see all the time. Someone falls in their backyard in the evening, they break their hip, and they don’t have their cell phone.  

 

  • Someone falls into cold water. No matter where you live, if you fall into cold water, it can take minutes for your body to become dangerously cold, particularly if you’re unable to move, or you’re trapped for a while. 

As you can see, there are many scenarios where cold weather can still present a danger even if you don’t live in Alaska. 

 

Cold Weather is Like a Slow Cooker (or Slow Freezer) 

Becoming hypothermic can be a slow process. One of the dangers of hypothermia is that, at a certain point, your mind becomes affected, and you stop making good decisions and are unable to get help.

This makes hypothermia especially dangerous. During winter weather, you need to stay vigilant to ensure that you don’t pass the point of no return.  

This same thing can happen with frostbite, though in a different way. Your fingers, ears, or nose become so cold that, eventually they are completely numb, and you don’t notice the irreparable damage is taking place. 

 Believe me, though the name would suggest otherwise, true frostbite is not cool. 

 

Many People Overlook Cold Weather Preparedness 

The fact is, even among people who live in the northern United States, there are many who simply overlook the dangers of cold weather.  

Why is this? Well, I guess we can blame central heat, modern cars, and . . . woodstoves? These are all great things, but of course, they can sometimes become a bit of a crutch. If we don’t take steps to be prepared, there can be devastating effects when something goes wrong. 

Let’s now talk about the core supplies and techniques needed for your cold-weather first aid kit. 

 

Supplies for Cold Weather First Aid Kits 

Staying warm doesn’t require a degree in advanced thermodynamics. It just requires keeping your eyes peeled for danger and having a few key supplies ready to go. In the next sections, we’ll list a few items you should have in your first aid kit to ensure you stay warm during the chilly months. 

We’ll list several items for keeping you warm, and then a few to help you out of emergency situations in the cold. 

First aid gear to help you stay warm:  

  • Emergency blankets. Having some emergency blankets is smart. If you get quality ones, you can even use them for a shelter if needed. Store these everywhere. Also, keeps some real wool blankets around too (in the car, in your home). Wool can keep you warm even if it gets damp.

  • Heating pads. Small heating pads are a great way to keep your hands and feet warm during the cold. You can tuck these in mittens or in shoes, helping you stay warm. 

  • Hot packs. Hot packs are similar to heating pads, but they are even faster, and they can be used to rapidly warm someone in an emergency. Place them around the body's core, which means the groin, armpits, neck, belly, and chest. Some of these can get pretty hot so be careful about placing them directly on the skin.

  • Hats, mittens, winter coats. Keeps some extra winter hats, mittens (they keep you warmer than gloves), and winter coats in the car. Also, keeping a warm change of clothes in the car wouldn’t hurt either. 

  • Canned compressed air to repair tire (Fix a flat). If you get a flat in the middle of a blizzard, you don’t want to be outside trying to make a repair in inclement weather. Instead, use something like fix-a-flat to get you to safety, and then make the repair. 

  • Reflector, electronic flare. Flares and reflective vests can keep you visible if your car goes off the road, or if you need to make a roadside repair. Also, if you’re hiking in a blizzard, a reflective vest can help people find you if you become lost (keep this in mind for pets!). 

  • Sand for traction. Think about tools, such as sand and traction tiles, to help you get unstuck. If your car is caught in the snow, you want to be able to get out. Cars can’t idle forever! 

  • Jumper cables. Cold weather is known to kill car batteries. If you can’t start your car, you can’t stay warm. Have some jumper cables ready and ensure that they are in working order – and that you know how to jumpstart a car! 

  • Maps and navigation. In a blizzard or a storm, the GPS on your phone might not work. Be sure you always have a paper map ready to go when you’ll be in an unfamiliar area. What’s the one thing worse than being trapped in a blizzard? Getting lost, and being trapped in a blizzard. 

  • Matches and a way to get water. If for some reason you do become stranded, you’ll need some way to get water. In this case, some type of tin can, or tin cup will allow you to melt some snow and boil it for water (you’ll need some waterproof matches!). 

 

Alright, hopefully, you can go through this list and add some items to your emergency supplies. Where should you store all these items? Well, it’s a good idea to have some in the house, and some in the car. 

If you’d like, here is another list of cold-weather preparation supplies.

 

Conclusion: Staying Safe During Winter Weather 

Cold weather can often be deceptive. Some people don’t realize how dangerous the cold months can be. For those who live in snowy environments, there are a number of new dangers - power outages, slippery roads, blizzards. You must stay prepared. 

And even for those who don’t live in a cold weather environment, it’s critical not to underestimate the dangers of cold, or even cool, weather. If you become stranded in a vehicle, or you can’t get up in the backyard, it could be dangerous. For those with known mobility issues, think about getting a life alert necklace or bracelet, this will ensure you can always get help if you need it. 

If you’d like, read about how to build a vehicle first aid kit. Staying prepared may not seem all that exciting, and it may seem like a lot of money in the beginning, but when you do need the supplies (and believe me, eventually you will), you’ll be very, very glad you took the time to prepare.

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Should I Buy Bulk First Aid Supplies?

Dietrich Easter
medical supplies

 

Today we’ll discuss whether you should buy bulk first aid supplies. First aid gear doesn’t do any good if you run out; however, you also don’t want to haphazardly hoard medical supplies.

 

Buying bulk first aid supplies can save you money, keep you more prepared, and allow you to help others in need. Professional organizations and people who regularly carry first aid items can benefit from a well-stocked supply. If you’re planning on buying first aid supplies, it’s wise to have an area to store everything. It doesn’t matter how much medical gear you have if you can’t find it when you need it. 

 

The last thing you want is to run out of needed first aid gear. However, it’s also a problem if your first aid gear is disorganized or lost. Below, we’ll talk about the when, where, and how of buying bulk medical supplies. 

 

Let’s get started. 

 

Benefits of Buying Bulk First Aid Gear 

First, let’s talk about some of the pros and cons of buying bulk first aid supplies. Good first aid supplies are extremely valuable in many ways, but it’s vital to have a plan in place to properly manage medical gear. 

If you’re considering buying bulk first aid supplies, here are a few benefits: 

  • Steady Supply 

  • Many don’t expire 

  • Help others  

  • Reduced prices 

Let’s look at these in more depth. 

 

Bulk First Aid Items Provide a Steady Supply 

Some people rely heavily on first aid items and running out could be dangerous. When you have a steady supply of first aid items, you don’t need to be as worried that you’ll run out. 

Some people or professional organizations will keep bulk items in supply in the case of a mass casualty incident – where many patients may need medical supplies. Medical supplies are no good to someone if they aren’t readily available. 

 

Many Items Don’t Expire 

Many types of medical supplies don’t technically expire, so it can make sense to buy what you need upfront instead of constantly reordering items. 

If you’re curious, read this article on if tourniquets expire. Many items can last a long time. However, for items that do expire, if the volume of use is there then it can make sense to buy bulk. 

 

Helping Others 

Let’s be honest, some people don’t understand the benefits or have the resources to obtain a good first aid kit (however, anyone can make a budget first aid kit that still covers lifesaving gear). Those that have the means or training to buy bulk first aid supplies should consider educating and sharing the supplies with others. 

Many people don’t understand the present dangers of daily life and are unprepared when an emergency strikes. However, those that have extra first aid supplies can share with those who don’t and help spread the word about the importance of primary first aid like bleeding control and airway management. 

 

Price Savings when Buying Bulk Medical Supplies 

Often there are cost savings when buying bulk medical supplies. For those who will regularly be buying large amounts of medical supplies, it makes sense to buy in bulk when possible. 

Just be sure that you’re buying quality bulk items. In some cases, “bulk” items are sold as cheap knockoffs. Unfortunately, this is often the case with lifesaving equipment such as tourniquets. You should never buy a counterfeit tourniquet or BVM – but you have to do a little research to avoid getting scammed. 

Here’s an article on counterfeits tourniquets – also, here’s a good video on recognizing fake CAT tourniquets.

Alright, now that we’ve talked about the benefits of buying bulk first aid items, let’s chat about how to store bulk first aid items. 

 

How to Store Bulk First Aid Supplies 

We’ve all watched a game on TV, be it football or baseball or bull riding, where the athlete nearly won only to fumble the opportunity in the final minutes. 

