There’s nothing worse than running out of bandages or gauze when you end up actually needing them — walking into the corner store looking for Band-Aids as your bleeding through a paper towel is just embarrassing. If your local store is lacking in first-aid items or you just prefer to make things yourself, here are a few tips for making your own medical supplies.
A First-Aid Kit
No matter what you do at home, you shouldn’t be without at least a basic first-aid kit. No matter what injury you encounter, you’ll be prepared — and you won’t end up scrambling to put together makeshift bandages or splints with Popsicle sticks and duct tape. They work in a pinch, but not nearly as well as the real thing.
Chances are, your average store-bought first-aid kit doesn’t have everything you need — most of them are stuffed full of bandages and antiseptic wipes, with the occasional gauze pad or instant ice pack in the mix.
First, pick your box. Tackle boxes are ideal for making DIY first-aid kids because they’ve got so many adjustable compartments.
Then, secure the basics — bandages, gauze, tape, antiseptic and alcohol wipes, antibiotic ointment, burn ointment or aloe, painkillers and other medication, etc. Basically, anything you’d find in a store-bought first-aid kit should go into yours. Now it gets fun. Be sure to add:
- Splints and ace bandages for broken or sprained limbs.
- Sterile saline or sterilization kit for irrigating wounds if necessary.
- Tourniquets for bleeding wounds, or QuickClot to stop bleeding and/or superglue to close wounds.
- Butterfly bandages or suture kit, depending on your skill level. You can also use a needle and fishing line if suture kits are unavailable.
You should also include some tools, like a small flashlight for working in the dark or checking for signs of concussion, gloves to prevent blood contamination and scissors. Prepare for any and every eventuality, because you never know what you’re going to come across.
DIY Ice Packs
There’s nothing more uncomfortable than a busted knuckle or a bump on the head, which is why it pays to keep at least a few ice packs around. If you don’t have any, you’re in luck — they’re super simple to make, and most of the stuff you need you probably already have in your home.
For your basic keep-in-the-freezer style ice packs, all you need are zip-lock bags, rubbing alcohol and water. Fill your freezer bags with one cup of rubbing alcohol and two cups of water. Mix well, seal and freeze. The alcohol will prevent the water from freezing solid, leaving you with a nice soft slushy ice pack.
For ice packs of the instant variety, you might need to go shopping. You’ll still need those zip-lock bags, but this time you’ll need sodium bicarbonate and citric acid powders. Mix equal amounts of each — about 3-4 tablespoons — in your zip-lock bag, and when you find yourself in need of a quick cold pack, just add water and mix. The acid (citric) and the base (sodium bicarbonate) mix to create an endothermic reaction that feels cold to the touch.
Medicine, while still an expensive practice, is changing — people are inventing medical devices out of paper that can be made and shipped for pennies on the dollar. This is ideal for people living in developing countries who might not be able to afford expensive machines. Here at home, though, we’ve got everything we need at our fingertips — even if it takes a little bit of DIY finesse to make it work perfectly.
Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington