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Medically Speaking

By Dr. Tish Landrum

Every summer we all look forward to outdoor fun in Colorado – camping, swimming, hiking, kayaking, biking, four-wheeling and arts festivals.

With all these fun outdoor activities, we need to make sure we take care of ourselves and stay safe. That means using the right equipment and being prepared to take care of simple injuries. Things like scrapes from falls, bites from bugs, and the occasional splinter can turn into major issues if we don’t take proper care of them.

We all know about the major equipment like life vests and helmets, but what about the smaller pieces of safety equipment that will let us have our fun even if minor injuries occur?

One key thing everyone should have is a good first aid kit. You can buy one of the many pre-made kits or easily make your own. Here are several of the basics you should include in a first aid kit:

• Small bag – A simple Ziploc baggie would work, or small makeup bag for most activities. 

• Waterproofing is good to have, especially for water sports.

• Antibiotic cream – I usually do not recommend triple antibiotic because it contains sulfa, which can cause an allergic reaction.

• Alcohol wipes and hand sanitizer.

• Gauze – Both in a wrap or roll and some sterile gauze that won’t stick to a wound.

• Band-Aids – Carry different sizes including blister types that will help cushion when there is rubbing in a shoe or glove.

• Ace wrap or Coban – Coban is a stretchy type of bandage that sticks to itself and is best found at pet stores as pet bandages. It gives compression and no tape is needed.

• Small tweezers and nail clippers or scissors – You never know if you will fall into a cactus and I can tell you the tweezers come in handy.

• Paper tape – I recommend this, especially if you have Coban, so it does not tear the skin and cause more injury.

• Safety pins – In case a fall causes a “wardrobe malfunction.”

• Non-latex plastic gloves – To protect yourself if you are tending to someone else.

• Cotton swabs – To clean small injuries.

• Small bulb suction device – Those blue nasal rinse bulbs used for infants can be excellent in flushing out a wound and getting the dirt off.

• Pain reliever – I always carry ibuprofen or acetaminophen, as any injury will likely have some pain associated with it.

• Antihistamine – A bee sting or bug bite can cause an allergic reaction, so one should always have a Benadryl or Zyrtec type medicine in the kit.

For a larger kit I recommend additional items:

• Instant ice pack

• Hydrocortisone to help stop itching of bites and stings

• Anti-diarrheal medicine

• Epinephrine pen if you have significant allergies to bees or other bugs

If possible, have a first aid manual or take a first aid class based on wilderness medicine to learn about other procedures when other help isn’t available.

Summer should be fun. Don’t let the minor things that can happen with your activities ruin your fun.

Tish Landrum, MD, is a Family Medicine doctor at Lutheran Medical Center and SCL Health Physicians.