Items to pack in a family first-aid kit


August 05, 2005|By Judy Foreman | Judy Foreman,Special to the Sun

What should you pack in a family first-aid kit when you travel?

That depends, obviously, on who's in your family, what medical conditions they have, and whether you're trekking in the Himalayas or hanging out closer to civilization.

At a minimum, said Josh Baker, director of health and safety for the American Red Cross of Massachusetts Bay, you should include:

Adhesive tape

Antiseptic ointment

Band-Aids of assorted sizes

Blanket (can be a metallicized emergency blanket that folds to the size of a cigarette pack)

Cold pack (the kind that gets cold when you squeeze it)

Disposable gloves

Gauze pads and rolls of gauze

Hand sanitizer, such as Purell

Scissors and tweezers

Small flashlight and extra batteries

Triangular bandage to use as a sling or splint

If anyone in the family is known to have life-threatening allergic reactions, be sure to take an EpiPen, which is available by prescription, said Dr. Richard Rothman, an emergency department physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

You should also carry all other prescription and over-the-counter medicines the family needs, including antibiotics if you'll be far from medical help, said Dr. Gary Fleisher, pediatrician in chief at Children's Hospital in Boston.

This includes antihistamines such as Benadryl (for bee stings or allergic reactions), hydrocortisone ointment (for poison ivy), Tylenol, aspirin or ibuprofen for pain and Visine or artificial tears for coping with sandy or irritated eyes.

You should also pack a thermometer and a small book on first aid, as well as a list of emergency phone numbers and the toll-free number to call in case of a poisoning emergency (800-222-1222).

If you buy a commercial first-aid kit, be sure to add whatever else your family needs. And make sure that all medications -- and alcohol wipes -- are up to date.

What are the health benefits of green tea?

Green tea has been shown to help prevent second heart attacks in people who have already had one, to reduce the infectivity of viruses and bacteria, and to help protect against prostate, breast, stomach and colon cancer.

In the past five years, the U.S. government has funded more than 150 studies of green tea and its constituent chemicals, including an antioxidant, or catechin, called EGCG. Antioxidants can gobble up dangerous forms of oxygen called free radicals and can disrupt chemical pathways inside cells, especially cancer cells. (The concentration needed to kill cancer cells is lower than that which kills normal cells, for unclear reasons.)

Recently, researchers from the University of Rochester presented data at a conference on diet and cancer in Washington, suggesting that EGCG seems to target a particular protein, called HSP90, that is present in higher levels in cancer cells than in normal cells.

At a meeting in April of the American Association for Cancer Research, Italian researchers showed that men at high risk of prostate cancer who took the equivalent of three to four cups of green tea a day as supplements were less likely to develop the cancer than similar men given a placebo.

Hasan Mukhtar, a biochemist and professor of cancer research at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, has shown that green tea catechins block a substance called insulin-like growth factor-1, thus thwarting the ability of prostate cancer cells to grow.

Black tea, which has more complex antioxidants than green tea, also appears to have health benefits, especially for the heart, said Dr. Murray Mittleman, director of cardiovascular epidemiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Bottom line? Bottoms up! Drinking several cups a day of green or black tea appears to be good for your health.

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