How to make sure your family’s prepared for all eventualities 


Life is full of emergencies, both big and small. With a little knowledge and a few supplies, your family will have the plan and tools necessary to battle the most common ailments. From stubbed toes to bug bites, we’ve got you covered. What’s more, we’ll let you in on what to do at home and when to know it’s time to seek professional help.

How to make sure your family’s prepared for all eventualities 

Life is full of emergencies, both big and small. With a little knowledge and a few supplies, your family will have the plan and tools necessary to battle the most common ailments. From stubbed toes to bug bites, we’ve got you covered. What’s more, we’ll let you in on what to do at home and when to know it’s time to seek professional help.

In an emergency: Make sure that you’re prepared for life’s biggest emergencies first, because in the heat of the moment it’s easy to become disoriented.  Keep a list of emergency numbers close to all of the phones in your home. Print the emergency contact sheet from www.kidshealth.org or create your own. KidsHealth suggests including the numbers for emergency medical services (911 in most areas, but check your community’s phone book), poison control, the hospital emergency room, police and fire departments, doctors, family and neighbors.

 

1. Bug bites and stings

Home care

According to the Mayo Clinic Web site, most insect bites and stings result in minor reactions like stinging, swelling, fever, sore joints or swollen glands. These reactions can be treated by removing the stinger and applying an ice pack to reduce swelling. Consider applying hydrocortisone, calamine lotion or baking soda paste (3 teaspoons baking soda to 1 teaspoon water) and taking an antihistamine, such as Benadryl, to ward off further reactions. 

 

When to go to the doctor

Signs of a severe allergic reaction to a bite or sting may involve difficulty breathing, swelling of the lips or throat, dizziness, confusion, abdominal cramping or vomiting. According to the Mayo Clinic, 911 should be called at the first sign of any of these symptoms.  While waiting for medical help, gather a list of medications the affected person is taking, help them to take an antihistamine, if available, loosen clothing and have them lie still with feet elevated above the head. 

 

 

2. Burns

Home care

First-degree burns involve the outer layer of skin only, which will appear red and swollen with some discomfort, according to the Mayo Clinic. Second-degree burns involve the second layer of skin and will appear blotchy, develop blisters and include severe pain. Third-degree burns can involve fat, muscle and bone and require emergency attention. For first-degree burns and second-degree burns smaller than 3 inches in diameter, the Mayo Clinic Web site advises cooling the burn under cool, not cold, water for 10 to 15 minutes. Loosely cover the area with sterile gauze, not cotton. If pain continues, an over-the-counter pain medication may be used.  Remember to avoid ice and ointments and breaking any blisters that form.

 

When to go to the doctor

When a burn appears to be third-degree or second-degree involving a large area or on the face, groin, hands, feet or covering a major joint, seek immediate medical attention.

 

 

3. Cuts and abrasions

Home care

For bleeding that doesn’t stop quickly on its own, expert advice on MayoClinc.com suggests applying pressure with a clean cloth or bandage for 20 to 30 minutes. Clean the wound by rinsing with cold water, removing any stubborn debris with tweezers. When clean, apply antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with a bandage.

 

When to go to the doctor

For cuts deeper than ¼ inch, gaping wounds with fat or muscle protruding, or those still actively bleeding after pressure has been applied, the Mayo Clinic advises that stitches will likely be required. Contact your doctor to determine whether the doctor can provide this service. Ensure that wounds are closed within a few hours to reduce infection risk.

 

 

4. Nosebleeds

Home care

Home care is usually successful in stopping a nosebleed, according to Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. While pinching the nose closed with fingers, just before the bony ridge, have the person tilt their head forward slightly. Keep nostrils pinched for at least 10 minutes to stop bleeding. An ice pack applied over the bridge of the nose may also be helpful. 

 

When to go to the doctor

Medline Plus advises seeking medical attention when bleeding won’t stop after 20 minutes, is the result of a fall or blow to the head, or if the nose may be broken. Frequent nosebleeds should be discussed with your doctor, as they can be an indicator of underlying concerns. 

 

 

5. Poisoning

Symptoms of poisoning may include burns or redness around the mouth, breath that smells like chemicals, burns, stains and odors on the person, their clothing and surrounding areas, as well as vomiting, difficulty breathing, sleepiness and confusion, according to the Mayo Clinic Web site. These obvious effects of poisoning warrant an immediate call to 911. If you suspect poisoning and the person seems stable and is without life-threatening symptoms, the Mayo Clinic recommends calling the National Poison Control Center right away at (800) 222-1222. Gather all available information you have for the Poison Control Center, which will give you specific advice depending on the substance and quantity of ingestion. 

 

 

6. Rashes

Home care

Poison ivy, oak and sumac are the most common causes of skin rash occurring for those who spend time outdoors, according to Medline Plus. Affected areas are severely itchy, streaky and sometimes include red bumps and blisters. If exposed, skin should be washed with soap and water within 30 minutes to limit skin absorption, with close attention paid to the area under fingernails. Control symptoms by applying calming lotions such as hydrocortisone or calamine to affected areas. Oatmeal bath products from drug stores or over-the-counter antihistamines can be helpful for stubborn cases.

 

When to go to the doctor

If someone has a severe reaction, such as difficulty breathing, call 911. See a doctor if itching cannot be controlled by lotions and baths or if the rash involves the face, lips, eyes or genitals.

 

 

SIDEBAR

The essential first-aid kit

No one knows better than the American Red Cross when it comes to preparing for an emergency. For ultimate readiness, follow the Red Cross’s recommendations for keeping a kit at home, as well as in your automobile. Once a year, remember to check each kit for items that may have expired. The following is a list of “must haves” for a family of four.

2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)

25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)

1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)

5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)

5 antiseptic wipe packets

2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)

1 blanket (space blanket)

1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)

1 instant cold compress

2 pair of nonlatex gloves

2 packets of hydrocortisone

Scissors

1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)

1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)

5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)

5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)

Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)

2 triangular bandages

Tweezers

First-aid instruction booklet