Dress Your First-Aid Kit for Summer!
While taking the time to put in summer plantings, update wardrobes and make plans for warm-weather recreation, it’s important to also give standard first aid kits the summer makeover.
Richard Dudrak, II, M.D., medical director of Urgent Care by Lifetime Health, regularly sees patients with a number of summer-related ailments, the intensity of which could have been reduced had proper first aid been administered.
“What you do on the scene can make a big difference in the severity and length of symptoms,” he said.
Dudrak advised people to keep first aid kits with them or at least nearby, and supplement the traditional contents with additional season-specific aids.
Stay in Contact
The key is to have a cell phone on you. Many injuries take place away from the home or in unpopulated areas such as at the beach, camping or along a trail. In 1997, the Federal Communications Commission mandated that every cell phone be able to make free 911 calls without a monthly service contract.
“Even if you don’t have a cell phone and service contract for your everyday use, you can – and should – have a phone so you can call 911 if you require immediate attention,” said Dudrak, noting that even older phones will work for this purpose as long as cell phone signals are available in the area and the phone is kept charged.
Another essential item to keep on hand is bottled water. While it won’t fit in a first aid kit per se, Dudrak noted that numbers of people die annually because of dehydration in intense heat, especially during power failures. Keep a supply of water nearby and make a conscious effort to stay hydrated.
Summer First-Aid Kit Contents
Additional first aid kit contents he recommended for summer include:
• Sunscreen – to prevent burns that can cause severe discomfort or even sun poisoning.
• Sunburn treatment gel – “Even if you’re diligent about using sunscreen, it’s a good idea to keep burn treatment in the kit in case you forget, run out, or even miss a spot and get burned,” said Dudrak. He said a two-pronged approach of applying a cortisone cream to gain a mildly cooling effect and an anti-inflammatory taken orally (for those who are medically able to do so), also helps relieve the symptoms of a burn.
• Insect bite kits – of note to those who will spend time at the ocean, some double as jellyfish bite kits so check the label and get one that will do double-duty.
• Small brush - also for people going to the ocean. In the event of a jellyfish sting, the skin must be gently brushed to remove stingers.
• Magnifying glass or lens – “Those who are spending time in a wooded area should check for ticks regularly, or immediately after leaving the area if it’s only for a short time. The sooner they can be removed, the less likely they are to spread Lyme Disease,” said Dudrak.
• Poison ivy soap, such as Technu or Xanfel – the sooner the poison ivy oils can be washed off the skin, the less likely it is they will cause the rash.
People are often not aware of what poison ivy looks like, so they don’t realize they’ve been exposed. Those who will be in a wooded area should first acclimate themselves with what poison ivy (and other topically poisonous plants such as oak and sumac) look like to avoid contact. Then, in the event of contact, wash the affected area immediately to minimize or prevent the incidence of the rash.
All Year Round Kit Contents
Additional, year-round first aid kit contents he recommended are: compresses, gauze, ice packs, triangle bandage, ace bandage, tweezers, first aid wash, and double antibiotic ointment.
“Treating on the scene can minimize discomfort or prevent it altogether,” said Dudrak. “But certain injuries such as multiple insect bites, sunburn and jellyfish stings can appear milder at the beginning so people should apply first aid, but then also be seen by a physician to avoid potentially severe itching or discomfort later.”
One item that should be left out of summer first aid packages is the snake bite kit, often containing a scalpel and suction device, he added. People can do more damage with the scalpel and the suction doesn’t remove a clinically sufficient amount of venom.
“If someone is bitten by a snake, the best action is to stay calm and seek immediate medical attention,” he said.
The Lifetime Health Medical Group offers primary care at three health centers throughout the Rochester area. Same-day urgent care is also available to children and adults at three locations by calling 585-338-1200. For more information, visit www.lifetimehealth.org.
For more tips on staying healthy, visit www.excellusbcbs.com.