Warm weather means more time outside, but also more opportunities for bumps, bites, bruises or other injuries. Fortunately, when it comes to first aid, a little preparation goes a long way. This summer, be prepared for anything.
Have a well-stocked kit, take a quick refresher on first aid basics, and make an emergency plan – before you need it. That way you’ll be ready to go wherever summer adventure takes you.
Summer first aid kit essentials
Even a basic first aid kit can mean the difference between quick treatment and unplanned delays and detours to get help. If you’re going on a short trip, even hiking in the woods near your home, make sure you have a small bag packed with essential items. That way, if something happens, you can take care of it right then and there in the field. A good first aid starter kit could include:
- Hand sanitizer, which can be used on your hands or to help clean a cut or scrape
- Bandages and antibiotic ointment for small cuts and scrapes
- A larger gauze pad for larger wounds (plus medical tape to attach it)
- Tylenol for headache or pain relief
- Plastic bags for ice (and ice or cold pack if possible)
- A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as Ibuprofen, Motrin or Naproxen, to treat fever, pain or swelling
- Hydrocortisone cream for itching caused by poison ivy or other conditions
- Benadryl for short-term allergy treatment
- High-protein snacks, especially for people with blood sugar issues like diabetes or hypoglycemia
- Emergency medications, like an EpiPen, inhaler or insulin
First aid basics to remember
When you’re enjoying the great outdoors, cuts, scrapes and bug bites are bound to happen. Be ready for anything Mother Nature throws your way with a quick refresher on basic first aid:
- Most bug bites are not going to require professional treatment. Some swelling is normal and can be treated with ibuprofen (or Benadryl for those with minor allergies), but if you start feeling like your throat’s closing up, you’re having trouble breathing, or you’re drooling a lot — get to emergency help right away.
- Wash animal bites thoroughly with soap and water or clean with hand sanitizer. Cover the wound with Vaseline or antibiotic ointment, then a bandage.
- Minor burns can be treated with Vaseline or ointment as well. Get help if you develop blisters, have a chemical burn, or if your burn turns white or charred black. (And don’t pop the blisters.)
- First aid is enough for many cuts and scrapes, which typically heal in a few days to a week.
- If you’re able to stand on a sprained ankle right away and tolerate the pain, it probably isn’t broken, though there’s no 100% guarantee. If you think, "This could be broken," come into the office to be seen.
- Be careful around water, especially with younger children. Stay within arms reach of kids under 6 (or beginning swimmers of any age). Keep swimmers of any age or ability within sight.
- Learn CPR and the Heimlich. Sign up for a first aid class from The Red Cross or your local fire department.
Take care of bug bites
Here’s a creepy-crawly statistic: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infections caused by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas increased by 300% between 2004 and 2016. Reduce your risk of bug bites this summer, and if you are bitten, know what to do and where to go.
Fortunately, most bites don’t require immediate medical attention. If you, a family member or friend experience a minor bite you can generally care for it at home.
Start by cleaning the area and applying a topical anti-itch cream depending on the bite. Calamine lotion, aloe or an ice pack can help reduce swelling and stinging sensation. Antihistamines, like Benadryl, can also help relieve pain and itching. Be sure to watch for any signs of a secondary infection. As always, call your primary care provider if you have any questions or concerns.
Signs you or a loved one may need to seek immediate medical care for a bug or animal bite include:
- History of serious allergic reaction to bug/animal bites and stings
- Multiple stings at once
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in chest
- Swollen throat
The very young, the elderly or those with a weakened immune system should also seek immediate medical attention. Individuals with known allergies should also not hesitate to use EpiPens to reduce their risk of anaphylactic shock from a known exposure, like a bee sting.
Stay cool and calm during emergencies
We all like to think we know what to do when the unexpected occurs, but are you truly prepared? Spending just a few minutes planning ahead and assigning responsibilities can make things run smoothly – and reach help faster. Consider these tips before you head out on your next summer adventure:
- Delegate responsibilities. When there’s an emergency with multiple people around, know who will play what role. Have one person take the lead and then designated other jobs like calling 911, getting water or just staying with the patient.
- Make sure the scene is safe. Take a minute to assess the situation when someone gets hurt. Otherwise, you might wind up with more than one person injured.
- Know when to go to the hospital. Not every cut or scrape needs to be cleaned by a doctor. A good rule of thumb is that if a cut is gaping (about 1/8 of an inch), has debris that can’t be rinsed out, or won’t stop bleeding, then you should seek emergency care. Not sure? It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Go to the nearest emergency department or urgent care location. The same holds true for sprains, strains and possible bone fractures.
Have a fun, safe and healthy summer with a little first aid preparedness!
Learn more about the services provided by The Christ Hospital Urgent Care Center as well as locations and hours.