Well, the same thing can happen with first aid gear. People will buy a lot of first aid supplies with the intention of being prepared, only to lose most of it or store it away in their garage - this is a fumbled opportunity. 

To be properly prepared, you need the first aid gear to be stored and ready for use. In the next sections, we’ll talk about a few tips to store your first aid gear efficiently. 

 

Storing and carrying bulk first aid items:  

  • Keep what you need close 

  • Organize a home area 

  • Keep track of expiration dates 

  • Order of importance 

 Let's look at these in more depth.

 

Bulk Medical Gear: Keep it Close 

It’s good to have a clean organized cabinet full of your medical gear, but you should also keep needed first aid supplies close. 

For example, it’s smart to carry a tourniquet, gauze, and pressure dressing with you at all times. This could be in an EDC first aid kit or a vehicle first aid kit. There’s nothing wrong with buying bulk, but don’t make the mistake of storing it all in the garage – keep what you need ready to go. 

 

Organize and Area for Bulk First Aid Supplies 

First aid supplies should be stored in a cool and dry place. The first aid supplies should not be mixed with other non-medical items, and things should not be thrown together. If everything is out of place, it’s more likely that you will lose your supplies or that you won’t know what you have and what you need. 

In the next section, we’ll talk about another reason it’s important to keep things organized. 

 

Bulk Medical Kit: Keep track of Expiration Dates 

While there are many medical items that don’t expire, there are some medical supplies that will expire. You can often repurpose expired medical gear for training, so it doesn’t need to be thrown away; however, you shouldn’t use expired medical gear for your real-life kit. 

What types of medical gear expire? Any gear that has a liquid or adhesive substance usually has an expiration date, such as chest seals, burn gels, or sticky patches. 

Also, medications will have an expiration date, so these need to be watched very carefully. Some items that are made with a sterile seal will only guarantee sterility for a certain timeframe, so it’s important to keep an eye on the labels. 

This brings us back to our last section: you need to keep bulk medical supplies organized. If the supplies are not organized, then it becomes very difficult to keep track of expiration dates and quantity. 

 

Bulk Items: Store in Order of Importance 

It’s wise to keep the most important medical supplies out in the open for easy access. This also makes it easy to know when your most important supplies have run out. Again, organization is the key. 

Bonus tip: If you have multiple people accessing the medical supplies, such as professional medical providers, it’s important to have some kind of checkout sheet available. This ensures that the managers and whoever is buying the supplies know what medical supplies are being used, and how much. 

Before we go, let’s answer a few common questions. 

 

Who Should Buy First Aid Kit Refills? 

First aid kit refills are a type of bulk first aid kit that provide several advantages. Why are refills smart and who should buy them? 

Refill first aid kits make it easy to buy the specific supplies needed. For example, trauma kit refills are a common item. These kits will have everything needed to treat a traumatic wound – including a tourniquet, a pressure bandage, gauze, and a chest seal. When these kits are used, they can be easily replaced with a refill kit.  

Refill kits also keep everything organized and prevent losing items before they are used. Finally, refill first-aid kits can be less expensive than buying each item individually. 

 

What To Do with Expired First Aid Supplies

Many people wonder if they should just toss expired first aid gear. In some cases, you should dispose of expired equipment, particularly in the case of medications. However, many types of expired supplies can be repurposed for training. For example, sterile gauze that has expired can be used to practice wound packing. 

If you can, think about ways you can use expired items before tossing them. Also, think about ways to recycle the items if possible. Finally, be careful about hazardous substances, and ensure that you dispose of medical items per local laws and guidelines. Now, let’s go over our final take. 

 

Final Thoughts on Buying and Storing Bulk First Aid 

Buying bulk first aid supplies is a great way to save a little money, avoid frequent orders, and stay prepared for an emergency. However, it’s important that you keep things organized, which will help prevent a discombobulated hoard. Also, think about others – perhaps there is someone who could use extra first aid supplies. 

Finally, get trained in how to use the first aid kits. No amount of medical gear can replace good training. If you’re curious, browse Medical Gear Outfitters' selection of bulk first aid items.

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How to Move Someone in an Emergency 

Dietrich Easter

Curious about how to move someone during an emergency? It’s easy – you just toss them over your shoulder, as seen in all the movies, and run like crazy, right? Wrong! In this article, we’ll talk about an often-overlooked side of emergency care. Patient movement. 

During an emergency, there are several things to consider before you move a patient. First, is there an immediate environmental threat to their lives? Such as fire, flooding, or an incoming train. Second, does the patient’s condition warrant movement. Finally, should you perform lifesaving treatments, like airway or bleeding control before moving them?

In the next paragraphs, we’ll talk about what you should know about moving an injured person. Then, we’ll list five techniques you can use to move someone during an emergency.

 

Legal Concerns about Moving Patients in an Emergency

Before we talk about when you should or should not carry a person during an emergency, know this: this article should not be taken as professional medical advice. Always seek professional training and refer to your local laws. 

With that said, we will talk about patient movement from a first responders’ perspective, and when and why the decision is made to move or leave the patient in place. 

One last thing – some people are afraid to move a patient (even when they know they should) because they are afraid of being sued. Now, this should not be taken as concrete medical advice, but there are things called Good Samaritan laws in many states. These laws essentially protect civilians who acted with good faith when trying to help someone.

If you can, familiarize yourself with local laws, and remember the golden rule: do onto others as you’d want them to do to you.

 

Ways First Responders move Someone in an Emergency 

We’ll assume that you’ve decided to move someone, but now you’re wondering how to do it. 

First, let’s talk about how first responders move patients – this will give you some idea of the approach. Then, we’ll talk about some techniques for patient movement that anyone can use. 

Here are some tools the pros use: 

  • Backboards 

  • KED boards

Let’s go into more detail below. 

 

The Backboard 

Backboards are long, wide, and flat board that is placed under a patient. The patient is then strapped to the backboard, allowing multiple responders to use the handles on the edges of the backboard to lift the patient. 

The backboard has, historically, been used for two main purposes. 

First, as an extrication tool. For example, a patient might be far out in a field and the responders need to carry them a distance to the ambulance. In this case, it would be easier to strap the patient to the backboard and use multiple people to carry them, then to try to carry the person with nothing.

Second, the backboard has been used for suspected injuries to the spinal cord. The thinking goes that the backboard would help stabilize the spine, similar to how a spine stabilized a broken leg. However, using the backboard explicitly for this purpose has fallen out of favor in many health systems.

 

KED Board

If the patient is trapped in a vehicle, the responders might use something called a KED board. These are almost like a mini backboard, but they are flexible, and only secure the patient from the head to the torso. These can be strapped around the patient and then used to pull them out of a vehicle. 

Finally, first responders will often use some type of sheet to move patients. This technique is often used for carrying a patient a short distance when the patient has no risk of spinal cord injury. These sheets, often known as Smith Cots, transport litters, or mega movers, are essentially a durable tarp with handles attached. 

On top of these methods, there are some other techniques first responders use to carry patients without tools. Many of the techniques can also be used by civilians to move someone during an emergency. 

 

Ways You Can Move Someone During an Emergency 

Now that we’ve talked about how responders use tools to move patients, and some of the reasoning behind the patient movement, let’s look at some techniques for moving patients without any equipment. 

 

Here are five ways you can move someone in an emergency: 

  1. Shoulder drag 

  2. Clothing drag 

  3. Leg drag  

  4. Sheet drag 

  5. Harness and litter 

 

Let’s look at these in more depth. If you'd like more pictures of these techniques and a deeper analysis, see this PDF on moving patients. 

 

Shoulder Drag 

The shoulder drag might be the most intuitive. If the person isn’t too large, you can stand behind them and hook your arms underneath their shoulders. For some people, to ensure the person doesn’t slip away, you can grab their wrists after placing your arms under theirs. From this position, you can pull them across the floor, away from dangers. 

 The risks: If the person is large, this can be difficult for one person. Also, since you are walking backward there is the risk of tripping. This should only be used in an emergency. 

 

Clothing Drag  

Some people might be able to get more leverage by just grabbing the clothing of the person, around their shoulders. This allows you to pull on their shirt and drag them to safety. When done properly, there should be no pressure on the person's neck, all pressure should be directed at the underarms. 

