Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Mark Kakkuri, a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.
Read Mark’s previous articles in this “Top Five” series:
- Top Five Pieces of Cold-Weather Gear
- Top Five Tactical Pens
- And Top Five Inside-the-Waistband Holsters
- Top Five Unique Handguns
- Top Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Carrying a Concealed Handgun
The notion of having an individual first-aid kit (IFAK) on your person or at least quickly available to you has been gaining momentum. And we’re not talking about the first-aid kits you buy at the local drugstore for treating minor cuts, blisters or bee stings. There’s a place for those kits, yes. But, nowadays, there’s a need for a kit that will allow you to deal with a far more serious injury involving major bleeding — true life-or-death situations where the type of gear matters and every second counts.
IFAKs run the gamut of options and pricing and you’ll see a review of some of my favorite kits later. For now, here are my top five pieces of gear for an IFAK. As always, seek the advice and input of medical, law enforcement and legal professionals in your area when deciding what kit to carry and how to use it in an emergency situation.
1. Personal Protective Equipment
Nitrile latex gloves top the list of equipment you should use to protect yourself when providing virtually any kind of medical treatment. Easy to carry and inexpensive to replace, latex gloves should be on your person, in your kit, in your vehicle – virtually everywhere. You can double up on gloves when needed and even wear them under winter gloves or leather gloves.
In addition, adding protective eyewear is smart too, not just for protecting your eyes against foreign objects but also against bodily fluids. Make sure the glasses are safety-rated and provide protection not only from the front but also the sides. Finally, add some packets of antiseptic wipes and a bottle of hand sanitizer.
2. Trauma Shears
Dealing with more serious bodily injuries might require cutting away clothing in order to better access and treat a wound. While you can use a knife to do this, it is far safer and more effective to use trauma shears. These are specially designed scissors made not only to accommodate a user’s gloved hand but also to facilitate cutting through virtually any type of clothing. Plus, the bottom shear is usually flattened at the tip to more easily get under a clothing layer while protecting the patient from being hurt by the scissors.
Trauma shears are relatively inexpensive tools often costing less than $10 a pair, although higher-end models are much more – and could not only be in the IFAK but also in a vehicle glove box or kitchen drawer simply as useful household tools.
3. Wound Dressing and Closure
Basic first aid requires attention to the ABCs – airway, breathing and circulation. There’s a reason for that order and typical first-aid classes will reveal why first responders treat their patients accordingly. But the kit we’re discussing here is mainly focused on the C – circulation.
Assuming a patient has an open airway and is breathing, we then attend to any major bleeding. This is the kind of bleeding that is beyond mere Band-Aids. It requires a dressing, a multi-layered pack of sterile gauze or other type of pad you press on to a wound and apply pressure to. Depending on a variety of factors, if the bleeding stops, you might then need to wrap the dressing to the wound, so some type of closure system is helpful at this point.
4. Blood Clotter and Tourniquet
For wounds with bleeding beyond the treatment capability of just a dressing, it might be necessary to use a blood-clotting or hemostatic agent, such as Celox, to slow or stop the bleeding. Such agents are comprised of small granules that are poured from a small package directly into a wound or are impregnated into gauze to reduce the risk of over-application. The granules turn into a blood-clotting gel that can be easily removed when the patient finally gets more advanced care at a medical facility.
Medical protocol might also call for the use of tourniquet, basically, a means of applying a constricting force around the major artery supplying blood above the wound area, again as a means of restricting blood flow and loss. Tourniquets have come a long way in recent years as has post-tourniquet trauma care, and they’re a far more reasonable option for stopping bad bleeds than they were even 20 years ago.
5. Space Blanket
Treating a life-threatening wound usually means a patient will have to remain immobile for at least several minutes and, depending on the circumstances or environment, could result in hypothermia or hyperthermia. As such, a space blanket can be eminently useful.
To keep a patient warm in a cold environment, you can use the space blanket to wrap them up, but be careful to maintain the ability to check vital signs and not aggravate the injury or their condition. To keep a patient cooler in a hot environment, you can use the space blanket to create shade.
Remember, an individual first-aid kit should be able to help treat a life-threatening wound between the time it occurs and the arrival of advanced medical personnel or transport in an ambulance to a medical facility. It is thus meant to be a quick-deploying but short-term solution. As such, how your IFAK gear gets transported deserves just a bit of consideration too.
Most off-the-shelf kits will include a small bag or pouch in which to carry all the gear. Usually these attach to a belt or pack and include a quick access pocket or pull-away strap to quickly lay out the gear and allow care to begin immediately. Whatever IFAK you end up with, familiarize yourself with the location and deployment of all the contents; check to make sure all gear is in working order, not expired, etc.; and, if not on your person, keep it in the same spot at all times.
Finally, keep in mind the need for a holistic solution when helping someone with a life-threatening injury. Don’t become a second patient; do what you can to ensure your safety. Make sure you communicate with emergency personnel so more advanced medical care can at least be on the way while you provide immediate care. Above all, get basic and advanced medical training so that you can effectively care for someone in a medical emergency in the first place.
What other items would you include in an IFAK?
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