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Dave’s First Aid Blog

Dave Yacubian, is a W-EMT and runs Ready SF, a San Francisco based company specializing in risk management and emergency preparedness. He’s also an instructor for the NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute (since 2003), as well as sponsors and teaches courses in partnership with NOLS (WFA, WFR). He currently serves on the board of directors and volunteers as a rafting guide for ETC; an organization that provides outdoor adventures for disabled participants. In his free time Dave spends as much time on the water as he can.

What Should I Bring In My First Aid Kit?
September and October are often the perfect months to travel and get out on a river, lake, or ocean with your favorite boat or board. The kids are back in school which means you’re unlikely to encounter hordes of people. The weather is optimal in many places offering warm days and crisp evenings, with fall colors that transform riverbanks and hillsides into a patchwork of color. Where ever you go and however long you go for, taking a first aid kit is essential no matter what time of year it is.

Pre-Trip Planning: 5 Important Steps
1. Assign a designated medical leader
It’s easy to overlook what could go wrong when we go on personal trips with friends or family. Possibly no one wants to take a leadership role because it is a crew of buddies. That is all well and good, but it pays to assign a medical leader. Ideally, this person has the most medical experience/training.

2. Know the medical history of everyone in your group.
Prior to the trip I like to get specific information from everyone going. I ask everyone if there are any medical concerns I should know about (asthma, allergies, diabetes, etc)? Firsthand experience has taught me that it is much easier to assist someone if you know their health history. I once had a person in remote Alaska who was experiencing a migraine that caused him to thrash all over the tent in pain. He had medication in his pack, but he never told me it was there as it was a “rare” condition and he was sure it wouldn’t occur. It took the better part of 5 minutes for him to explain how I could assist him. We both would’ve liked that 5 minutes to go differently.

3. Share your travel plans with a friend or family member.
Tell someone where you are going and when they should be concerned if they don’t hear from you. This is simple. It can be an email, a text, etc. I usually leave a little fudge time (an hour or so) in there in case I am having a lot of fun, and/or things are slower than I expected.

4. Know who to contact.
Carry emergency numbers for land managers (state, national park), and any other important numbers in case you need to get a hold of someone in a pinch.

5. Pack a communication device.
Bring a communication device that will function at the location you are traveling to. If you are not sure your cell phone works then rent or bring a spot device or personal locator beacon, EPIRB, or Sat Phone. Make sure you know how to use it before you go, and make sure you know when to use it. Life or limb GPS devices are for just that.

What Kind of Container To Pack Your First Aid Kit In?
Much of this is personal preference and dependent on your mode of travel. Some folks like dry boxes, some like dry bags, some like ziploc bags! The key is that all the gear stays dry, you know where to find it when you need it, and make sure it floats!

Contents of a First Aid Kit
There isn’t a perfect first aid kit contents list. For example, if you are doing an overnight trip then burns become a greater likelihood since you may be using a stove. If you are only doing day trips then burns are unlikely. Above all, before you pack for your next adventure be sure that you:

1. Know how to use the contents of your first aid kit, and be sure other members in your group are aware of the location of the kit so they have access to it as well.

2. Know why you would use something that you bring.

I like to have the following for day trips:

trauma shears
safety pins
multiple sets of nitrile gloves (some folks are allergic to latex)
CPR mask
biohazard bag (a ziplock is fine)
12 cc irrigation syringe
Tape (at least 1 inch thick)
Ace Bandage

Frequent Use Items:
band aids of varying sizes
Anti-biotic ointment (look for double instead of triple as some folks are allergic to neomycin).

Blister and Wound Care:
4×4 gauze pads
roller gauze
2nd skin

NSAIDS (ibuprofen, naproxen)

Don’t forget to restock items you may have used last trip and check your first aid kits prior to departing. Expiration dates can probably be stretched a bit, but you want to be reasonable about it (or ask your MD’s opinion).

Have fun!
Chances are you won’t need your first aid kit or your communication device, but that one time you do it’ll be great to have it all dialed in and ready to go.

– Dave
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