In some cases, it may be necessary to drag from the pantlegs. This all depends on the situation. 

 

Leg Drag 

As we touched on in the last section, there may be times when you need to briefly move someone by pulling on their pant legs. It could be that you’re alone and you’re unable to access their upper body. Or it could be that the person is slumped into a corner.

In any case, to perform this maneuver, you either grab the person by the ankles and pull them, or you can try grabbing the leg of their pants. This is not an ideal method by any means, and once the person is safe, it’s important to switch to another method. 

 

Sheet Drag to Move a Patient to Safety 

A sheet is a powerful thing. In an emergency, it can help you move someone to safety. There are two ways this works. 

First, you can carefully roll the patient on their side while stabilizing any broken bones and slide the sheet underneath them. Then, roll them back and pull the ends of the sheet to move them. Just be careful they don’t slip off. 

Second, you could roll the sheet up to make a rough rope and then wrap the rope underneath their shoulders. Now you can pull them to safety, similar to the clothing drag method. This technique is sometimes used to pull a patient out of a ditch or a burning vehicle, as it’s quick and effective. 

Of course, ensure you get training before attempting any of these maneuvers. 

 

Use a Litter or Harness 

Sometimes, first responders will carry a small litter (sometimes called a stokes basket) that makes it easier to extricate patients from austere environments. They may also carry products like a simple transport litter or a product like the hasty harness

The hasty harness is a simple and durable strap that allows first responders and firefighters to rapidly move patients in an emergency. If you’re curious about how this product works, you can look at this video on moving a patient with a hasty harness. 

As you might imagine, the ways to move a patient during an emergency are almost endless. Patients can end up in some odd situations, requiring responders to get creative. As a final note, it’s often helpful (if you have the time) to ask a patient if they have any ideas on how they should be moved – sometimes they have the best ideas. 

 

What if You Can't Move the Patient? 

If you can't move the patient in an emergency, always do your best to keep their airway clear and control bleeding. Both bleeding control and airway management should be performed before, during, and after you move a patient. 

Also, call for help early and often.

 

Should You Move a Person in an Emergency Situation?

The real question is when should you move someone in an emergency? Well, as you might expect, the number of potential situations and the nuances of each of those situations are endless. Answers aren’t cut and dry. 

At the end of the day, try to do the right thing. If you see someone who needs help, help them. The best way to help make this decision is to get professional training.

After you place yourself in various scenarios and talked with professionals who have moved thousands of patients during emergencies, you’ll be in the best position to decide how to move or care for someone during an emergency. If you’d like, you can watch this video about moving patients. 

 

Final note: Keep in mind that protocols and procedures change rapidly in the medical field. Take nothing in this article as medical advice and understand that the techniques listed in this article may become outdated in time. Do your best to stay up to date on your local laws and emergency protocols. 

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Do CAT Tourniquets Expire? (And other Tourniquet Questions)

Dietrich Easter

CAT TQ

Do CAT Tourniquets Expire? (And other Tourniquet Questions)

CAT tourniquets must withstand bullets in battle and blood in the ambulance, but can they withstand the test of time? Many people wonder if CAT tourniquets expire. In this article, we’ll answer these questions and many more. 

 

CAT tourniquets do not have an expiration date; however, they should be checked from time to time to ensure they are still in working order. In general, you want to have a separate “practice” tourniquet, as repeated use of a tourniquet can cause it to wear. 

 

Below, we’ll dive a little deeper into the reason CAT tourniquets don’t really expire, and what you can do to ensure your tourniquets, whether it’s a SOF-T or a SAM, are ready to go! 

How Long Do CAT Tourniquets Last? 

CAT tourniquets can last many years when stored properly. If you have a genuine CAT tourniquet, then there’s no reason the CAT tourniquet couldn’t last indefinitely with proper storage and care. 

 

How should you store a CAT tourniquet? You should store your CAT tourniquet out of the sun in a dry location. With that said, CAT tourniquets are made to withstand the worst environments in the world, so they won’t be harmed by exposure to the sun or the water. Of course, you wouldn’t want to repeatedly expose the tourniquet to water, as this could inhibit its ability to secure itself. 

 

Check to see that your tourniquets are in good working order before a shift or at the end of the day. Ensure there is no built-up dirt or mud, and that the buckle and straps were not harmed in some way. 

 

It’s not recommended to practice with the tourniquets you’ll be using in real scenarios – let me clarify – you should definitely practice with the same model of tourniquet; however, repeatedly using your tourniquets could expose them to wear and tear, making them less effective during a live event. 

 

We talk more about this in the next section. 

Can You Reuse CAT Tourniquets? 

In general, you should not reuse a CAT tourniquet. A CAT tourniquet for strictly training purposes can certainly be reused. If you’ve used the CAT on someone in the field, then there is the potential for blood and grime to build up on the CAT, making it unwise to reuse them. 

 

Further, as we just discussed in the last section, the stress placed on a tourniquet during use could cause the tourniquet to fail during future uses. Tourniquets are not made to be reused.  

Do SOF-T Tourniquets Expire? 

Like CAT tourniquets, SOF tourniquets do not expire either. If you store them correctly and try to protect them from the dirt and the mud, then you will end up with a tool that will last for many years. 

 

You should still perform routine checks on your tourniquets – no matter how silly they seem. Too many times an ambulance crew will say “I checked that yesterday, I don’t need to check it today.” And then they go on a call, only to find that another crew took their gear over the night shift, or that their gear was replaced with something worn or broken. It happens. 

 

This is sort of like the “treat every gun as if it’s loaded” rule – it’s there to keep you safe. Just as you should treat every gun as if it’s loaded, you should also treat every medical kit as if it’s missing something – and check it daily! 

 

Now let’s talk about some more common questions about tourniquets in general. 

Common Questions about CAT Tourniquets 

Let’s go over several common questions people have about CAT tourniquets and tourniquets in general. Out of all the medical skills and equipment, it seems that tourniquets are some of the most misunderstood. And this is bad because tourniquets are some of the most important pieces of gear. 

 

Here are some frequently asked tourniquet questions: 

 

  • Do tourniquets always lead to amputation? 

  • How many tourniquets can you apply? 

  • What’s the best tourniquet for first aid? 

  • How long can tourniquets stay in place? 

  • How should you fold and stage a tourniquet? 

  • What’s the best way to carry a tourniquet?

 

Let’s look at these in more depth. 

Do Tourniquets Always Lead to Amputation? 

No, tourniquets do not always cause an amputation. This was a common belief for many years, and unfortunately, it lives on to this day. Tourniquets can stay in place from two to six hours without causing long-term damage – of course, this will depend on the severity of the injury, how the tourniquet was placed, and how long it takes for the patient to receive definitive care. 

 

You should train yourself in how to stop a bleed and use a tourniquet. These are some of the most misunderstood yet important skills to know. Many people think stopping a bleed is a simple task. It’s not. Yes, it’s simple in principle, but in practice, there are many moving parts and things to consider. 

 

Here’s a video that shows you how to use a tourniquet. Also, seek out expert first aid training and never stop practicing. Practice is the only way you’ll be able to perform these skills properly in a high-stress situation. 

How Many Tourniquets Can You Apply? 

If the person has arterial bleeds from all four limbs, then you could theoretically apply four tourniquets – one per each limb. 

 

However, the more plausible scenario is applying a maximum of two tourniquets. The first tourniquet should be placed about two inches from the wound, and if the bleeding doesn’t stop, you should apply a second tourniquet above the first tourniquet (closer to the heart) and leave the first one in place. 

 

If this doesn’t work, you’re either applying them incorrectly, or you need to consider another way to stop the bleed (wound packing, better direct pressure). 

What’s the Best Tourniquet? 

The best tourniquets are probably the SOF Tourniquet and the CAT tourniquet. There are other tourniquets out there that work well; however, these two have the longest track records and some of the best reputations. Both these tourniquets are used by the military, law enforcement, and EMS. 

 

The SOF tourniquet packs down a little bit smaller than the CAT, but the CAT has larger controls that may be easier to use for some people. Again, training. That’s the key. Let’s talk about another common tourniquet question. 

How Long Can Tourniquets Stay in Place? 

After you’ve placed the tourniquet, the most common advice is to leave it in place. However, there are times when you should consider removing the tourniquet. 

