Don't wait for crisis to get first aid kit


May 31, 1994|By Joe Graedon and Dr. Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Dr. Teresa Graedon,King Features Syndicate

Don't read another word. First, go check your first aid kit. Do you even have one, or are your bandages, adhesive tape and antiseptic scattered around the medicine chest?

Most folks rely either on a ready-made first aid kit or on odds and ends put together in a haphazard fashion. Now is the time to get organized before an emergency arises.

We should know; we've learned from our mistakes. Once we went camping with the Cub Scouts and left the emergency supplies at home. We had barely unpacked when our son came limping with an enormous splinter. We had to resort to sterilizing a safety pin with a match and fishing the splinter out with that. He survived, but it would have been a better experience for all had we been prepared, like the Scouts.

Before you even start assembling supplies, head for your local hardware store. A fold-out plastic fishing tackle box is almost perfect for storing this stuff. All the little compartments allow for organization so you can see what you need at a glance.

What should your first aid kit have in it? We'd start with adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes and shapes. Nonstick gauze pads and some adhesive tape are useful for larger scrapes.

We also like to keep a product called "2nd Skin" handy. This soothing transparent film protects burns and blisters, making it indispensable whether you're camping or just cooking out on the patio.

How do you clean off abrasions before you bandage them? Soap and water is best, so we carry a little container of liquid soap in our first aid kit. This also works to wash off any poison ivy resin right away, before the skin can react. If there's no water, alcohol wipes can substitute.

A little dab of an antibiotic ointment like Polysporin can keep a cut or scratch from becoming infected. If your dermatologist wants to be a hero, he can prescribe Bactroban, one of the most effective topical antibiotics to come along in years.

You might also ask your dermatologist if you could get a few small sample tubes of steroid cream. These powerful products can relieve itches far better than OTC hydrocortisone.

Invest in a good pair of forceps (tweezers to you and me). The surgical kind are best for pulling out splinters. You don't want to end up as we did, doing surgery with a safety pin.

Sprains and strains call for an instant cold pack and compression bandage. You'll also want a pain reliever. Our first choice is aspirin since it does double duty in case someone thinks he is having a heart attack. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can also relieve the pain of a sprain or a headache. Don't forget the sunscreen and bug repellent. An ounce of prevention should go a long way toward making your summer safer and healthier.

Q: I'm a retired pharmacist, but when I was active I always talked with patients about their medications. It made the doctors nervous, but my customers appreciated it.

I am bothered by all the misleading ads on TV for over-the-counter products. I have seen some people take the same product under several different names and not realize they were accidentally overdosing. Can't the labels be clearer?

A: We'd love to see that. Too many people don't realize that an allergy remedy and a sleeping pill may both contain diphenhydramine, for example. Taking both is not wise.

Q: Is it safe to eat small amounts of batter containing raw eggs? Will it cause salmonella poisoning associated with eating raw foods?

A: Mom was right when she said batter could give you a bellyache. Now that we know raw eggs may contain salmonella right out of the shell, it doesn't make sense to eat anything with raw egg in it. That includes cake or cookie batter, as well as such treats as homemade mayonnaise. This caution is especially important for anyone whose immune system has been weakened by drugs such as prednisone or Sandimmune, as an infection could be serious indeed.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Dr. Teresa Graedon is a medical anthropologist and nutrition expert.

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