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First Aid for Survival | Uncommon Items for your First Aid Kit
Generally speaking, I have a fairly decent first aid kit. It includes everything from a large variety of bandages to pain killers, antibiotics, essential oils, trauma supplies, first aid books, and equipment such as braces, splints and a blood pressure monitor.
That being said, I put the kit together a few years ago and as they say, I wish I knew then what I know now. As with all things preparedness, my knowledge has increased over time and I now recognize that I need to go back and revisit my first aid kit, adding items that are missing and removing certain items I no longer considered appropriate or necessary.
Over the years, something I have learned is that in a survival situation, it may be the less common items in our supply closet that turn out to be the most useful. The same applies to a first aid kit.
Today Backdoor Survival Contributing Author Rob Hanus is back with us to share his take on 8 uncommon first aid items.
8 Items You May Have Overlooked In Your First-Aid Kit
Having a well-stocked first aid kit (FAK) is a given. You should have one in your home and one in your vehicle, as well as in each of your emergency packs.
Once you have a basic first aid kit, consider adding these 8 items:
1. Liquid Bandage
Though this has become more popular, surprisingly, many people still don’t know about it. Liquid bandage, like New Skin, is just like it sounds: you apply the liquid to a small wound and within minutes, it dries into a protective bandage. It’s good for keeping out dirt, germs, and water, without the annoyance of a bandage.
Link: New-Skin Liquid Bandage
2. Super Glue
This is a common household item that also has a use in first aid. You can buy the expensive, prescription-only version called Dermabond, but it’s far cheaper to use a common tube of super glue.
This works a lot like the liquid bandage above, in that you apply it to the wound and when it’s dry, it will hold the cut together. The glue doesn’t go into the wound, it’s supposed to go over the wound. Basically, you hold close the cut and apply the glue over it, to bond the two sides together. Most people do this wrong and don’t wait long enough for the glue to dry.
Just make sure not to use super glue on the following: eyes, lips, genitals, wounds with a high risk of infection like animal bites, and deep wounds that involve damage to muscles or tendons. Also, note that will sting more than Dermabond will.
Link: Super Glue – The Original
3. Tampons and Maxi-pads
While using these for their normal role is one aspect, they also have uses in first aid. Tampons are good for plugging up puncture wounds and the pads make good dressings. Just make sure you get the non-scented type so you’re not injecting the scent chemical into the wound.
Link: Playtex Unscented Tampons, Always Maxi Unscented Pads
4. Hand Sanitizer
You can’t always wash your hands in the wilderness, but you can sanitize them with the common alcohol hand sanitizer. This is good to use both before treating wounds and after your hands have been covered in blood. As an aside, it’s also a very good fire starter (it’s essentially gelled alcohol).
Link: Purell Hand Sanitizer
5. Safety Pins
While this seems like a common item found in first aid kits, you would be surprised at how many kits don’t have any. Not only can you hold bandages in place with these, but they are also good for digging out splinters. Their safety design makes them easy to carry in your kit. One non-medical use for them is when you lose a button on your shirt or pants.
Link: Singer Safety Pins, Multisize
6. Tongue Depressors
While common in pediatrician’s offices, you should have a few of them in your FAK, too. The main use for them is as a finger split. The best way to treat a broken or severely sprained finger is to immobilize it. They’re also good for kindling if you need to make a fire
Link: Tongue Depressors
7. Self Adherent Bandage
Most of us have probably learned that the way to dress a wound is to put gauze dressing on it, then wrap in gauze roll bandage and secure with a safety pin, or tuck the end under one of the wraps.
In talking to a Navy corpsman, the preferred method is to use the self-adherent bandage or cling wrap. This wrap looks much like an Ace bandage, only that it clings to itself. This makes it far easier to wrap, unwrap and rewrap a wound, as you’re not having to mess around with pins or other fasteners. A few rolls of these and some maxi-pads and you have some excellent field dressings.