 

NOTE: This article is not meant to be definitive medical advice – always refer to local laws and professional medical guidance.        

 

With that disclaimer out of the way, here are a few things to keep in mind. First, there are times when you’ll place the tourniquet in haste, seeing bad bleeding and going straight to the tourniquet. This is usually okay. However, if, after placing the tourniquet, you soon see that the bleed did not need a tourniquet, you can remove it (while still controlling the bleed). 

 

However, if the tourniquet has already been left in place for a significant period of time, it’s best to leave it in place and wait for surgical care.

 

Again, there is a lot of gray area in this decision, so ensure that you double-check everything with your local medical authority – this article should not be taken as medical advice! Even well-established rules can change over time, so keep up with things and always check for updates. 

How Should You Fold and Stage a Tourniquet? 

There’s an art and a science to folding and preparing your tourniquets. The art comes down to personal preference. If you play around with your tourniquets, you may find a folding and staging method that works best for your setup. However, the science comes down to concrete needs. For example, you need to be able to apply the tourniquet rapidly. Also, you should be able to deploy and apply the tourniquet with one hand. 

 

If you’d like you can watch this video on how to stage a tourniquet. It’s much easier to watch the process than explain it in words.  

What’s the Best Way to Carry a Tourniquet? 

The best way to carry a tourniquet is to have it always within reach. How do you do this? A couple of ways. The most obvious way is by carrying it on your person, in a pocket, or on a belt. However, some people may choose to strategically place the tourniquets throughout their lives. 

 

For example, they might have one tourniquet attached to the visor of their vehicle, they might have one on their desk at work, and another in their kitchen. Wherever it is, you need to ensure the placement is consistent. 

 

If you choose to carry the tourniquet on your person (that’s my recommendation) you can go a couple of routes. First, you can buy a more pocketable tourniquet, such as the SOF tourniquet. Or you could buy a specified tourniquet carrier and keep it on your hip or backpack. If you’re curious, you can learn more about this in my article on tourniquet carriers. 

 

 

 

 

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What are the Different Types of Medical Kits?

Dietrich Easter

What are the Different Types of Medical Kits?

FIRST AID KIT

 

If you’re wondering about the different types of medical kits, this article will give you a strong introduction. Some people might think a medical kit is pretty standard; however, like a mechanic has different tools for different jobs, a physician or paramedic will have different medical kits and tools for different injuries and illness. 

 

Some medical kits are categorized by purpose, for example, trauma kits, med kits, surgical kits, airway kits, and splints. Other medical kits are categorized by size: pocket kits, vehicle kits, IFAKs, and expedition bags. Understanding the various types of medical kits will make you more organized, potentially making you a better responder in an emergency. 

 

This article will talk about the various types of medical kits carried by professionals, and it will give you an idea of the kinds of kits that are useful to have on hand. 

The Two Main Categories of Medical Kits 

There are usually two primary ways to categorize first aid kits – either by size or by their designated use. As medical kits become smaller, they will carry less and less “fluff” and more “meat.” The fluff would be categorized as items of comfort or convenience, the “meat” would be items that are lifesaving. These philosophies guide many decisions in first aid kits. 

 

Here are the two categories of first aid kits: 

 

  • First aid kits by use. These first aid kits have a specific purpose, and they are marked clearly for their intended use. 

  • First aid kits by size. These kits are made for different areas. Some for a pocket, some for a backpack, and some to be carried in a large duffel bag, or even to set up a mobile clinic in austere environments. 

 

Below, we’ll outline the specifics of each of these categories. Let’s start with first aid kits by use. 

The Different Types of First Aid Kits by Use 

There are many types of medical conditions. When a first responder is working on a patient, they need to have all their tools ready to go – there’s no room for disorganization during an emergency. Your mind will already be going a million miles an hour, so you want to have everything around you as standardized as possible.

 

Let’s talk about the most common types of first aid kits. 

 

Note: we will list many types of medical packs – not all of them will be within a civilian responder’s scope of practice, meaning that you don’t just get to perform surgery because you have a knife. However, for the sake of information, we’ll cover them. 

 

Types of first aid kits based on purpose: 

 

  • Medical kit for Trauma and Bleeding Control 

  • First Aid kit for medications (med kit)

  • Medical Kit for Surgery 

  • Medical Kit for Airway Management 

  • Medical Kit for Splints 

 

These are some of the many subcategories of medical kits that professional responders will carry. You can use this information to guide the creation of your medical kits. 

 

Trauma Kits and Bleeding Control 

 

Trauma kits are some of the most popular kits. The reason they are so popular is that they are probably the single most lifesaving type of kit in the civilian world (along with good CPR and airway management, bleeding control is one of the most important first aid skills). 

 

The typical trauma kit will have various subcategories. The most common components are packing gauze, pressure bandages, and a tourniquet – these make up the bleeding control portion of the trauma kit. However, trauma goes beyond bleeding control. 

 

There will also be chest seals and occlusive dressings in a trauma kit, allowing the responder to treat wounds to the chest and abdomen. 

 

Finally, the trauma kit may have burns sheets, burn gel, and perhaps some IV supplies. Treating burns requires careful planning and equipment, so sometimes there is a burn kit that is separate from the trauma kit. However, it’s important to know that burns fall under the umbrella of “trauma.” 

 

Med Kit - Emergency Drugs and Pain Control

 

The med kit has useful medications to be used during an emergency. These don’t all need to be emergency meds, but they should all serve a specific purpose. In the ambulance, there will usually be three main categories of medications: cardiac (anything with the heart), breathing, and pain control. There are other supplemental medications, but in general, these are the three areas. 

 

You can use this to guide your own med kit. Ideally, you should have medications that match up with the needs of the people you’re serving. Some people might require an Epi-pen, some might require Aspirin, and others might just need some ibuprofen. 

 

The med kit is usually separate from everything else - or can at least be easily removed. Med kits also include all the syringes and vials needed to administer the medications accurately. Often, there is also information included about dosing. Though it’s good to become familiar with meds and doses, relying on memorization during an emergency can prove unreliable. 

 

Medical Kit for Surgery 

 

This kit will fall out of the scope of most civilians. However, a trained practitioner may carry some simple surgical equipment for emergency use. These will not often be for major surgery, but rather smaller operations, or emergencies. 

 

For example, a paramedic carries some surgical supplies for cricothyrotomies (cutting open the throat to establish an airway). They may also carry decompression needles for tension pneumothorax (relieving pressure on the lungs and heart). Some will perform escharotomies (cutting through burned tissue to allow a person to breathe), others may be trained in more invasive procedures, such as chest tubes.

 

It’s good to be aware that these are possibilities in the field, but only authorized individuals should attempt these procedures. Now let’s talk about airway management. 

 

Airway Management Medical Kit 

 

Airway management is another medical kit that is usually separate from other kits. The airway kit is ready to handle any emergency that could impact a person’s ability to breathe. The airway kit will have a multitude of supplies depending on the level of the provider. 

 

Often, there will be a BVM or a CPR mask – used to provide supplemental breaths. Other times there will be a simple rescue mask barrier device. 

 

OPAs and NPA are common items in an airway kit. More advanced providers may have endotracheal tubes for intubation, Magill forceps to clear blockages, and a bougie to facilitate intubation (basically a long, flexible, plastic stick). 

 

Airway management also requires a unique set of skills that need to be practiced. If you’re curious, read this guide to better airway management. 

 

Medical Kits for Splints and Slings 

 

This kit deals with the musculoskeletal systems – bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. For this kit, you will see various splints as well as tools to treat a sprain, break, or strain. 

 

For this kit, there will typically be a myriad of items for splinting, including some large splints such as board splints and traction splints for treating arms and legs. 

 

However, there will also be moldable splints, which are easily portable, as well as a triangular bandage, which can be used to create a sling and swath. 

 

For a civilian kit, it’s difficult to carry the larger splints, but there are ways to improvise splints with branches, walking sticks, or even pillows. 

 

This is not an exhaustive list of medical kits, but these are some of the most common kits you’d find on an ambulance. There may be many situations where these kits are modified to fit the needs of the provider. This list will hopefully help you as you build your own kits. 

Types of Medical Kits by Size 

As we said earlier, medical kits are also categorized by size. Some large and some small. Let’s go over how the various sizes work, and what they can do for you. 

