A first aid kit is often the last thing someone thinks of when packing for a trip, and often times can go without use. However, when those incidents do inevitably happen it quickly becomes the most important item that you remembered to chuck into your pack. The last thing you want is to have to call a session or trip short because of an injury or problem that could have been treated with basic supplies. Worst case scenario, some of these supplies might save you or your best mate’s life.
We’ll start with the flashy, big stuff. This section will pertain to items good for injuries such as cuts, breaks, gashes, rashes, punctures, etc… Generally anything that has caused trauma to the body or bleeding that needs to be addressed.
- Gauze: Make sure it is packaged and sterilized. This will help cover large rashes and scrapes and is great for packing onto larger cuts. If there is bleeding that is not stopping, applying firm and constant pressure to the source of the bleed with gauze is the way to go.
- Bandages: Little adhesive bandages are essential. These are great for small stuff; little punctures or cuts that do not require a full dressing. These can also be great to place over a mosquito bite or scab to help keep the sun/itch away.
- Tape: Any kind of adhesive tape will do, but duct tape or athletic tape are the best options. Tape is great for so many tasks: It can keep dressings on and in place, splint sprains and even small breaks, or repair anything else you need in a pinch.
- Butterfly Stitches: Those small deep cuts that won’t close can be a big bother. These stitches help close the sides of the cut together which can then be dressed.
- Tourniquet: This is a rarely used but highly important piece of equipment. If there is uncontrollable bleeding you’ll want to place a tourniquet at least 3 inches above the site of bleeding, cutting off blood flow to that area of the body. Before using make sure you have read up on safety of use of the tourniquet, using incorrectly can lead to the death of the patient, even if the bleeding is controlled.
The last thing you want is to treat a cut perfectly and then three days later realize it is oozing pus (trigger warning?). Avoid mistakes like this and disinfect wounds before treating! The ocean is a melting pot for potentially harmful bacteria, especially at warmer surf destinations, and don’t even get me started on the plethora of microbes on land (again especially at tropical locations).
- Saline Solution or Distilled Water: This is used for rinsing out cuts/puntures/etc… before dressing them. Any open wound should be rinsed before covering up. Make sure to use this rinse to take out any solid matter from the wound site, this can be a pain, especially with rashes, but is a vital part of the process.
- Betadine Solution and Cotton Pads: Use this solution once the wound is rinsed thoroughly to kill anything that might have wandered into the site. I recommend betadine over hydrogen peroxide but either will work.
- Antibiotic Ointment: The last step is to rub this over the wound in a attempt to continue to kill any bacteria that might try and enter the open skin. Do this just before dressing the wound.
- Alcohol Wipes: If you plan on piercing the skin in any way, make sure to wipe the site of entry with an alcohol wipe to remove any residual microbes on the skin beforehand.
A whole bunch of surfing and travelling will leave your body worn down. By the end of your trip you’ll probably be nursing a couple light sprains or bruises. There are some over the counter medication and ointments that go a long way in making things more comfortable.
- Acetaminophen: The brand name in the USA is Tylenol. This will help reduce pain and fever if you have it.
- Ibuprofen: This medication is great for reducing swelling and pain. Anything from a sore throat to a sprained ankle will be helped. Advil and Motrin are two common brands for ibuprofen.
- Sunscreen: Protect your skin from burns. This is especially important when travelling to tropical destinations with high UV ratings. Don’t skimp, get the good reef safe zinc that will stay on in the ocean.
- Aloe Vera: Still get burned? Use this to help relieve some of the pain from first degree sunburns.
- Sting/Itch Relief Wipes: Make sure to bring a few of these, they can be lifesavers when the insects start coming. These are best used quickly after the bite, not after the itching becomes unbearable.
- Eye Drops: Long time in the sun and salt water can lead to eye pain/vision problems. Keep your eyes nice and hydrated using these drops.
Tools and Miscellaneous Items
Here we come to some mechanical items that will help you apply the items listed above. These are very important to bring, but depending on where you are going you might be able to purchase at destination.
- Scissors: These can be useful for a variety of tasks. Great for shaping gauze, cutting tape, and at times cutting away clothes/wetsuits/boardshorts from wound areas. Try and get the blunt tipped ones to avoid puncturing skin.
- Tweezers: This could be the most important tool to bring. You can use these to remove objects from wounds, remove splinters, and to peel skin/etc that needs to be removed. Make sure to get a pair with a good sharp point for the event that you need to puncture skin.
- EpiPen: This is absolutely necessary if you are travelling with someone that has a deadly allergy. I would recommend bringing one even if your mates aren’t allergic to things, because you never know what can happen or who might need help.
- Thermometer: A good tool to see how bad someones fever is in order to assess meds given or urgency of transport out.
The best way to treat an injury is to avoid it, but it is also important to always be prepared. Use this list to make your own first aid kit and you will be ready for most everything that a non medical professional should be able to handle. Safe Travels!