Link: Pac-Kit Self-Adhering Cohesive Wrap, 2″ Wide
8. Hemostatic Agent
These go under several brand names, like QuikClot, Celox, and HemCon. What they do is quickly cause the blood to clot, stopping the bleeding much faster. These are best used in large wounds where the risk of death from blood loss is high. These can be more expensive than other first aid items, but they literally can mean the difference between life and death in severe trauma.
Link: Israeli Battle Dressing, 6-inch Compression Bandage, Quikclot Sport Brand Advanced Clotting Sponge
Whether you’re making a new kit or adding to your existing kit, the items above can add to the functionality of your first aid kit. And, if you don’t have any FAKs or want to run a quick check on them, I suggest starting here: The Preparedness Podcast: First Aid / Medical.
Essential Oils for the First Aid Kit
In addition to Rob’s suggestions, I would you to consider adding an assortment of health and wellness related essential oils to your first aid kit. At a minimum, include melaleuca (tea tree), lavender, oregano, peppermint, rosemary, and clove oils. At a cost of less than $45, these six essential oils will serve you well in a wide variety of first aid and emergency situations.
You can read about these and other healing essential oils in 20 All Purpose Remedies Using Essential Oils or other articles on this page: Interested in Learning About Essential Oils?.
For an even broader selection of oils consider this Spark Naturals Health and Wellness Kit which includes a total of 10 oils and blends, nicely packaged on a tin that is perfect for your first aid kit. And note that with any purchase from Spark Naturals you will enjoy a 10% discount by using code BACKDOORSURVIVAL at checkout.
The Final Word
As preppers, one thing we should strive to do is keep our eyes open for uncommon uses for everyday items. This includes the gadgets in your kitchen to the odds and ends that have found their way into the proverbial junk draw. Come on – I just know you have one!
All kidding aside, a properly stocked first aid kit is an important addition to both your day to day and long-term preps. If it has been awhile since you have taken inventory, do it now. And while you are at it, can you think of some additional uncommon items to include in a first aid kit?
Want to know more? Check out these related articles:
Must-Have First Aid Kit Contents
The Ultimate Emergency First Aid Kit List And Tips
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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November 7, 2014 at 9:21 AM
I also have an emergency surgery kit with extra hemostates in it plus fire starter’s so I can quickly boil water to sterilize everything. Along with a box on emergency surgery in case im down my family can save me. Good luck is good planning. Chuck
November 8, 2014 at 8:38 PM
A small bottle of collodial silver would eliminate the need to sterilize anything. There is NO BETTER germicide! Absolutely NO side effects; no way to over-dose; safe for all living things; AND, it stops full-blown food poisoning in about 5 minutes!
November 7, 2014 at 9:29 AM
Do not forget a small pair of scissors.
November 7, 2014 at 9:42 AM
While they need a prescription, don’t leave out silver nitrate sticks/long, treated “QTips”. Darned right they hurt because they are a chemical cauterization, and shouldn’t be used except as a last resort as they cause scaring. But, they will shut down bleeding when other approaches fail and when there is no MD or EMT available or in prospect.
Also, they store well. Like matches.
A half dozen hemostats of varying lengths aren’t a foolish thing either. And, finally, good quality silk thread and a variety of suture needles are also desirable simply because a cosmetic, leisureable fix may not be feasible, and post-fix movement may be totally unavoidable.
November 7, 2014 at 10:25 AM
Essential Oils — One item not named is called “Thieves”. It is the number 1 item I include above all other oils. A GREAT product for tooth aches. I have been using it for a couple really bad teeth for over 6 months. For a really bad tooth ache place a two drops on a small cotton ball and chew on it throughout the entire day. Repeat for several days until pain is completely gone. I now use one drop per day on my toothpaste as preventive measures. It really works ! In a survival situation without access to a dentist it is a miracle medicine. It has additional uses as well including respiratory problems.
November 10, 2014 at 3:43 PM
“Theives” got its name because it was used during the plague in Europe. It seems that the theives who wore it were protected from getting the plague thus allowing them to rob those who were sick. (I know that’s wrong, but) Just place a drop on your neck at the base of your jawbone…. This will keep you from catching a cold and if it can protect you from the plague like it did the theives, perhaps it may also work on this new ebola crap going around. (I have severe emphysema and prone to infections yet while wearing this essential oil I have been cold free for years.)