 

Sizes of medical kits: 

 

  • Pocket kits 

  • IFAKs 

  • Full medical Kits 

 

Let’s look at these three main sizes 

 

Pocket Medical Kits 

 

These kits are meant to be carried on the person, either in the pocket or in a purse. Regardless, the goal is for them to be on hand at any moment. An ankle kit could also fit into this category. The goal is to have the essentials ready to go. 

 

For these small kits, you usually only include the most important items: tourniquets, epi-pens, packing gauze. It wouldn’t make sense to waste space with ice packs or other secondary supplies. 

 

Individual First Aid Kits (IFAK)

 

These kits are a little bigger than pocket kits. IFAKs are usually made for some operational capacity – not necessarily everyday carry. For example, a police officer, soldier, or hunter will often carry an IFAK on their belt. 

 

The IFAK is built will a few more supplies than the pocket kit. Also, the IFAK is built for the person who carries it, so it will contain supplies needed specifically by them – such as prescription meds. 

 

To learn more, read this guide to IFAKS. 

 

Large First Aid Kits – Full Kits 

 

The full first aid kit is usually a large bag that contains all the smaller kits within. This kit might be the size of a backpack, or it might be the size of a duffel bag. Usually, the large first aid kits act as the “base camp” for the smaller kits. 

 

To see a large medical kit in action, check out this video on the rapid-access trauma system. 

 

This article is only meant for informational purposes. Always follow local laws and regulations regarding what you can and cannot carry and what you can and cannot do – many areas are different. Finally, remember that training always trumps gear. Get trained, keep training. 

 

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Is it Cheaper to Build Your Own First Aid Kit?

Dietrich Easter

Is it Cheaper to Build Your Own First Aid Kit?

first aid kit

Are you wondering if it’s cheaper to build your own first aid kit than to buy a pre-made kit? In this article, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of building your own first aid kit vs. buying a first aid kit that’s prepackaged. We’ll also delve into some tips and tricks to getting the most from your first aid kit. Let’s jump in. 

 

If you’re serious about a first aid kit, there are advantages to building it yourself. In some cases, it's cheaper to build yourself, in other instances, it isn't. It all depends on the type and scope of the first aid kit.

 

Below, we’ll outline the pros and cons of building your own first aid kit. Remember - there is a difference between price and value, and this differentiator will come into play throughout this discussion. 

 

The Cheapest First Aid Kit: Consider Your Needs 

 

What’s the cheapest first aid kit? Well, it depends on your needs. When you’re looking for a first aid kit, the first thing you need to do is establish when, where, and how you’ll use it. 

 

Here are three general categories of people who carry a first aid kit: 

 

  • The professional first responder. If you’re a professional first responder, then you’ll probably carry a few advanced items. However, on the other hand, as a professional, you might be well equipped to improvise items, reducing the amount of stuff you carry. 

  • The non-medical person. This is the mom or dad who wants to be ready when their children come to them with bloody noses and mangled limbs. These people usually want a little bit of everything, and they also need a system that’s easy to carry. 

  • The guide/outdoorsman. If you’re a guide or an avid outdoorsman, then you’ll probably need to carry extra supplies, and you’ll need to think about the long term. 

 

What’s the point of outlining these profiles? Know who you are. Think about your needs. Don’t just grab some gear, even nice gear, and assume you’re all set with everything you need. You should always be thinking about purpose. 

 

The cheapest solution will be the one that meets your needs with the least amount of extra waste. Let’s talk about what this means. 

 

Understanding Value and Waste for First Aid Kits

 

You might think the cheapest first aid kit is the one you buy off the shelf of a big box store. However, to a professional first responder, that’s not even a first aid kit. Why? Because they aren’t looking for a box of Band-Aids. They want tourniquets, packing gauze, chest seals, moldable splints, and more.

 

Sadly, many times, these essential first aid items are not included in many of the big-box stores, pre-made “first aid kits.” It’s much better to build your own in this case, ensuring you have the gear you need.

 

Advantages to Building Your Own First Aid Kit 

 

Building your own first aid kit has many inherent advantages, particularly for those who are new to the first aid world. In some cases, it will be more expensive to buy all the first aid components individually instead of buying them as a package, but for those new to first aid, it might be worth it. 

 

Here are a few reasons it’s worth it to build your own first aid kit: 

 

  • Customization. If you have a specific health concern, you can add gear to suit your needs. 

  • Organization. If you’re new to first aid, building your own first aid kit will force you to understand each part. 

  • First aid bag. When you build your own first aid kit, you typically need to find a good bag as well. This improves the system by allowing you to buy a medical pouch that works for you. 

 

Now let's talk about how to build a first aid kit without going overboard. 

 

How to Build a Budget First Aid Kit 

 

The first step is to make a list of the medical items you need. Ask yourself if there are any medical conditions unique to you or your family. In some cases, there will be people who are allergic to bees, so it would be wise to carry an Epi-pen, or some sting relief pads. 

 

Some people might have a weak ankle that frequently sprains, in this case, it would be wise to carry some Ace wrap and ice packs. 

 

And of course, everyone should have the fundamentals, which include items for major bleeds and airway management. 

 

We’ve talked about building first aid kits in other articles, so here are a few links for specific types of first aid kits: 

 

  1. How to Build a Backpacking first aid kit 

  2. How to Build a Vehicle first Aid Kit 

  3. How to Build a Family first aid kit

 

 

If you'd like, you can also watch this video on building a budget trauma kit. Now, let's go over a few tips for staying within the budget:

 

  • Modularity 

  • Overlapping items 

  • Learn to Improvise 

 

Let’s look at these in more depth. 

 

Modularity for a First Aid Kit 

 

Instead of having fifteen first aid kits, have only several placed in key locations, like one in the car and one in the kitchen. While we believe it’s always good to have extra emergency supplies, there’s no reason to be excessive, and sometimes, if you have too much, it’s easy to become disorganized. 

 

For modularity, you might have one large first aid kit and a few smaller first aid kits. The smaller first aid pouches will fit into the larger kits, but when you need to be more mobile (say you’re walking with your kids at the park) you can take out the smaller pouch and place it in your pocket. 

 

This takes some habit building to do correctly, but once you get used to it, you’ll find that you have less clutter while still having the essential gear you need.

 

Overlapping Items in a Medical Bag

 

There are a lot of items out there – if you buy a first aid kit from the pharmacy, it will have a ton of variations of items - big gauze pads, little gauze pads, big band-aids, little band-aids, rolled gauze, trauma pads, more band-aid. But all this stuff can be replaced by a single pack of compressed gauze

 

Think about this when building your kit. There are a few items that are difficult to duplicate, like a tourniquet, but many other things have different uses. For example, the Israeli bandage is built for a ton of different uses – from splinting to bandaging to creating a sling and swath. 

 

If you buy a few “multi-use” items, you will find yourself spending less money overall, while still having the same functionality. 

 

Training and Learning to Improvise First Aid Items

 

As they say, the more you carry in your head, the less you’ll carry in your pockets. However, no matter how well trained you are, it’s often more effective to have the gear your need ready to go during an emergency. 

 

Getting trained will do several things for you. First, it will help you cut down on non-essential gear. Second, it will make you more effective with the gear you have. You’ll know how to use the gauze or splint for more than its intended purpose, and you’ll know how to do it with less stuff. 

 

Are Some Pre-made First Aid Kits Worth It? 

 

Yes, some pre-made kits are worth it, particularly once you know how to use the components, and you understand you’re getting a quality product. 

 

For example, the Civilian Medical trauma kit by Medical Gear Outfitters is built with professional tools, and it doesn’t overlook any of the essential gear. 

 

Mistakes to Avoid when Building an Inexpensive First Aid Kit

 

When you’re looking to buy a first aid kit, there are a few mistakes to avoid. 

 

Ironically, the first mistake people make with first aid kits is going cheap. Yes, the title of this article is about “cheapness”, but when it comes to first aid kits, you should be thinking about quality and value. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get the most with the money you have, but you don’t want to “race to the bottom.” This is a matter of life and death. You need good tools to perform during high-stress situations. 

