Studies and scientific research have shown that the first few minutes after an accident are crucial in the survival of the victim and if prompt and adequate first aid treatment is given after the occurrence of an emergency, morbidity and mortality can be reduce significantly hence improving the outcome and the survival rate.
First aid can only be carried out effectively with the availability and proper usage of the instruments that make up a standard first aid kit. A first aid kit is the collection of instrument and drugs put together for the effective management of emergency medical conditions before the arrival of the health team or before transportation to the nearest health facility.
In emergency practice, first aid kits can be classified as large or small first aid kits and simple or advance first aid kits depending on the complexity of the instrument in the first aid box. Every home, school and workplace should have a first aid kit and individuals should be educated on how to provide first aid treatment to patients. First aid education usually starts with the instruments and their proper usage.
Components of a first aid kit and their use
- Bandages and packs
- Adhesive bandages of different sizes used to dress wounds, burnt skin, lacerations and abrasions. This prevents contamination of wound sites by microorganisms and it also promotes wound healing
- Crepe bandages: this is used for splinting sprained or dislocated joints, to provide occlusive dressing for wounds and it can be used to improvise splints for fractures
- Adhesive tapes: use to secure adhesive bandages in place
- Sterile gauze: it is used in cleaning and dressing of wounds. It has an advantage of producing very little tissue reaction and doesn’t stick to the surface of the wounds.
- Personal protection
- Disposable gloves: the keyword before administering first aid is ‘safety first’. This prevents cross infection from the patients to the first aider
- Face mask: although not a standard equipment in a first aid box, face mask may come in handy as it also prevents inhalation of germs and cross infection between the first aider and the patient
- Artery forceps: these are clamps designed as a scissor with locks and there are use to clamp on bleeding vessels to control bleeding
- Scissors of different sizes should be available in every first aid box. There come in handy for cutting bandages and adhesive tapes, trimming of stitches and for cutting off avulsed skin
- Disposable syringes of different capacity which will include 1ml, 2ml, 5ml and 10ml syringes. There are used in the administration of intravenous and intramuscular injections, aspiration and in irrigation of wounds
- Antiseptic and cleaning agents: a first aid kit is not complete without antiseptic solutions. There are used in cleaning of dirty and contaminated wounds to prevent infection. Commonly used antiseptic agents are chlorohexidine solution (Savlontm), povidone iodine and alcohol, cleansing soap and hydrogen peroxide are also included in a first aid box.
- Fluids: these are seen in advance first aid kits and should be administered strictly by trained medical personnel. Fluids like normal saline, dextrose water and dextrose saline can be used to maintain adequate blood volume from bleeding or dehydration and for emergency treatment of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Cotton swap
- Light source
- Thermometer for monitoring the patients temperature
- Plastic tweezers
- Emergency blanket
- Drugs: the scope and the drugs included in a first aid box differ greatly. Drugs are life saving but there should be handled with care to prevent overdose and drug toxicity. Commonly available drugs are:
- Epinephrine injections to treat anaphylactic shock and cardiac arrest
- Paracetamol for mild- moderate analgesia
- NSAIDs e.g. Aspirin for analgesia to relieve pain from wounds, sprains and fractures. Others include ibuprofen and diclofenac
- Oral rehydration salts for the treatment of dehydration especially in children
- Antispasmodic and anti-motility agents e.g. hyoscine to relieve intestinal cramps
- Activated charcoal, and Ipecac: these are effective in the treatment of acute poisoning
- Antihistamine e.g. diphenhydramine
- Topical agents like topical NSAIDs for treatment of sprains, topical antibiotic and antifungal agents.
Most countries by law require that industries, companies, schools and public places have first aid kits readily available for the treatment of injured patients. The availability and the prompt usage of first aid kits can be life saving.
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