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Complete First Aid
By Dawn R. West
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Effective first aid depends not only on the availability of supplies but also the knowledge of how to properly treat injuries.
Linda Patterson, extension health education specialist at Mississippi State University, said a first-aid kit should include basic, easy-to-purchase items to save someone's life or minimize injury or illness.
"A common mistake people make when stocking a first-aid kit is trying to include every item that could be needed for every situation," Patterson said. "Keep it simple and stock only items vital to a crisis."
Adhesive bandages, ointments and home health supplies are convenient, but not necessary for first aid.
"A first-aid kit should not be your medicine cabinet," Patterson said. "Reserve first-aid kits for emergency use only so you will always have the supplies you need if you are faced with an emergency."
Think in terms of appropriate, low-cost supplies that are easy to keep stocked.
"We can't predict where or when a medical emergency will happen, so our knowledge of the proper use of supplies and our ability during a crisis may be the difference between life and death."
There are several levels of first-aid training for people who want to be prepared in a crisis.
The first level of training is self-study of a first-aid book. People interested in more indepth, guided first-aid study can contact their local Red Cross, hospital or emergency medical technician training facility. EMT training is the highest level.
Being able to stop bleeding, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation or remove an obstruction from the airway (throat) are important skills to know in certain emergency situations.
Many communities offer training courses for these skills taught by volunteers with the American Heart Association and American Red Cross.
A variety of supplies are needed to stock a first-aid kit.
"Sanitary napkins, individually wrapped, are good for bandages and are very inexpensive," Patterson said. "A bulb syringe can be used to clear the airway, and it also can be good for flushing the eyes with water."
Other important items to have in a first-aid kit are a bandanna and Ipecac syrup. Bandannas can secure bandages or serve as slings.
"Ipecac syrup is first aid for some types of poisoning. In a poison crisis, the first thing to do is call the Poison Control Center because time is critical," Patterson said. "They will be able to give you advice and the correct dosage for the use of Ipecac, if necessary to prevent effects of certain poisons."
Keep the Poison Control Center's number in your first-aid kit. The phone number for the Poison Control Center in Jackson is (601) 354-7660. If a farm chemical is involved call Mississippi Agrimedicine at 1-800-738-9898.
First-aid kits should be available in the home, the work place and the car.
"Families that have more than one car should have a first-aid kit in each car," Patterson said. "And if you only have one first-aid kit, keep it in the car so the kit will be with you."
Check first-aid kits that are kept in the car more frequently for medication deterioration. Keep a bottle of distilled water in the first-aid kit because water may not be available if an emergency occurs on the road.
The supplies in the first-aid kit are only as good as the knowledge you have of using them.
"Prevention, awareness and paying attention to safety are the best ways to reduce the chances of a crisis," Patterson said.
"It is important to know if other care givers of your child or other dependents are prepared to handle a crisis situation, especially in life-threatening circumstances such as choking, a severe allergic reaction, epilepsy or diabetes."
Basic first aid is simpler than people think.
"Start today and seek ways to learn at least the basics of first aid," Patterson said.
For more information on first-aid programs, contact your local extension county home economist.
Basic First Aid Kit:
- Large, clean bandanna
- Ipecac syrup
- Hydrogen peroxide
- 4x4 sterile gauze pads
- Zipper seal bags
- Wrapped sanitary pads
- 1-inch tape
- Bulb syringe
- Disposable latex gloves
- Bottled distilled water