 

Lack of training is the next mistake. When it comes to first aid, training is everything. I’ll go even further and say, just taking a weekend first aid class does not mean you’re “trained” for an emergency situation, any more than a person could take a weekend swimming class and be ready for the Olympics. If you want to perform well under pressure, then you need to dedicate yourself to hours and hours of consistent training. 

 

Disorganization is the final major mistake. You might have the greatest first aid kit that mankind's eyes have ever seen, but if it’s tucked deep in the closet in your room, it will be of no help during an emergency. Just like you brush your teeth every night (hopefully), you should build a habit of having a good first aid kit ready to go at all times. 

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First Aid Kit Essentials for International Travel

Dietrich Easter
First Aid Kit Essentials for International Travel
travel

If you’re planning a trip to a foreign country, your medical kit should be a priority. Whether you have a chronic ailment or not, international travel has unique health concerns that impact everyone. We recently posted about building a first aid kit for vacations; now, we’ll talk about travel around the world and how you can prepare a good first aid kit. 

 

When traveling overseas, you need to think about the types of ailments and injuries you’re likely to encounter. You’ll also need to bring more supplies (or have a plan to obtain more when you arrive) than usual. All aspects of international travel require detailed planning, but you certainly don’t want to overlook the importance of first aid and medical emergencies – making a mistake here could have huge consequences. 

 

Below, we’ll give you a list of things you should bring when traveling internationally. Then, we’ll talk about some of the reasoning behind why you should bring what you bring. We’ll wrap everything up by discussing some of the logistics of international travel. 

 

Complete list of First Aid Items to Pack When Traveling Internationally

 

Let’s begin with a checklist so you can start packing. Some of these supplies need to be on your person while traveling. To save packing space, you might be able to purchase some gear after you’ve arrived at your destination. 

 

Note: always double-check that what you bring is airport/TSA approved. Most medical supplies are allowed, but it's wise to make sure (and to have some backup in your checked luggage in case you must throw something away!).

 

Emergency first aid and medical supplies for world travel: 

 

  • Packing gauze 

  • Tourniquets 

  • Chest seals 

  • Rescue mask/barrier

  • Trauma dressing 

  • Medical Tape 

  • Trauma shears 

  • Gauze pads 

  • Triangular bandage

  • Water treatment (filter, tablets)

  • NOTE: Try to carry some of this with you in your carry-on if you're flying. 

 

Prescription medications for foreign travel: 

 

  • Any prescription meds 

  • Think about Insulin and Epi-Pens, and Inhalers - you may need extra. 

  • Talk to a doctor about other meds, antibiotics, or meds to combat travelers' diarrhea. 

  • Note: now is a good time to get a medical alert bracelet if you need one!

 

Non-prescription medications:

 

  • Ibuprofen 

  • Tylenol 

  • Antacid 

  • Mild laxative 

  • Aspirin 

  • Cold medicine 

  • Benadryl 

  • Any others needed

 

Gear to pack for minor injuries: 

 

  • Tweezers 

  • Masks/Medical and N95

  • Band-aids 

  • Splints

  • Sunscreen 

  • Ice pack 

  • Antibiotic ointment 

  • Burn cream 

  • Hot packs

  • Insect repellant 

  • Hand sanitizer 

  • Thermometer 

  • Eye drops

 

We’ve tried to include all the major items. However, ensure you do more searching and read more articles. Here is a good traveler checklist from the CDC. 

 

In the next sections, we’ll talk about principles to keep in mind while traveling. 

Tips and Tricks for Packing a First Aid Kit for International Travel 

 

Here are some tips to keep your international travel safer: 

 

  • Learn the laws and rules of the area you're visiting.

  • Learn locations of hospitals 

  • Use a good medical bag. 

  • Bring medical references. 

  • Avoid traveling alone

  • Get medical training before you travel 

  • Tips for traveling light 

  • Final thoughts

 

Let's look at these in more depth. 

Learn the Rules of the Area You’re Traveling 

 

If you’re traveling in Brazil, it’s a good idea to learn about the local rules and regulations surrounding medications. For example, some areas might not allow you to bring certain things into the country. However, other times, you will find some countries allow you to buy drugs that require a prescription in the US. 

 

Finally, make sure you’re aware of the quality of the medications you may purchase overseas. Not every country will have everything well regulated. We even make mistakes in the USA, so other countries should not be trusted until you’ve done your research. 

 

Learn Locations of Hospitals before Traveling

 

Before you travel anywhere, you should obtain a map and study it. Never travel to an area without a paper map. Learn where the hospitals are and learn how to use a map. You never know what types of cell phone service you will have, even in well-developed countries. You always want to be able to get to a good hospital if possible. 

 

Not everyone has the time to become fluent in every language before every trip. Regardless, you should learn the emergency numbers in all foreign countries, and you should learn how to say basic words like “hurt,” “doctor,” and anything else that might be related to your medical condition. In an emergency is not the time to hope that Google translate gets it right. 

 

Use a Good Medical Bag 

 

For a medical bag, use a med kit that looks fairly generic but still has all the compartments you need. You don’t want to be digging for your medications and first aid supplies while traveling. Use good medical bags, and don’t store your medical supplies all in one place. If you lose a bag, at least you will still have a few essential supplies in another bag. 

 

What makes a good first aid pack? 

 

First, you want something durable and well-made. If you plan on using a plastic bag, then you may want to think again. A plastic bag can work for some medical supplies, but you don’t want to be dumping things everywhere as you search for tourniquets and gauze. 

 

A note here, be careful with the military-looking bags or anything with Molle loops. These are great bags, but in some foreign countries, they are more conspicuous than may be prudent, often drawing unwanted attention and, in some underdeveloped worlds, may make you a target for foreigners looking to kidnap a “USA military person.” You might think this is a little paranoid; however, when traveling to underdeveloped worlds, you should be cautious. 

 

If you’re the type who likes tips like this, you should check out a book called Safe Travels in Dangerous Places – this is written by a police officer who has done a ton of travel all over the world. He gives you all the insider tips on avoiding being a victim of crimes, scams, and violence. 

 

Bring Medical Reference Books During International Travel 

 

Do you have some books on first aid and medical emergencies? If not, now is the time to get some good ones and to bring them with you while you travel. What should you look for?  

 

First, it should be small. You should be able to place it in your pocket when needed. Also, look for a guide that has spiral loops, making it easier to flip to a page without losing your place. 

 

Second, look for a first aid reference book that covers many situations – you don’t just want a pamphlet. Find one that’s small yet beefy. 

 

Last, look for a medical reference book that has translations included. In a pinch, you can pull out the pamphlet and point at various words, aiding in communication in a foreign country. 

 

Here’s a reference guide to first aid made for EMTs – this has a lot of information, just be sure to review it before you try to use it, as it’s made for professionals. Here’s another first aid guide for wilderness travel. Sometimes, it’s best to buy a few different guidebooks and distribute them to people in your group and see which are the easiest to use. 

 

Avoid Traveling Alone 

 

Most people who are at risk of being kidnapped and harmed don’t usually realize they are at risk of being kidnapped or harmed – this is one reason they are a target – they are oblivious. Realizing the risks is part of first aid preparation for international travel. 

 

First, there are people out there who look to take advantage of foreign travelers. This can happen in both developed and undeveloped worlds. When people see that you look scared, they see a target. This could lead to simple pickpockets to muggings. 

 

How can you avoid becoming a victim? First, realize that it’s probably safest to travel in a group, whether you’re male or female. Not only will a group setting help protect you from possible crimes, but it also gives you a network of people who will look out for you should you become ill or injured. 

 

If you get a traveler's sickness and begin vomiting everywhere, who is going to hold the bag for you? On a more serious note, you might need someone to call the ambulance or help drive you to the hospital. 

 

 

Find Medical Training Before International Travel 

 

If you’ve never taken medical or first aid classes, now would be a great time. Let’s face it, regardless of if you’re traveling to Paris or Brazil; you’ll need to be a little more independent than you are in the US. So, be sure you know how to perform basic maneuvers, like CPR, airway management, and bleeding control. 

 

How to Travel Light with a Medical Kit

 

If you don’t want to pack a ton of extra stuff, try to figure out if there’s anything you can reasonably purchase after you arrive. For example, you can probably pack a small bottle of hand sanitizer for your trip and then buy a larger bottle when you arrive – before you leave, you can refill your small bottle from the larger one. 

