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How to Stock a First Aid Kit

Bumps, burns, bruises and bites are part and parcel of childhood, and you’ll find yourself having to administer First Aid more often than you think. Having the right supplies all in one place will allow you to handle a minor emergency at a moment’s notice. Here are the items you’ll need to create and stock a basic kit: you’ll find all the medical supplies at your chemist.

Note: the advice in this article is not intended to replace that of a medical doctor. Please consult your doctor, clinic or pharmacist if in any doubt. In the event of an emergency, call 10177 from a landline, or 112 from any cell phone.

GETTING STARTED:

  • A box or bag. A good container for First Aid supplies is a large tool- or tackle-box with an upper tray and a snap-close lid. You could also use a big plastic food box with a tight-fitting lid, or a zippable cosmetics bag with different pockets and compartments.
  • It’s not a toy! An important thing to remember is that medical supplies should always be kept out of reach of children, so hide your kit on a top shelf in your wardrobe where you can quickly grab hold of it. Remember to take it with you when you go away on holiday!
  • A list of emergency numbers. Write a list of vital phone numbers on a piece of paper and tape it to the lid of your box. The list should include numbers for your doctor, for emergency services, and for close relatives.
  • A good basic First Aid manual. You can download and print a free manual from the Internet – click here. Or you can install a South African First Aid app on your phone – click here to find out more.
  • Tip: Remember to restock your kit when you use up any items, and regularly check the expiry date of any medications or medical supplies.

THE BASICS:

  • A clinical thermometer. A good digital thermometer is your best bet. There’s no risk of this breaking, as old-fashioned glass thermometers often used to do, and it will allow you to take accurate readings. Read the package instructions before you use the thermometer for the first time, and keep the leaflet in your kit for future reference.
  • Ointments and lotions. A well-stocked kit should include the following:
 
    • An antibacterial cream (ask your pharmacist) for preventing cuts and insect bites from becoming infected.
    • Antifungal cream. Keep a tube of this in your kit in the event of your child developing a yeast nappy rash such as thrush. You can also use it on other fungal skin infections such as ringworm and athlete’s foot, but be sure that whatever cream you buy is suitable for children.
    • Antiseptic cream, or sachets of antiseptic wipes, or antiseptic liquid, for cleaning cuts and grazes.
    • Cotton wool, or gauze squares.
    • Calamine lotion. Calamine lotion is useful for soothing itchy spots caused by chickenpox or similar rashes, and for treating sunburn, chafing, skin irritation and insect bites.
    • Sunscreen lotion. Choose the highest factor available, but ensure that the cream is intended for use on children.
    • Insect repellent. Not all insect repellents are safe for use on small children: ask your pharmacist to recommend an approved product.
 
  • Rehydrating sachets. These oral electrolyte mixtures are added to boiled, cooled water and given to children to drink to prevent dehydration during episodes of diarrhoea or vomiting. Be sure to follow the instructions on the package.
  • ‘Burn shield’ dressings for treating minor burns.
  • Plasters. The fabric variety stick better and stay on longer: buy a big box of assorted size and shapes. Or buy a roll of fabric plaster and make sure there’s a pair of scissors in your kit.
  • Bandages and dressings. A few bandages, wound closure strips and big, self-adhesive, sterile dressings may come in handy in the future. Tip: If you need a large dressing for a wound that is bleeding profusely, your best bet is sealed-in-plastic sanitary towel or a new disposable nappy.
  • Safety pins or clips for fastening bandages.
  • Disposable gloves. You should always wear gloves when you’re dressing wounds or dealing with bodily fluids as these reduce the risk of infection.
  • A plastic mouth shield for administering CPR.
  • Square-ended tweezers for removing splinters.
  • Plastic spoons or syringes for giving medicine.
  • Painkilling, fever-reducing syrup. This is useful in the event of your child developing a sudden high fever. Aspirin should not be given to children, so ask your doctor or pharmacist to recommend a paediatric-strength product containing paracetamol. Follow the dosage instructions on the bottle to the letter, making sure to measure out the exact number of millilitres using your medicine spoon or syringe. Make a note of the time you’ve given your child the medicine, and don’t give her another dose until the next one is due.

OPTIONAL EXTRAS:

  • A small hot water bottle or a microwaveable ‘bean bag’ hot pack. This will come in handy for warming beds, and for easing stomach cramps and colicky pains. Tip: Never fill a bottle with boiling water: rather use hot tap water. Wrap the hot pack in a thick towel and test its heat by placing your hand on it for a few minutes. Don’t use a hot pack with a child who is too young to tell you that it is too hot.
  • An ice pack. An ice pack is useful for reducing swelling caused by bumps and for soothing sprained muscles. Keep a chemically activated ice pack in your kit, or a conventional ice pack in your freezer. Tip: You can make an effective ice pack by filling a zip-locking plastic bag with damp kitchen sponges – squeeze out the air, seal tightly and pop it into the freezer. A bag of frozen peas works just as well. Wrap all ice packs in a clean towel to prevent the skin from getting too cold.
  • A fold-up ‘space’ blanket. This lightweight, heat-reflective plastic sheet folds up into a small square, and helps the body retain heat during an emergency situation.
  • Antihistamine syrup for treating allergic reactions. Ask your pharmacist to recommend one, and follow the instructions on the bottle.
  • Vials of saline solution, plus a plastic ‘eye bath’ for flushing foreign objects from the eyes.
  • A small torch and batteries will come in handy during a power outage.
Now that you’ve assembled your kit, you can relax in the knowledge that Nurse Mom is well equipped to handle bumps, blisters, bee stings and all those minor childhood “Einas”!