A nyone attempting to deal with a medical emergency will do so with considerably more confidence if he has a clear notion of the order of importance of various problems. Over and above all technical knowledge about such things as tourniquets or cardiac massage is the ability of the rescuer to keep a cool head so that he can make the right decisions and delegate tasks to others who wish to be helpful.
The Emergency-Free Home
E very year, hundreds of thousands of Americans go to hospital emergency rooms to obtain treatment for injuries or illnesses incurred in their homes. But many of these emergency health problems could have been prevented. In too many cases, no one took action to eliminate home hazards simply because they were easy to overlook or were not readily detectable.
Millions more Americans suffer less serious home injuries and do not go to hospitals.
With a little forethought, many of these home accidents can be prevented. This chapter provides basic guidelines for home safety.
First Aid Needs
The first step toward home safety is preparedness. This means ensuring that basic first aid equipment and medications are in the home, readily available.
Both materials and medicines should be chosen with care. Key considerations are the ages of those who live in the home, special requirements of particular family members, the seasons of the year, and other factors that may suggest a need for certain products or preparations.
First aid supplies should be kept in a medicine cabinet or in a larger storage place out of reach of children. Basic first aid items include:
- • Soap
- • Antiseptic wipes or solution
- • Antiseptic/anesthetic ointment or spray
- • Calamine/antihistamine lotion
- • Sterile eye wash
- • Activated charcoal for poison antidote (always call poison control center first)
- • Blunt-tipped scissors
- • Tweezers
- • Bulb syringe
- • Adhesive bandage strips
- • Sterile cotton balls
- • Sterile eye patches
- • Sterile gauze pads, 4 by 4 inches
- • Sterile nonstick pads
- • Hypoallergenic adhesive tape
- • Roller bandages
- • Cotton swabs
- • Triangular bandages
- • Paper cups
- • Butterfly bandages
- • Cold packs, instant chemical-activated
- • Elastic bandage, 3 inches wide
- • Thermometer
- • Eye wash cup
- • Disposable latex gloves (for handling wounds)
- • Flashlight
- • Safety pin
- • Candle and matches
Medicines and Medications
Don't overstock medications and, if possible, consult a physician or emergency hotline before attempting any emergency measures. Many medications only serve to delay proper medical attention. For example, syrup of ipecac, a preparation that induces vomiting in emergency situations, is a basic necessity in a household with children. However, if ipecac is used after the ingestion of certain liquids, the results can be very damaging and even fatal.
Leftover antibiotics should never be used a second time without consulting a physician . Because of their cost, many people are reluctant to dispose of leftover antibiotics, but severe allergic reactions could result or make a difficult for a physician to diagnose an illness if symptoms have been masked.
Antibiotics prescribed in series should be taken until the series is completed. Finally, no such medications should be passed on to friends or relatives for their use. Borrowed medications could harm, rather than help, the recipient.
What drugs or medications should be in your medicine cabinet? Some basic items are:
- • Cold and allergy medications, including an antihistamine, a decon-gestant, a cough suppressant, an expectorant
- • An antacid for indigestion
- • Rubbing alcohol
- • Antibiotic ointment
- • Adhesive bandage strips
- • An anti-diarrheal medicine
- • A laxative
- • Eyedrops
- • Aspirin or an aspirin-free pain reliever
- • Other items as required for chronic conditions.
Here are some additional safety rules regarding medicine cabinets:
- • If possible, locate the medicine cabinet in a cool, dry, dark place, out of the reach of children.
- • Check the contents periodically and throw away out-of-date or spoiled items (including aspirin that smells like vinegar).
- • Remove the cotton from any medicine cabinet containers that may use cotton stoppers (because the cotton can absorb a medication's active ingredients).
- • If even one pill in a bottle has deteriorated or spoiled, throw out the entire batch.
- • Keep liquids in their amber containers to protect the contents from light.
- • To discard medications, flush them down the toilet, then remove the labels on the containers to prevent others from refilling the prescriptions.
- • Keep emergency phone numbers (physician, pharmacist, fire, police, and so on; see the list of emergency phone numbers on the inside front cover of this volume) on the medicine cabinet or near it. When in doubt about which medication to use, call a doctor or pharmacist.