 

Further, you can pack your most essential supplies in your carry-on luggage, and your less important supplies can go in your checked bags. 

 

Little tricks like this can help you travel light while still staying safe. 

 

Key Takeaway on First Aid Essentials for International Travel

 

Preparing for international travel can be daunting, particularly trying to keep a good first aid kit. If you have chronic medical conditions, ensure you contact your doctor before you travel. 

 

A physician will tell you several specific things to think about before you begin exploring the globe. They may give you extra prescriptions for your current medications, or they may provide you with antibiotics just in case you become ill. Keep in mind diseases like malaria. 

 

Also, take the time to get trained. You don’t want to be “flying blind.” If you prepare before you travel, you will feel more confident in your ability to keep yourself and others safe. 

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First Aid Gear Checklist: Vacations and Camping

Dietrich Easter

First Aid Gear Checklist: Vacations and Camping

 

camping

Are you getting ready for a vacation? Anytime you’re planning a vacation or camping trip you should take a moment to consider your first aid kit. We’ve talked about a vehicle first aid kit; now, let’s discuss medical items to pack while on vacation.

 

There are logistical and equipment-based concerns when you go on an extended trip. For this guide, we’ll assume you’re traveling domestically; however, there may be more concerns if you’re in a foreign country. 

 

We’ll start by discussing gear for a general vacation, but we’ll also explain how to prepare for a more primitive environment, particularly if you’ll be doing tent camping or backpacking. 

 

Let’s talk about what to pack in your first aid kit. 

Best Items for a Travelers First Aid Kit 

Let's start with the list of items you should consider bringing on most vacations and camping trips. Later on, we'll go into some of the "theory" behind why you should pack certain things. 

 

Don't forget to pack these first aid items before your vacation: 

 

  1. Gauze and bandaging. Some packed gauze for larger bleeds and Band-Aids for those scratches.  

  2. Tourniquet and pressure bandages. For those more serious injuries, a good tourniquet should also be carried on in person when possible. You don't want to be digging for a tourniquet when you need one. 

  3. Airway supplies. Including NPA and OPA; however, ensure you know how to use them. Also, a rescue mask is nice to have in your medical bag. 

  4. Splints. A small moldable splint works great for treating almost any sprain, strain, or broken bone. 

  5. Triangular bandage. The triangular bandage is incredibly useful for a multitude of injuries, including making slings, creating a makeshift tourniquet, and binding a splint. 

  6. Medical scissors. If you're curious about all the uses for these, you should check out our article on trauma shears. These are great for cutting clothes away from an injury or cutting medical tape. 

  7. Cold packs. A good cold pack can become especially useful during the summer, not to mention after someone gets a bruise that needs some ice. 

  8. Disinfectant. Get some antibiotic ointment, both a tube and some small packs for quick use. 

  9. Medical tape. Keep some of this handy for securing bandages or for keeping Band-Aids in place. 

  10. Tweezers. Don't let those splinters win - keep some tweezers ready! Also, if you'll be outside at all, grab some tick removers. 

  11. Insect repellant. Wear insect repellant around mosquitos - you don't want to be lunch. You can also wear repellant to deter ticks, but ensure you get the right kind of repellant. Think about treating your clothing with permethrin to prevent ticks. 

  12. A good medical bag. Get a medical bag that everyone knows is the first aid kit. Look for one with separate but easily accessible compartments. Buy nice or buy twice!

 

Note: This list is not all-encompassing. The best thing you can do is consider the type of vacation you're taking, the people on the trip (do some of them have specific health conditions/allergies?), and the environment you're traveling to and through. We'll chat about all this more below! 

Understanding First Aid for Vacations and Camping Trips 

Let’s talk about some of the why behind what you should pack. We’ll break this down based on sections. Some will be more worried about emergency first aid; others will have comfort-based concerns. Know this: It only takes a few mosquito bites to make your vacation uncomfortable, so let’s not brush over the small stuff – at the same time, it’s important to prioritize the lifesaving gear. 

 

Understanding essential first aid supplies for vacations: 

 

  • Emergency first aid, bleeding control, airway 

  • Prescription medications and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs 

  • Protection from the environment 

  • Think about logistics

 

Let's talk about these. 

 

Emergency First Aid: Bleeding Control First Aid 

 

First, make sure you have the essentials covered. These are the things that can cause the most harm the fastest. In medicine, we have a name for these things: ABCs. Airway, breathing, and circulation. Essentially, you need to be ready to help someone breathe, stop someone from bleeding and keep the blood pumping. 

 

To stop major bleeding, the essential items are packed gauze and a tourniquet. Get some compressed gauze and buy a reputable tourniquet, like a SOF or a CAT. For breathing control, learn basic airway maneuvers and how to use a BVM. Finally, make sure you know CPR!

 

Medications for a Vacation First Aid Kit 

 

If you’ll be away for a while, ensure you have adequate stores of prescription medications or any OTC meds that you’re relying on. Take into account the possibility that you could be delayed on your trip, or flights could be canceled. Do you still have enough medications to last? 

 

Also, even if you’re normally healthy, it may be wise to pack some OTC meds like benadryl, aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, laxatives, Pepto-Bismol, Tums; all the usual things. Why? Sometimes, traveling to new areas and new climates can mess up our bodies a bit. It’s better to be prepared. Plus, you’ll probably end up using it on someone else. 

 

Protection from the Environment 

 

One thing to consider for vacation travel is the environment. Why do you need to worry about the environment? Will you be driving in your nice car? Well, regardless of your mode of travel, you could end up trapped. If there’s a major accident on a rural highway, traffic can be stopped for a long, long time (we’ve all seen the news about multi-car pileups involving dozens of vehicles) 

 

Bring some extra water and blankets. If you need to sleep in your vehicle overnight, you don’t want to freeze (in the winter), and you don’t want to overheat in the summer. 

 

On a less doomsday-ish level, think about extra sunscreen and aloe vera (a bad sunburn can make a vacation unpleasant). 

 

Will you be hiking? You don’t want to get trapped in the rain. Bring some sort of water-resistant clothing, regardless of the time of the year. Further, remember to bring a water filter or some other way to obtain pure water. 

 

Vacations: First Aid, Emergency Care, and Logistics 

 

This is an element of vacation that is often overlooked. How close is the nearest hospital to where you’ll be camping or staying? Also, realize that the ambulance response in very rural areas can be quite a while.

 

If you’re pregnant or have a health condition that requires proximity to the hospital, plan your trip accordingly. All it takes is a quick look at the maps apps on your phone to locate various medical buildings. 

 

It might not be practical for everyone to carry a huge medical bag, but someone should have a fully stocked kit (acting as the hub), while individuals should still carry some bare essentials (like gauze and a tourniquet). 

Mistakes to Avoid When Packing First Aid for Vacation 

There are a few pitfalls you can avoid when packing your first aid kit. As they say, we can often learn more from our mistakes, so here are a few mistakes to avoid when making a medical kit before a vacation. 

 

Mistakes to avoid:  

 

  • Not packing enough 

  • Buying a generic kit 

  • Having an unbalanced kit

 

Let's look at these in more depth. 

 

Not Packing a Complete Kit 

 

Usually, we're all about traveling light. However, when it comes to packing first aid and medical gear, you don't want there to be any holes in your kit. Now, if you're an experienced traveler, then you might have a better read on the quantity of supplies.

 

However, if you're starting out, don't skimp too much; pack a bit of everything and then see what you used and how it worked. You can always adjust next time. 

 

Buying a Generic First Aid Kit 

 

We've all purchased a generic "first aid" kit from some big-name store, and this isn't so much a mistake as it is an oversight. Sure, these kits come with a bunch of Band-Aids, and band-aids are nice, but these kits almost never come with a good tourniquet, a splint, or a proper supply of medications. They're often bloated and not in a good way. 

 

Even if you have one of these fast kits, you can fortify it by adding the first aid tools you need. 

 

Avoid an Unbalanced First Aid Kit 

 

We all worry about something. Some worry about sunburns, and some worry about bee stings. Both are valid concerns; just be sure you don't forget something because tunnel vision kicked in. 

 

This goes for everything, bleeding control, splints, ice packs - make sure you have a nice balance of gear. 

