By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC
Summer is well underway in North America, and after a springtime spent in isolation due to COVID-19, many people are venturing outdoors again. It’s more important than ever to be prepared for common summertime injuries and mishaps. Social distancing is still critical as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in many states. While you can still go to the ER for medical emergencies, many healthcare facilities are advising patients to use telemedicine for non-emergency health concerns when possible to reduce their exposure to the disease.
Cuts, sunburns, poison ivy, infected bug bites, eye injuries, and broken bones often lead to emergency room visits during the summer. Whether you’re headed out to go camping, take a hike, or spend a day at the beach, be prepared by packing a first aid kit with a few healthcare essentials.
Store-bought first aid kits are a good start but don’t rely on them for everything your family needs, as they are often lacking some essential items. Build your own kit—and do so well before you need it—so you don’t risk forgetting anything as you head outdoors.
It’s also a good idea to prepare a first aid kit for each family car. Keep it in the vehicle in case anyone experiences an injury while you’re away from home. Below are the items you should buy:
Store-bought kits are a great place to start because they often contain small quantities of essential items such as bandages, tape, and gauze. Choose a large kit with a sturdy case so you can add to it and customize it. You can also use a small backpack to hold all of your first aid supplies.
Any time you head outdoors, make sure you have plenty of clean drinking water. It’s important to stay hydrated in the heat, and you’ll also need clean water to clean out any wounds.
Pack over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to treat allergic reactions to insect stings and plants. Include doses for children and adults. Benadryl can also be used to treat an attack of seasonal allergies.
Over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams or ointments can treat almost anything that itches, such as poison ivy or insect bites. Soothing the itch can help prevent kids from scratching, which often leads to a secondary infection.
Tweezers will come in handy for removing splinters or anything else that can get caught under the skin, such as fishing hooks. A small pair of scissors allows you to cut gauze or bandages to the right size. You can also use them to trim fingernails or hangnails. You may also want to include a small magnifying glass.
Note that tweezers are not the best way to remove ticks. Tweezers may remove the body but leave the head stuck in the skin. To remove a tick, cover it with a cotton ball soaked in soap for 30 seconds, or sterilize the edge of a credit card and use it to scrape the tick off.
Use alcohol wipes to sterilize all your first aid instruments before using them. You can also use them to clean the skin. A small bottle of antiseptic soap can also be used to clean up wounds or remove ticks as mentioned above.
Numbing spray can be purchased over the counter and can be used to soothe burns, sunburns, cuts, scrapes, and other irritations.
Premade first aid kits will often contain some pain medications, but make sure to include liquid pain relievers for children if necessary.
Always use at least 30 SPF sunscreen if you’ll be outdoors for any length of time. Be sure to cover spots like the tops of the ears and the back of the neck. Even if you wear a hat or expect to stay in the shade, it can be easy to get burned when you least expect it.
Insect bites aren’t just annoying, they can also become infected if they’re scratched. Ward off bugs with a repellent containing 30% DEET.
A clean towel comes in handy if you need to set up a first aid station on the beach or in another outdoor area. If necessary, you can also use it to contain bleeding on larger injuries. Choose a microfiber towel that can be packed down and won’t take up a lot of space.
In addition to their obvious uses, pads and tampons can also come in handy for treating wounds. A small tampon can be used to treat a nosebleed, and a maxi-pad can be used to control a bleeding wound.
Be sure to include any prescription medications your family may need, including EpiPens or inhalers.
When your first aid kit isn’t enough, make sure you know the location of the nearest ER. A trip to the hospital may be necessary if anyone suffers a head injury or a fall without wearing a helmet, any loss of consciousness or altered behavior following a head injury, a broken bone, a high fever that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medications, severe chest pain, or breathing problems.
With some careful planning and preparation, your family can enjoy a safe and fun summer. Remember to wear a mask in public areas and practice social distancing as much as possible to reduce your risk of COVID-19.
Karen Eisenbraun is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant. She holds an English degree from Knox College and has written extensively about topics related to holistic health, clinical nutrition, and weight management.