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Be Prepared for Summer with The People’s Pharmacy First Aid Kit

Don't forget to take your first aid kit with you on your summer travels. We suggest what to take to make sure you are prepared.

When was the last time you updated your first aid kit? Now that summer is in full swing, it is high time to make sure you are well equipped for any contingency. Besides all the normal equipment, we are encouraging you to think creatively and stock up on a People’s Pharmacy First Aid Kit. It contains some unusual ingredients that most first responders might not recognize.

Your Basic First Aid Kit:

Start with the basics, best gathered into a tackle box or another container that has compartment so you can see at a glance what you’ve got. For cuts and abrasions, you’ll need bandages in several sizes, antiseptic wipes to clean the wound and an antibiotic ointment or cream such as Polysporin. Alcohol wipes are good not only for cleaning cuts; sniffing one can ease nausea in minutes.

To Stop Bleeding:

Not so basic, but helpful for cuts and scrapes would be several packets of ground black pepper. This can help stop bleeding quickly. The drugstore equivalent is WoundSeal or QuikClot powder.

Prevent or Soothe Blisters:

For blisters, Second Skin blister pads or squares are good for prevention. The hydrogel pads reduce friction. Of course, if you do get a blister, you can use a bandage to keep it clean and protected.

Removing Splinters:

Splinters call for a good pair of tweezers and also wart plasters. Why wart plasters? The salicylic acid in the plaster softens up the skin after a few hours, making it much easier to tease the splinter out. We still recall a camping trip decades ago when our Cub Scout got a nasty splinter in his foot and we had forgotten to bring the first aid kit.

The tweezers are also useful for removing a tick. The best technique is to take hold of the tick as close to the skin as you can get and pull it straight out without jerking or twisting the tick. Some hikers keep a roll of adhesive tape handy for immobilizing ticks crawling on them.

Avoiding Bites:

Of course, preventing a tick bite would be best.  The same goes for bug bites. If you are sharing your space with mosquitoes, biting flies or ticks, put an effective repellent in your first aid kit. DEET is the gold standard, but picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus also work. Be sure to check the label to see if you need to re-apply it and how often.

Skip the Sunburn:

You already know this, but it is far easier to apply sunscreen to keep from burning rather than try to ease the pain afterwards. Using both sunscreen and bug spray? Put the sunscreen on first and give it 10 minutes or so to soak in before applying the repellent.

Pain Relief:

No doubt you’ll also want a pain reliever (pick one appropriate for those in your group) and possibly an allergy medicine. An elastic wrap for a sprained ankle or sore wrist can also be very helpful.

Motion Sickness:

Is someone in your group susceptible to motion sickness? You may want to pack Dramamine (or generic dimenhydrinate). But here’s an idea: try candied ginger. Many people find it works well, tastes good and has no side effects.

Non-Standard Items for The People’s Pharmacy First Aid Kit:

Be sure to put in several packets of yellow mustard and soy sauce. Either can be surprisingly useful applied to minor burns (after first using cold water). If using mustard, leave it in place at least until it dries.

In addition, swallowing a spoonful of mustard can stop a muscle cramp quickly. As an added bonus, some people find that taking a bit of yellow mustard is effective against heartburn.

While we are speaking of heartburn, you may want to pack some sugarless gum. This too is a double-duty remedy. It works well against constipation, which can be a common complaint for travelers.

Unexpected Extras:

What else might you want? If you can find a travel-size bottle of amber Listerine, tuck it into your first aid kit. It helps soothe rashes, fights dandruff, eases the itch of mosquito bites and, of course, works as a mouthwash. It can also be used to relieve itch and eliminate lice. In a pinch, you could use it as an antiseptic for wounds.

If you have room, a little bottle of castor oil or a small tin of Vicks VapoRub can ease itches. Castor oil applications may also prevent bruising after a fall.

Even if you’re not a Boy Scout, it always makes sense to be prepared.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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