November 7, 2014 at 10:46 AM
Something I do is use my vacuum sealer to contain my liquids…(ziplok bags will work too), alcohol, peroxide, anything that could potentially bust open and destroy half of my supplies in a moment, then I pack them in their own case inside my large med bag which is padded just in case… we tend to be in a rush, and not necessarily gentile when we use our kits. Another person suggested a burner and a pot… an alcohol stove would be ideal for this, but carrying a pot large enough to sterilize tools with, well, you might just use the alcohol you were going to use for the burner to sterilize things… I would, and will be adding the stove to my kit when I get back home though… better to have more options…
November 7, 2014 at 11:14 AM
For essential oils, particularly oregano e.o., would add some empty gel capsules to make internal use more comfortable.
November 7, 2014 at 11:34 AM
Added the Red Cross Toothache Kit to my gear. I keep it in a large re-purposed medicine bottle. It’s inexpensive and nothing takes you out of the fight like a toothache.
November 7, 2014 at 11:38 AM
Add some Meat Tenderizer for stings and other venomous bites. It will break down most venoms.
Have a great day!
November 7, 2014 at 1:12 PM
re: about sealing wounds. The wound has to be flushed out with water first to remove any bacteria that would cause an infection. If you don’t flush the wound, and you seal it, you’ve just guaranteed yourself an infected wound.
November 7, 2014 at 1:12 PM
Get a 1/4 oz bottle of medium viscosity cyanoacrylate and a bottle of spray Bactine. Forget the liquid bandage. This is a much better combination. Crazy Glue was designed for use in the Emergency Room. It was put on the open market to bring the cost down to be affordable. A #1 X-acto knife with #11 blades can take the place of expensive scalpels and blades.
Shave the area before you use a self-adhesive bandage. They don’t come off skin and hair easily. I know this from personal experience.
November 7, 2014 at 1:23 PM
A good natural coagulant (hemostatic) is powdered geranium root. It was used until around 50 years ago as “surgical powder”. I once found an old tin, shaker top and all, and was surprised at the only ingredient. That was long before I knew anything about herbal medicine. Geranium root is a tried and true alternative.
November 7, 2014 at 1:56 PM
Safety pins can also be used as stitches after you sterilize them and you can reuse them afterwards so they are last ditch effort after the better but one use methods have been used up.
November 9, 2014 at 8:34 AM
Stitches… Just thought as I was reading this… Thin dental floss???
November 7, 2014 at 2:01 PM
Can’t believe you overlooked the one essential.
The one item if you could only have one first aid item that you should choose.
Serves everything from stomacher ache to man-o-war sting. Can be used internally, in ears and eyes and open wounds.
Every first aid kit should have plain white vinegar. Look up it medicinal uses yourself. In search and rescue scuba school is where I learned of it. You can remove many other items that take up space and have only single uses to make room for a few specialty items you might not otherwise be able to stock.
Shame on you Joe. Above average Joe is Mediocre medic Joe, but you can’t be an expert on everything. Hope Joe has a good sense of humor.
November 7, 2014 at 2:24 PM
Chapstick. Not usually included in commercial first aid kits. Chapped skin can quickly become a problem when you are outdoors extended periods or don’t have your usual water supplies etc. Include what ever type of lip balm you have found to work best for you AND a tube of Simplex for treating “cold sores” or “fever blisters” caused by Herpes Simplex. With the stress anyone with Herpes may experience an outbreak. And just regular generic waxy chapstick can be used on any chapped skin area, not just lips.
November 7, 2014 at 9:44 PM
The old Bag Balm in the green can. I have used it for years on chapped/cracked hands and it works wonders. Have not tried to use it as a fire starter yet but like chapstick it should work well when worked into a cotton ball.
