There are three things that I would consider essential to any wilderness or disaster medicine kit: Duct tape, plastic bags, and a pocket knife.
And no, I'm not trying to teach people how to kill their neighbors' annoying wiener dogs, even though at 3 am when the dogs are still howling like banshees-being-beat-by-super-monkeys, you did wish that you had some duct tape, plastic bags, and a pocket knife.
Actually, like duct tape, plastic bags, and pocket knives, the most versatile items in a good medical kit are the ones that you would find ordinarily around the house.
For instance, duct tape can be used to seal off sucking chest wounds (please cover the wound with plastic before applying duct tape... Duct tape plus torn flesh equals bad situation), stabilizing splints, and creating things such as stretchers out of jackets and ski poles, slings out of T-shirts (safety pins can do this as well), and a water catcher from a tarp, etc.
Here's one of my personal favorite uses for duct tape:
For knocked-out tooth (or avulsed tooth), rinse the tooth off with milk or water (don't scrub it) and replace it in the socket. Then cut a small piece of duct tape, and use it to splint the tooth to its neighbor. Be careful not to move the tooth too much out of its normal position when doing this. Then get to a dentist, if possible.
(Note: When treating an avulsed tooth, Dentists clean out the socket with water, then splint the tooth to its neighbor with resin and orthodontic wire. Can take months to heal. More dental treatments will be discussed in later posts. )
Also, in cases of earthquake or nuclear disaster and your house is still intact, it is in your best interest to duct tape plastic coverings over your windows and air vents. I'll explain this in more detail when I post about earthquakes or nuclear disasters.
As for plastic bags, especially the ones from the grocery store, they can be twisted into strong ropes. Okay, not so strong as to go bungee cord jumping, but you get the idea.
They can be cut to produce rain proof ponchos as well as be used to cover wound dressings or be bandages themselves.
They can be used as plastic gloves (check for holes first). Or for plastic boot covers to keep your shoes dry or to cover casts when you take a shower... again, holes could be a problem. ;)
They can also be used as pillow and mattress stuffing, when you run out of beds and pillows for your wounded and/or infirmed.
The big use for plastic bags is for sanitation purposes: use as barf bags, for disposing of dirty diapers or for use as diapers, use them as a port-potty liner, or even as a porta-potty themselves.
They can be used for emergency toilet paper (personally, I would prefer to stock up on the real stuff, but some people may prefer that glossy, crinkly feeling).
Here's my favorite plastic bag tip:
In cases of severe pandemics, if anyone has to go outside the home, it would be wise to have a decontamination area (garages are great for this or a mud room would work).
Everytime a person comes home, they go into the decontamination area to strip off their exterior clothes and get a good spray down with the hose and lather with antiseptic soap. Long-handled scrubbing brushes work. Think car wash for a person.
Any items taken off a person should be handled only with plastic gloves and placed into plastic bags. The contaminated clothes should be placed immediately into the washing machine with one part bleach and 10 parts water...Okay, maybe you can add more bleach. Hope you like tie-dyed clothing.
Pocket knives: You'd be surprised at how many people actually don't know how to use one of these things. So here is a link to more information on the use and characteristics of pocket knives.
Duct tape, plastic bags, and pocket knives aside, everyone of us has things that are just around the house that can be used in situations of disaster or in the wilderness setting.
The following is a list of some of the items that you could have that have great medical uses:
Meat tenderizer (the seasoning, not the mallet): Make into a paste with a few drops of water or spittle for bee or hornet stings. (In case of bee sting, please remove the stinger with a credit card first.)
The meat tenderizer must have chymopapin or papain in it in order to be effective. Chymopapin is a derivative of the proteolytic enzyme papain that comes from the papya tree (Carica papaya). So papaya works as well under the same principles. The meat tenderizer or papaya needs to be applied immediately to the stung area. They proteolytic enyme breaks down the proteins in the sting, neutralizing it.
Altoids: Not only are they good for bad breath, but they also help clear your sinuses as well. Herbal tea, especially peppermint or a handful of peppermint tic tacs (notice the peppermint theme) can also help clear up congestion.
Alka-Seltzer: In addition to helping you with your upset stomach, it also can help relieve urinary tract infections (UTI)s. Lemon also helps in eliminating UTIs. Both work on the property of changing the pH of your urine, making it difficult for bacteria to cling to the bladder wall.
Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo: (or other brand of baby shampoo). Treats cradle cap and can be used to clean wounds.
White sugar: Place inside superficial wounds and cover with bandages. It acts like an antibacterial and wound debriding agent. Clean the sugar dressing every day.
Honey: Can help heal skin blemishes and wounds. More acidic than table sugar, honey therefore has greater antiseptic properties. Honey should be used only inside the superficial wound and not on the skin surrounding it. Also, it works better on drier wounds, while sugar works better for more moist wounds. Cover with bandages and change dressings every two days.
Did you know that King Herod stored his dead wife, Mariamne in a barrel of honey to preserve her, for 7 years? That gives a whole new meaning to the term, 'she's my honey.'
Listerine: Created as a surgical antiseptic in 1879, listerine has more uses than just keeping you cavity-free and minty-fresh. It actually can kill toe fungus and be used as a balm for broken blisters. Basically, it is a good wound antiseptic, if you can handle the stinging nature of it.
Tomato paste: Boils beware. Cover a boil with tomato paste and a compress. It soothes the pain and brings the boil to a head.
Make a pinhole in cardboard: Believe it or not, but this can be used to help replace missing or broken glasses in times of disaster. Looking through a pinhole actually helps increase vision in people suffering from far-sightedness, astigmatism, and eyestrain. Also can reduce heart rate, tension, and headaches.
Well, that is all for today. It's time that I hit the books to study for my board licensing exams. Have a great day getting prepared.
Information link of the day:
The following is a pdf published by the United States Military for handling first aid and battle wounds created for public use: