First-aid kits for when it really counts
  |  First Published: March 2004

One of the most often overlooked items of camping gear – until it’s needed – is the first aid kit.

Most of us buy one and file it away in the vehicle glovebox or elsewhere in case of emergency. We use it a few times and forget about replacing all those items used in haste. When packing for a camping holiday, this is one item that really should be given added attention.

In reality, when we are away from the safety of our local environment, we are most at risk of needing all those little bits from the bathroom cabinet we take for granted. There are always Band-Aids, sticking plasters, antiseptic liquid, creams and gels, tweezers etc. When we go camping, we need just as much plus several more items, as there is not normally a pharmacy or local doctor just around the corner.

Most department stores, pharmacies and camping stores sell a variety of basic to super first aid kits. The St John Ambulance group, as well as conducting classes on first aid, sells a wide range of kits to suit most situations. Whichever style you choose, there will always be more items to add for the individual needs of those in the camping group.

We always keep a basic emergency first aid kit in the glovebox of the car and another in the forward storage area in the boat, where we also keep the flares, V sheet and other safety items. That way we are covered for the most fundamental of medical disasters.

Basic kits consist of the most often-used items in a small emergency. This usually includes items such as gloves, sterile dressings, tweezers, scissors, swabs, sterile solution for cleansing wounds, a tray that doubles as a wash dish and a brochure which details what to do in an emergency.

The next size up in kits contains all of the above, and the supply of all items is normally double that of the basic kit. Extras will include a triangle bandage useful for immobilising limbs, antiseptic cream and a greater range of dressings.

The length of your stay away from home and whether you take the family along will determine which first aid kit will suit you best.

Just because it’s a weekend away with the boys doesn’t mean that accidents won’t happen and being prepared is a better option than trying to find supplies far from home.

When we go camping, my special bright bag of goodies goes along. Not only does my bag contain the usual array of band-aids, sticking plasters and antiseptic concoctions, but also, nearly all the contents of our medicine cupboard.

There is always aspirin or paracetamol for the aches and pains that occur on holidays. Cotton buds and balls, for cleaning out cuts and abrasions, also seem to be handy for getting sand out from under the fishing reel spools. Eucalyptus oil and Vicks vapour rub are for all those blocked nasal passages that seem to go hand-in-hand with swimming or from pollens that are blown around from unfamiliar vegetation.

I always carry at least two elastic stretch bandages for sprains and strains. I’m usually the one who trips over the log that just has to jump out at me. Or, as was the case not so long ago, I fell out of the boat and sprained my wrist.

There is also the usual array of medicines that we take regularly. Because we generally go camping at least half a dozen times a year, my bright bag is kept up to date so that I have only to add the most recent pills and medicines before we walk out the door.

Commonsense should prevail when packing a first aid kit and some items may be more suited than others. For instance, you wouldn’t pack white vinegar, which is used to treat bluebottle and stinger bites, if you are going to the inland dams.

A word of advice from past experiences: We always take a packet of laxative tabs and also a pack of anti-diarrhoea tabs with us. Some water supply systems can cause the odd tummy bug and many of us don’t eat the right types of food when we go out into the great outdoors so both are advisable, just in case.

If you can find room in your first aid kit to add a magnifying glass, this is extra handy when trying to remove splinters and fish spikes that always seem to go with the camping holiday.

Don’t get over-awed with taking the entire medical chest with you but it is better to be prepared when an emergency does arise.

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