If we invaded someone’s cupboard for a first aid kit, we are highly likely to find out of date – and potentially useless or even dangerous medications in a variety of tins and boxes.
So, in the event of a health concern or accident, we don’t have the right items at hand to deal with the issue correctly, safely and efficiently; this can be very frustrating when someone is not well or when time is of the essence.
Housekeeping, sorting and reorganising seems to be a pastime for many during the COVID-19 lockdown but tackling the medicine cabinet and first aid kit could well be at the bottom of the list of priorities because they are out of sight, but the reality is, they really are best solution when it comes to handling basic ailments or accidents. Now is the time to make it a priority chore.
Firstly check all the labels, follow all manufacturer’s directions to the letter, particularly when it comes to storage and dosage. Clearly, we need to keep all medicines out of sight and reach of children. A high, lockable cupboard that is somewhere cool and dry, is the ideal place. Not the drawer next to the oven! If possible, keep routine prescription medication in a separate location to avoid accidental usage and breakages when rushing and searching.
Check expiry dates and dispose of anything that is past its use-by date, don’t think “it’s only a month or so”, the medication will either have no effect or could cause more harm than good.
Once you have had a good clear out and ready for replenishing the contents, the top of the shopping list should be highly effective painkillers like aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen. These are generally everyone’s ‘go-to’ item for relieving minor aches and pains, such as headaches or discomfort. They are also good for helping to alleviate some of the symptoms of ailments like the common cold and reducing the uncomfortable inflammation that often comes with arthritis or sprains.
It goes without saying, check to see if it is suitable for whoever is taking it.
Aspirin, for example, should never be given to children aged under 16 and ibuprofen isn’t suitable for those with asthma or pregnant women. Under no circumstances should ibuprofen be taken if you are suffering from or suspect or you are suffering from symptoms of COVID-19.
If you’re ever unsure about who can take what, check with your local pharmacist.
As we approach summer, antihistamines are a great medication to have, especially if you or a family member is allergy-prone, a hay fever sufferer or someone who responds especially badly to insect bites. They are also good for easing the itchiness associated with ailments like chickenpox.
It’s not easy at the moment to rush out to the shop and grab something quick for fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. Oral rehydration salts are good to keep handy and provide a speedy way to restore your body’s natural balance, after a bout of diarrhoea and/or vomiting. Be mindful that they won’t fight the cause of the illness though.
Diarrhoea that is associated with a virus or bacteria will need anti-diarrhoea tablets. It often happens without warning, so having them to hand is important. Tablets won’t tackle the root of the problem though and they shouldn’t be given to those aged under 12 unless directed. If in doubt, consult a pharmacist or your doctor.
Indigestion, could be stomach ache or heartburn, keep antacid as part of your kit too.
AoFAS (Association of First Aid Services recommend always having the following supplies:
Bandages: to support minor injuries or for applying pressure to larger cuts before they’re treated professionally – sterile dressings are also great to keep ready for such scenarios
Plasters: ideally maintain a supply of various sized waterproof plasters and consider allergies to them.
Pulse oximeters: not often found in a first aid kit, these are small eraser size devices that measure the amount of oxygen being carried around the body and provide an easy to understand reading on how well the heart and lungs are working. They are especially handy at present when many people are concerned about the potential symptoms of Coronavirus
A digital thermometer: for more accurate readings but a good old-fashioned under-arm or ear thermometer may be better for taking a baby or young child’s temperature.
Antiseptic; great for cleaning cuts and treating conditions like insect stings, ulcers and pimples
Eyewash solution; perfect for washing out grit or dirt in the eyes, especially youngsters.
Medical tape: (micropore) ideal for sticking dressings on the skin and taping an injured finger to an uninjured one should a makeshift splint.
Tweezers: good for taking out splinters as quickly as possible, as they can easily become infected if left alone. Not good for removing a bee’s stinger as they may squeeze more venom into the wound.
Not many of us have even thought about having a fully stocked first aid kit or medicine cabinet before the Coronavirus hit us hard, but now is the perfect time to make sure yours has everything it needs.
It is important to understand when you do need to seek help from a GP or visit A&E. See the recommendations below, clearly, cases will vary depending on their severity and of course the individual patient circumstances.
When should you treat at-home as opposed to when to seek medical attention?
A&E departments should only be used to assess and treat patients with serious injuries or illnesses; most often, these will be life-threatening emergencies, for example,
Loss of consciousness
Acute confused state and fits that do not stop
Persistent and/or severe chest pain
Difficulties with breathing
Severe bleeding that will not and cannot be stopped
GPs and walk-in centres should be the patients first port of call, although in the first instance these services should be contacted via the phone or online because face-to-face interactions between medical professionals and patients need to be reduced to help fight COVID-19.
If in doubt, call NHS 111, although wait times for this service may be longer than usual due to the current unprecedented demand.