In case of emergency, make sure your first-aid kit is up-to-date

Replace expiredor missing supplies

Los Angeles TimesNovember 9, 2012 

AV-FIRSTAID MCT

Before choosing items for a first-aid kit for an outdoors excursion, backpackers should consider a number of key factors, including the number of people in the backpacking party and the length of the trip. (Kurt Strazdins/MCT)

KURT STRAZDINS — MCT

  • ONLINE

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer several resources for disaster preparedness. Here are two of those sites:

    Family Emergency Kit Checklist: 1.usa.gov/U9msQZ

    Tips for compiling a preparedness kit: 1.usa.gov/TwdZcb

  • Stocking up the medicine cabinet

    Here are the items a well-stocked medicine cabinet should contain, plus a few items you'll be happy you have on hand.

    Bandages and gauze in a variety of shapes and sizes. If you have kids, Mickey Mouse or Hello Kitty bandages can't hurt.

    Anti-bacterial spray and/or ointment.

    Hydrocortisone cream to relieve itching.

    Tweezers and scissors. It's worth springing for precision tools, something you already know if you've ever tried to remove a splinter from a squirming toddler.

    Instant-read thermometer. Shop around, read reviews and consider what might work best for your family. A thermometer with an ear scan feature or a temporal artery thermometer (the ones that are swiped across the forehead), for example, might be helpful when you want to take a temperature without waking a sick child who has finally fallen asleep.

    Cough drops and cough syrup

    Over-the-counter allergy medication.

    Cold reliever and sleep enhancer such as NyQuil or a generic-brand equivalent.

    Rubbing alcohol. Believe it or not, this can expire too, losing its effectiveness over time.

    Cold pack. In a pinch, a bag of frozen peas will do. But it's helpful to have something a bit more durable. Keep this in the freezer, of course, so it's ready to go.

    Heating pad. Probably not standard fare for an emergency kit, but it might be soothing for an aching back or flu-induced chills.

    First-aid guide or pamphlet. You can find these online or perhaps at your doctor's office. In a pinch, you can always look something up online. But it's nice to have a primer at your fingertips when you're trying to remember the best way to treat a burn or sprained ankle, or what R.I.C.E. stands for. (That would be "rest, ice, compression, elevation," the course of treatment for minor soft-tissue injuries.)

    Laminated list of doctors' phone numbers and addresses and perhaps even a map with directions to your doctor and the nearest emergency room. Also consider adding the same information for your veterinarian and a 24-hour emergency vet — helpful in case someone is house-sitting for a pet and is not familiar with the area.

    Eyewash for soothing an eye that has become irritated.

    Gloves, eye protection and a mouth guard you can use in case you need to perform CPR. Speaking of CPR, if you're not certified, get certified. Many community centers offer classes, or contact the Red Cross for a class list. It takes just a few hours, and you'll learn first-aid basics and CPR. You'll never regret knowing how to treat an injury or save a life in case of an emergency.

You're meticulous about monitoring the expiration dates on milk cartons. You carefully check sell-by dates before putting meat in your shopping cart. And you take a moment to scan cans, bottles and jars for their "best before" dates. But have you ever checked the expiration dates on the contents of your first-aid kit?

Do you even have a first-aid kit?

It's time for a medicine cabinet makeover.

If you're like the rest of us, you are probably missing items that you or your loved ones will need in case of an injury that falls short of requiring a visit to the emergency room.

And, like the rest of us, your bathroom cabinets probably are filled with items that have outlived their "use by" dates, potentially making them less potent or perhaps even dangerous.

A recent study by the California Poison Control System suggested that many drugs past their expiration date are still effective, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not mince words on its Web site: "Once the expiration date has passed, there is no guarantee that an expired medicine will be safe and effective. If your medicine has expired, do not use it."

There's no need to panic. But consider this your nudge to take stock of your family's medicine cabinet and see what might need replacing. Make a list, and keep your eyes peeled for coupons and sales on the items your family is most likely to need. You also could take the easy way out and buy a trauma kit (they are often better stocked than a routine first-aid kit), and then buy a few more items to round out your supplies.

Need any more incentive?

Think about how much better equipped you'll feel about treating your sick spouse or kid with all the necessary items well organized, easily within reach and safely within their expiration dates.

That bathroom medicine cabinet might not be the best place to store all your products. If your bathroom gets excessively humid and damp, consider storing your items in, say, the garage. Just make sure they are easily accessible in case of an emergency.

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