Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
One of the side effects of the pandemic is that Americans sharply curbed their visits to the hospital and the doctor’s office for non-COVID-related complaints last year.
Beginning in March 2020, concerns over hospital capacity, social distancing measures, and fears of contracting COVID-19 led people to delay or even cancel many exams and procedures. For example, according to research published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, spending for health care services (not including pharmaceutical drugs) was down by more than 32 percent in April 2020 over April 2019.
Although hospital admissions rebounded throughout last year, they remained nearly 9 percent below the predicted annual volume by year-end.
It would be optimistic to think that people were getting less sick last year with ailments other than COVID, but experts say that the statistics tell a different story. People were just not seeking medical treatment and were dealing with many health issues at home. For good or for bad, many people learned to be more reliant on home treatments.
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If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be more proactive than ever before in taking care of our health. After all, we’ve seen first-hand that supplies won’t always be waiting for us on store shelves, and doctors won’t always be available.
One of the best ways to be prepared for a medical emergency is to have the right supplies on hand. For this article, we’ve compiled a list of basic supplies you should have in your home to handle everything from cuts and scrapes to much more severe injuries or ailments that might result from a weather-related or human-caused disaster.
We’ll begin with the basic building block of your supplies – the first aid kit.
No home, vehicle, or bug-out location should be without a first aid kit. You can purchase a pre-assembled kit or fill a bag or backpack yourself with the necessary supplies. For a list of the contents, we turned to the experts in disaster relief.
Here are 16 supplies the American Red Cross recommends for a family of four:
1. Twenty-five adhesive bandages (various sizes)
2. Ten sterile gauze pads (multiple sizes)
3. Five packets of antiseptic wipes
4. Five packets of antibiotic ointment
5. Two triangular bandages
6. Two pairs of non-latex gloves
7. Two packets of hydrocortisone ointment
8. Two compress dressings
9. One three-inch gauze roll bandage
10. One four-inch roller bandage
11. One 10-yard roll of cloth tape
12. One breathing barrier (for CPR use)
13. One folding emergency blanket
14. One (or more) instant cold compress
15. A set of tweezers
16. An emergency first aid guidebook
The Red Cross advises that you inspect your first aid kit at least once every six months for any expiration dates and other supplies that need replacing.
Now that you have your first aid kit filled with 16 items, we’ll continue our list with other emergency supplies you should have on handL
17. Adhesive tape
20. Eyeshield or eye pad
21. Finger splints
22. Cotton balls and swabs
23. Duct tape
24. Petroleum jelly
25. Plastic zippered bags, assorted sizes
26. Large plastic trash bags
27. Safety pins (various sizes)
29. Hand sanitizer
30. Eyewash solution
32. Bulb suction device (a turkey baster will do nicely)
34. Face masks
35. Medicine cup or spoon or syringe
37. Magnifying glass
39. Medical stapler and staple remover
40. Dental mirror
Now let’s consider the medications you should have in supply for medical emergencies.
41. Personal prescriptions
42. Aloe vera gel
43. Calamine lotion
44. Anti-diarrheal medication (such as Loperamide)
47. Antihistamine (such as diphenhydramine)
49. Cough and cold medications
50. Auto-injector of epinephrine (epi-pen) if prescribed for a member of your family
51. Pain relievers (such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen)
52. Aspirin (Aspirin can be life-saving in an adult with chest pain. However, do not give aspirin to children and don’t take aspirin if you take blood-thinning medication or have issues with bleeding.)
53. Lidocaine cream
54. Pedialyte (Electrolyte powders)
55. Stomach gas reducer (Simethicone)
56. Fiber powder (Metamucil)
58. Vitamin C
59. Vitamin D
62. Burn gel or cream
Other Emergency Items
This next section contains items that go above and beyond the typical household first aid kit. These items require some medical training to use, but when used correctly, they could save someone’s life when emergency medical personnel are not available.
63. QuikClot. This product is a wound dressing that contains kaolin, an agent that promotes blood clotting.
64. Penrose Drain Tubes. Commonly used by veterinarians, these tubes allow fluids to drain from a wound. They can be used as tourniquets.
65. Foley Catheters. These thin, flexible tubes are used to provide relief from urinary blockage relief.
66. Antibiotics. Life-saving antibiotics are difficult to get without a prescription but vital in many disaster scenarios. Here’s an informative article on which antibiotics you need on hand and why.
67. Lights. Lighting is critical for many medical emergencies. Consider headlamps and LED flashlights.
68. Blankets. The Red Cross list includes a small emergency blanket, but you’ll need a good supply of warm blankets during any emergency for warmth and when someone is in shock.
69. Water purification equipment. Clean water is essential for health. Include water purification tablets in your emergency medical supply kits.
70. N-100 High Filtration Face Mask/Respirator. We’ve all learned way more than we thought we ever would need to know about face masks over the past year or so. But COVD aside, face masks are essential safety gear in an emergency. In this article, the CDC gives the lowdown on facemask classifications, seals, and protections.
72. Insect repellent
73. Medical consent forms for each person in the household
74. Medical history forms for each person in the household
76. Small notepads and waterproof writing instruments
78. Comfort items. Especially if you have children, it’s important to have small items that could provide comfort to someone in an emergency. Candy, stickers, and small stuffed animals may help offer security during a stressful time. For adults, comfort remedies can include herbal teas and weighted blankets.
In addition to gathering medical supplies in case of emergency, there are a couple of things you should do:
Take a Class
If you’ve been putting off taking a CPR class, a first aid course, or wilderness survival training, procrastinate no longer. None of these classes will give you the training of a qualified nurse or doctor, but they can go a long way in helping you keep a clear head and take confident steps to help someone in a medical emergency.
Check out your local community college for course offerings, and here are some other courses you can take in-person and online:
- American Red Cross online first aid courses
- American Red Cross CPR classes
- American Heart Association CPR and First Ai classes
- REI Wilderness Survival classes
Study and Learn
Although it’s easy to look up medical information on your phone, we recommend investing in a medical guide book to help you prepare for disaster situations. Here are few suggestions:
- The Survival Medicine Handbook. The husband-wife team of Joe Alton, MD, and Amy Alton, ARNP, wrote this book for people who are not medical professionals with disaster preparedness in mind.
- Survival Medicine: The Essential Handbook for Emergency Preparedness and First Aid. Here’s a practical handbook by Thomas Coyne to help you know what to do when medical help is far away, and you need to take action in the aftermath of an earthquake, fire, or another disaster.
- The Prepper’s Medical Handbook. Written by William Forgey, MD, this handbook covers the prevention, identification, and management of medical conditions that can be performed with minimal training.
Finally, you may be wondering where you will put all these supplies. Not all of them will fit on your medicine cabinet, and your standard first aid kit should remain well-sticked with the first part of our list.
You might want to purchase a plastic storage tub (or two) to keep all these supplies and your medical records organized and in one place. Place the bin in an area that is dry and out of direct sunlight. Since it contains some potentially dangerous items and medicine sure it is out of reach of young children.
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