Final Thoughts on How to Build a Vacation First Aid Kit 

The only way you can really relax is to be truly prepared. Sipping a cool lemonade and looking at your favorite wildlife will be even better when you know you’ve planned for possible emergencies. 

 

Consider bringing extra over-the-counter medications, as travel can often bring on ailments. Further, if you're headed out into the wilderness, whether backpacking or doing some rural camping, consider adding some survival elements to your first aid kits, such as water filters, e-blankets, and fire-starting material. 

 

If you'd like more information on these topics, you can read our article on how to build a survival first aid kit. Also, you can check out our article on first aid kits for backpacking trips

 

At the end of the day, what you store behind your eyes is more important than what's in your backpack! Get some training! 

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The Best Way to Treat Bee and Wasp Stings

Dietrich Easter

The Best Way to
Treat Bee and Wasp Stings
bee sting

Are you wondering how to treat a bee sting? Wasps and bees can become aggressive. It’s important to be ready with a plan when you or your child is stung. It’s rare, but there are cases where bee and wasp stings are life-threatening. 

 

To treat a bee sting, first ensure the stinger is removed. If the patient is known to be allergic, use an epi-pen or call 911. If the bee or wasp sting isn’t serious, you can use ice, NSAIDs (ibuprofen), and elevation (raise the limb) to reduce pain and swelling. 

 

Don’t worry. We’ll talk about all this in more depth. Also, we’ll discuss how to know if someone is having a serious anaphylactic reaction and some things you can do to prevent stings in the future. 

How to Treat a Hornet, Bee, or Wasp Sting 

Stings from these insects, known as Hymenoptera, can be super painful. But they can also lead to life-threatening situations. This article will follow a logical step-by-step pattern.

 

First, we’ll talk about recognizing a sting and how to know if it’s serious. Then, we’ll talk about the steps for treatment, as well as some things that may happen in the days following the sting – so you know what to expect. 

 

Steps to treat a bee sting: 

 

  1. Recognize the sting/Find cover (from a swarm)

  2. Remove the stinger 

  3. Treat the sting: Minor reaction

  4. Treat the sting: Serious reaction

 

Let’s go over these steps.

 

Recognize the Sting 

 

If you feel a sting, look at and expose the area. Bees can sting through clothing, though it may be more difficult for them to get to the skin (if the clothing is relatively thick/baggy). 

 

Should you be swarmed by bees, it’s important to run away from the swarm fast. Where should you go? Well, most people suggest getting indoors or into a vehicle.

 

The swarm of bees will be less likely to follow you indoors, and you will be able to focus on removing the bees that are already on you. Shield your face and your neck – these are the most dangerous areas to be stung, as the swelling could cause a blockage to the airway. 

 

Note: in general, only killer bees will swarm in this aggressive attack. Regular honeybees are usually less aggressive. 

 

Once you’ve realized you’ve been stung and you’ve escaped the swarms, it’s time to remove the stingers. 

 

Remove the Stingers 

 

There’s a common thought out there that you should use something like a credit card to scrape the stinger from the skin. The thinking is that you don’t want to squeeze out any more venom. This is no longer recommended by the American College of Emergency Physicians, as it wastes time – just get the stinger out.

 

The stinger already has a muscle in it that’s involuntarily contracting, so it doesn’t matter if you use a credit card or not: the longer that stinger stays in, the more venom potentially that will enter the victim - if you have a credit card in your hand, great. Otherwise, just grab the stinger and get it out. 

 

Once you have the stinger out, it’s time to think about treatment. 

 

Treating the Bee Sting: Minor Reaction

bee sting

If the sting is only minor, one or two stings, and you know that the person is not allergic, then you don’t need to panic (even if they are allergic, panic is a bad thing). Make sure the person moves to a safe area where they can rest. Then, clean the sting site with soap and water, or you can use a sting pad or sting ampule to clean the wound and provide pain relief.

 

After that, if their person tolerates the pain well, there isn’t a whole lot that needs to be done. However, even if the sting seems minor, it’s best to rest for a while and ensure that it doesn’t turn into something more serious. 

 

Sometimes, the person won’t show serious symptoms for several hours. So, don’t leave the person alone for the rest of the day. Further, there are times when people will develop sickness several days later, usually feeling aching or developing a minor fever. Often people don’t realize this sickness was from the bee sting.

 

Now, let’s talk about what you should do if it develops into something more serious. 

 

Treating the Bee, Wasp, or Hornet Sting: Serious Reaction 

 

If you know that the patient is allergic to bees and they have an epi-pen, it’s best to use the epi-pen right away. Make sure you’re familiar with the epi-pen – it’s not unheard of for people to accidentally press the wrong end of the pen and stab their finger. When people get scared, fine motor skills decrease. 

 

After you’ve used the epi-pen, call 911 or get the patient to the hospital. There may be a more serious reaction after the EPI wears off.

 

Clean the wound and you can use ice packs to decrease swelling. If the patient is having trouble breathing, it’s best not to give them anything by mouth. However, if they can tolerate it, you can give them Benadryl to help reduce the histamine response. 

 

Let’s talk about how to recognize an anaphylactic reaction – there’s a first time for everything. 

How to Recognize an Anaphylactic Reaction from a Bee Sting 

An allergic reaction is different from an anaphylactic reaction. Anaphylaxis is a full-body response, and it is often known as anaphylactic shock. Anaphylaxis is often known as an overreaction

 

In the medical world, shock means something different than psychological “shock.” Medical shock means the body is no longer able to compensate for the injury or illness it has sustained – if something doesn’t change, the patient may not survive.

 

So, how do you recognize that someone is in anaphylactic shock? 

 

Signs of anaphylaxis: 

 

  • Trouble breathing. Trouble breathing is the tell-tale sign that something is wrong. If someone says that they are having trouble breathing or you can hear wheezes, pay attention, call 911, and act fast. 

  • Profuse hives. These look like raised rashes on the skin. They may start as small red dots and then grow larger – they often show up on the chest, back, or abdomen; however, they could be anywhere on the body. 

  • Swelling. You may notice the patient's lips and tongue begin to swell. If someone says their tongue is swelling, this is a serious emergency. However, there may also be swelling on the hands and feet. 

  • Low blood pressure. This is one of the signs of shock. Also, the patient may have sweaty skin, a weak and rapid pulse (in the wrist) and altered mental status (they may feel drowsy). 

  • Nausea. Some people feel the need to vomit. 

 

If you notice any of these signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, the patient may either be in the beginning or end stages of anaphylaxis. What’s the treatment? This patient needs epinephrine, but they also need to get to the hospital as quickly and as safely as possible. 

How to Protect Yourself from Bees, Wasps, and Hornets 

As we said, regular honeybees pose little threat to people. However, there are more and more killer bees (also known as Africanized honeybees, they escaped captivity about 50 years ago. Their venom is no more potent, but their affinity to attack in swarms is what makes them so dangerous). 

 

Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets are more aggressive than honeybees. Let’s talk about several steps to keep yourself and your family safe. As we like to say around here, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

 

Steps to stay safe from bees, wasps, and hornets:

 

  • Watch the environment. Just beware of the places bees and wasps hide. Yellow jackets like to hide in the ground, wasps like to find cracks in the wall, and hornets may make a large nest in trees or under the deck. Keep your eyes peeled around these locations. Be careful when walking in a new area or sitting on a park bench. 

  • Remove the problem. You can hire someone to come and relocate honeybees. These bees are helpful to the environment, and they make honey! If you have someone move them, then you can avoid killing them. 

  • Spray the hive. This may be your only option for yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets. You can spray the hive, hopefully eliminating the threat. In general, only use this option if the hornets are a direct threat to your home – like if they have a nest around a door or deck.

 

Also, if you spray the hive, wait until the just after sundown, when the wasps are back in the nests – this ensures they don’t just start a new hive in the same area. 

 

Let’s go over some final thoughts.

Final thoughts: Treating Bee and Hornet Stings 

The first step is to get away from the hive or swarm. Then, you need to remove the stingers. Don’t worry about how you remove the stingers; just get them out as quickly and efficiently as you can. Wash the wound with soap and water; this will protect from infection.

 

You can use ice for pain and elevate for swelling. If you're curious, here's a video explaining some quick tips on bites and stings. If it’s a serious reaction, you need epinephrine, and you need to get the patient to the hospital.  

 

 

 

 

 

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