January 4, 2015 at 10:21 AM
As an aside, while we often associate chapped lips with ‘winter’, they are also a sign of dehydration. When its not ‘hot’, we don’t get as thirsty and may consume less water, but its still necessary…
November 7, 2014 at 3:42 PM
In place of quickclot. Ground comfrey can be used to stop bleeding. However not recommended if you are prone to blood clots
November 7, 2014 at 4:43 PM
Add a squirt bottle with plain vinegar in it. It is the best treatment not only for jellyfish stings, but also fire ant stings and many other envenomations. The mild acid denatures the protein in the venom for superficial stings which are in the top layers of skin and subcutaneous tissue. It reduces or even eliminates the pain on contact.
November 7, 2014 at 4:44 PM
I bought a turkey baster for irrigating wounds, eyes, or where ever it is needed. It’s also good for watering seedlings when there is not much water available.
I put honey & cayenne pepper in my FAK & BOB. Honey is anti-bacterial etc, it makes the cayenne stick to burns. Cayenne cauterizes the edges of the burn & it heals faster. It does not burn the already existing burn, and it does not leave a scar! Cayenne is good for people having heart attacks & will stop one in progress. It’s good for sore throats- same thing- it cauterizes those sore edges & you feel better fast!
Also, activated charcoal. It’s great for absorbing poisons! Just put a little in a glass of water & drink it. It doesn’t have any taste but looks gray. It helps a LOT in food poisoning too.
And clay- calcium bentonite clay. Yep, the stuff you use for face masks! Mix with a little water & put on stings, spider bites, tooth problems I find fast relief. Cat litter is also clay but I can’t bring myself to put it in my mouth, but on bites & stings it would be great.
R A Myers
November 7, 2014 at 5:27 PM
Good list. The only item I don’t have is the hemostatic agent bandages. I’m waiting for my former E5 medical corp person, now an O3 PYA, to get back from the Antarctic with her recommendation.
Tongue depressors are also good for spreading ointments on wounds and burns. I carry individually wrapped, sterile, ones.
I carry blanket safety pins in my first aid and survival essentials bags. The cover more area and spread the load over a wider cloth area.
A good item to carry is tincture of benzoin compound. ToB is an antiseptic. ToB compound is also an adhesive to keep adhesive bandages and adhesive tape where yu put it.
Another good item is 30mL sterile saline containers. Great for flushing dirty wounds and eyes.
The 20 Great Ways to Use Essential Oils list is going into my first aid reference binder.
R A Myers
R A Myers
November 7, 2014 at 5:30 PM
This the kind of information I joined Survival Life to learn
R A Myers
November 7, 2014 at 6:32 PM
and I thought I had it all covered with my first aid kit packed to almost overflowing. There are still holes in it. Thanks for this article. It helps me realize there are still going to be things I will need for my first aid kit, and now that probably means a much larger bag 🙂 lol
November 7, 2014 at 7:06 PM
Another cheap Blood clotter is the stuff you buy for when you clip your dogs nails short, it basically a generic silver nitrate
November 7, 2014 at 11:50 PM
I have a small bottle of good old white glue. It is great for several things but I use it mostly for removing splinters. If you use a pin to try to dig out a splinter you can make it go deeper. Open a small part of skin over the splinter is needed. Put on a drop of glue. Let it dry. Pull it off and the splinter will come out with it.
November 8, 2014 at 12:29 AM
I found this hint about 25 years ago when my sons were in cub scouts. Get some hardware cloth at the local hardware store (this is the 1/4 inch mesh fencing that a lotof folks call chicken wire). Cut with diagonal cutters (usually called wire cutters, lol) to a width of 4 – 5 inches. Make a strip 8 – 10 inches in length. Take a file and smooth the cut ends flush, so they do not snag. When you curve the finished product length-wise, you get a sturdy splint for arms or legs. Adapt the size as you see fit. Mine were made for my kit I carried for tje kids. The neat thing about these is that when flat, you can roll them up (I used a 1/4 inch dowel to keep them neat) and they take up about the room of an ace bandage. Pad the splint with a rag or t-shirt and wrap with duct tape to secure. (What? You don’t have duct tape in your med kit?). Duct tape can be wrapped around a piece of dowel or pencil and takes hardly any room. It also doesn’t loose it’s sticking power as long as you don’t get it wet or get oil from your fingers on the adhesive side. Duct tape can also be used to cut large butterfly bandages for serious cuts. (Use with super glue while the glue sets up.)
