Prepare your first aid kit for summer
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Red Cross both recommend that every household have a first aid kit. Now that summer is here, take a look at yours to see if you have what you need for common summer problems.
Q: What should I include in my first aid kit for outdoor injuries?
A: We recommend:
— Saline solution to clean wounds
— Neomycin or Bacitracin ointment/cream to treat potential infection
— Various sizes of Band-Aids to cover and protect
The first step for small cuts is to clean the injury. Clean the cut with mild soap and water or flush with saline solution. We don’t recommend using hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol because they can cause irritation to the injury.
Once clean, apply a small amount of antibacterial ointment or cream.
If your cut is deep, from an animal bite, or has signs of infection, seek medical treatment immediately. Also, if you have certain conditions, such as diabetes or are taking blood thinners, seek medical treatment.
Q: What can I use for poisonous plants like poison ivy?
A: Poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac can grow anyplace sunlight can be found. They are active all year round, but summer has more risk for accidental contact during birdwatching, nature hikes or weeding the garden.
Skin contact with any part of the plant can leave behind urushiol oil, which is what causes the rash. The most important action is to wash off the urushiol oil with mild soap and water or a poison ivy wash as soon as you can.
To be prepared, keep this on hand:
— A good poison ivy wash such as Zanfel to clean off the poisonous oil
— Calamine lotion to soothe skin and dry up blisters
— Hydrocortisone cream 1% to decrease inflammation and rash
Consult your doctor for any of the following:
— Rash remaining longer than seven days
— Swelling, especially in parts without rash
— Rash around the eyes, nose, mouth or genital area
— Rashes over a large portion of your body
— Any signs of infection
Q: What about insect bites?
A: The best action for insect bites is prevention. Make sure to use insect repellent every time you go outside.
The most effective agents contain DEET, a powerful insect repellent that has a strong, unpleasant smell. In higher concentrations, it can stain your clothes or cause a skin reaction.
Picaridin-containing repellants can be used as an alternative repellent.
If you do get bitten, you can use creams to stop the itching and swelling. Fortunately, we can use the same lotions for insect bites as for poison ivy:
— Hydrocortisone 1%, which decreases the bump size and itching
— Calamine lotion, which cools and soothes the bite
Severe allergic reactions to bites such as swelling, chest pains, difficulty breathing or severe pain will need immediate medical assistance. If you or a family member has serious allergic reactions to insect bites, remember to keep on hand an up-to-date Epipen or similar epinephrine injector.
Bites from spiders and ticks should be evaluated by your doctor. (For more on ticks, see cdc.gov/ticks.)
There are a lot of medicines and supplies you can put in your summer first aid kit. We’ve highlighted just a few.
Make sure to talk to your pharmacist if you have any questions or to ask for more recommendations. And remember, a fun summer is a safe summer!
Michael Ong is a Pharm.D. candidate in the VCU School of Pharmacy Class of 2020.