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Medical Emergencies – First-Aid Kits – Chapter 1

July 1, 2010 by · 2 Comments 


Last week I wrote about Medical Emergency Preparedness for Campers.  My thrust was the importance of knowing how to do CPR correctly.

This week I am going to write about some issues and items that should be included in a camper’s first aid kit.  In looking at this kit it is relevant to remember as a camper you will most likely be further away from fully equipped emergency medical resources and will have to take charge of any accident or illness and perform the necessary first responder care yourself.

Therefore, the first item in your kit needs to be knowledge.  Knowledge comes from training programs offered by the American Red Cross and many local EMS organizations.  It is always best to have someone in your group that actually knows first-aid and can safely care for someone.

Trailer Life magazine had an excellent article in the June 2010 issue.  Expect the Unexpected: RV First-Aid Kit’s appeared on page 27.  If you have the issue, read the article. The checklist for a Basic RV First-Aid Kit is extremely complete and should be in all RV’s.

What I’m going to do is go over some items that are not necessarily considered “standard”.   They are items or over-the-counter medications that should be in your RV.

Poison Ivy leaves

One of the expected dangers while camping are Poison Ivy and Poison Oak.  Both of these plants contain a resin called Urushiol .  I want you to think of urushiol as the stickiest, gooiest stuff you have ever encountered.  It is easily transferred to the skin or clothing by rubbing against the plants or touching any item that may have urushiol on it from previous contact.  The resin can remain on an object for years.  In fact, 1/4 ounce of the stuff could infect every person in the world.  WOW, talk about chemical warfare agents, this one would be horrible!

Typical rash caused by Poison Ivy or Poison Oak

Since you cannot see urushiol on skin or clothing it is easy to ignore the effect it has on the skin until a red rash breaks out and it begins to itch.  What amazes me is how many people say they are not allergic to urushiol.  Well, guess what?  Everybody is allergic to urushiol. Some are just not as sensitive as others or may take several reoccurring exposures over time to develop a reaction.

So, what do you do if you suspect contact with a plant containing urushiol?

The most logical and wrong answer is to take a bath or shower to wash it off.  Unfortunately, it does not wash off easily with most bath soaps.  What you need is original green Dawn dishwashing detergent.  It is one of the few cleaning agents that will remove urushiol rather than just spread it around and push it into the pores of your skin.

So, next to knowledge, add Dawn to your first-aid kit.

Another item that is often overlooked for RV first-aid kits are padded board splints.  These items are easily made from a small 2’ x 2’ piece of 1/4” thick plywood or hardboard from a home store.  The boards should be cut into pieces 12” and 24” in length and about 3” wide.  Longer boards can be handy for full leg injuries but are often hard to store in a RV.  You may also find these boards pre-cut to the exact size where Poplar and Oak boards are shelved.  They may be a little thicker – up to 1/2” thick – but that is OK, it is just that they weigh more.   It is best to have two boards of each size.  Padding is from an old towel, mattress pad or thin foam rubber applied with tape.  If possible, sand the sharp edges and corners so they are rounded over.  You can also purchase padded board splints ready made from a number of first-aid supply outlets locally and on-line.

The splint boards are used to stabilize any suspected fracture that might be incurred from a fall.  Falls are not that rare on camping trips, especially with hikers and children that like to climb trees.  The boards are placed parallel to each other (one on each side of the injured limb) and bound with tape, roller gauze or strips of an old sheet.  In the absence of padded splint boards consider rolled newspaper, cardboard or even a pillow as an immobilization device.  With any suspected fracture it is extremely important to splint it as you find it.

The last item for this submission is a jug of steam distilled water from your favorite grocery store.  Spring or filtered water will not work.  Distilled water is about as close to sterile water as you can get without going to a medical supply facility.  It is free of unwanted minerals and the distilling process kills most if not all germs that may be in the water.  Remember that water found at or near a campsite is always questionable as to purity.

You will use this distilled water for washing wounds, especially eyes that get objects or chemicals splashed in them.  Burns need to be irrigated with clean water to remove contamination as do cuts and scrapes.  It is best to use plain distilled water with no soap.  Soap contains perfumes and other chemicals that can cause more problems than they prevent.

I have more items that should be added to your first-aid kit that you might not normally think about.  But, alas, I am out of space for this week.  I’ll just have to continue it all next week.  Stay tuned and as always, camp safely and have fun!

Some additional first-aid kit items:

  • Adhesive Bandages
  • Antiseptic such a peroxide or rubbing alcohol
  • Antibiotic Ointment
  • Asprin
  • Benadryl or generic substitute
  • 1% Hydrocortisone Cream
  • Instant Ice Compress or Ice
  • Sterile Gauze Pads
  • Compress Bandages
  • Roller Gauze
  • Elastic Bandage (Ace Bandage)


2 Responses to “Medical Emergencies – First-Aid Kits – Chapter 1”
  1. GK says:

    A couple of things to add (some may disagree, these are just my perspective). First, have 2 kits: one for the RV and one for your “other vehicle” (toad or tv, depending on if you have MH or trailer of some kind). Having a first aid kit back at your campsite isn’t much use when you aren’t there.

    Second, I would have a regular supply of bandaids, pain relievers, etc in the RV in addition to the first aid kit. Don’t raid the kit for a small scrape or because you have a headache. Keep the kit for emergencies. Got through it before every trip, make sure it is complete, replace anything that has expired or where the packaging has been compromised.

  2. Randy says:

    All excellent ideas, GR. Thanks for adding them to the list.

    I have yet to decide how many chapters there will be in the first-aid thread. I will most likely switch back and forth from travel/destination topics and first-aid over the next few months. I DO appreciate reader comments and suggestions such as yours. They add to the importance of th subject and increase the value of the articles to interested readers. Thank-you again.


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