Hope this hint helps.
November 8, 2014 at 1:12 AM
In all kits I recommend p38, razor knife blade, sutures, candle piece, matches, piece of 400grit wet/dry sandpaper to resharpen razor in addition to the above, especially the super glue and quiklot.
November 8, 2014 at 10:06 PM
Do you have any way I can forward this to my daughters on the other side of the country.
November 9, 2014 at 8:25 AM
U can find the self adhesive wrap in Co-ops. I found it in the horse products area>>>
November 9, 2014 at 8:52 AM
It seems to me that info. regarding proper use/application of some of the more uncommon FAK items suggested herein would be helpful to a lot of folks. Is there a reason that this info is not provided? Having these items in one’s kit would be of little use if one does not know how to apply or use the item! JMHO!
November 9, 2014 at 2:14 PM
The self adherent bandage can be purchased at tractor supply, it is relatively inexpensive, less than $10 for a 3 roll package. I use it nearly everytime I put a bandaid on a finger. It doesnt come off till you take it off.
November 10, 2014 at 11:11 AM
I’ve always used ammonia on bee and wasp stings. It immediately stops the stinging. I think it would work well used as “smelling salts” to revive someone who’s passed out, but I’ve never tried that.
November 11, 2014 at 2:01 PM
Fresh pack of razor blades or box knife blades (sharper blade hurts much less if you need to cut on yourself or another), standard cheap pack of simple ball-point pens made of plastic tubes for emergency tracheotomy, a zip-lok bag of cotton swabs and Vaseline for many first aid reasons and the fact it catches a spark in the worst of environments
November 11, 2014 at 3:05 PM
Oh and pen tubes are also useful as splints, useful to drain lungs in emergency, or if crammed full of charcoal from last night’s fire, can be a drinking water filter, just don’t drink the first couple sips, they’ll be full of charcoal and that’s no good. Remember, if you’re unprepared, you have to be prepared to improvise! Good luck, preppers!
November 11, 2014 at 4:25 PM
Good article, but I’m going to have to disagree with you about using tampons to plug a wound. It’s going to expand when soaked with blood, it’s likely to tear the skin & tissue (creating a bigger wound and more trauma), AND be difficult to remove. Oh, and do you remember the risk of toxic shock associated with superabsorbent tampons? Best to leave those to their intended purpose. Pads are fine.
Use that Celox instead of tampons. I’m told by people who know that it doesn’t burn like quick clot does. You can get powder for surface wounds or ‘injectible’ for puncture wounds. A ‘must have’ for the range bag & car kit.
left coast chuck
December 19, 2014 at 9:03 PM
You’re right, tampons should never be used for a deep penetrating wound. I won’t discuss the procedure for such wounds as I am not medically trained, but I would recommend you all research penetrating deep wounds and follow the procedures recommended by a competent medical expert. You never want to plug a deep wound,
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January 31, 2015 at 1:22 PM
As I was putting together my FAK, I decided to make a complete list of everything that is in my FAK, as well as a complete list of everything that had expiration dates. I then packed everything that would expire in the same pocket so when the time came to replace the items, I wouldn’t have to pull everything out just to find what I needed. I put the date of the item that is due to expire first in my phone calendar as a reminder, then I pull my list from my BOB / FAK and replace what needs to be replaced, make a note in my phone of the next item that has the nearest expiration date and put it in my phone calendar.I also used small cloth or canvas zippered bags to hold items that were somewhat sensitive to the heat or cold. I attached these bags to the outside of my back pack to remind me that they shouldn’t necessarily stay with my back pack, but need to be paid attention to keep them from the severe elements. There are a few items in my BOB & FAK that are rendered unusable or useless if subjected to the extreme heat or cold.
I also keep a roll of self adhesive Velcro in my BOB , I’ve found several uses for it when I have to think outside the box.
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