Picture the scene: a cyclist makes his way through the quiet streets at dawn. All is calm. All is quiet except for the chirping of the birds. Until he accidentally hits the curb and sends himself hurtling over the handlebars. The robyn’s song is then interrupted by swearing and cursing not even the Australian cricket team would attempt.
Here is another scene to imagine. It’s a Sunday morning and you’ve decided to do a spot of gardening. You want to mow the lawn but something, perhaps a piece of string, seems to be wound around the blade, preventing any motor rotation. You flip the mower upside down and are quite certain that you remembered to unplug it before attempting any repairs. Or did you? I’m sure you know what happens next in our tableau and may even have been the victim of a similar unfortunate event.
Every home, and probably every car, should have some form of first aid kit. Cuts, scrapes, burns and bruises can happen in a flash, and while it may not always be possible to prevent mishaps (though if you’ve ever attempted to use a pogo stick, while inebriated, on a trampoline you should expect injury), you can be prepared to deal with them.
It’s not necessary to have an emergency room complete with TV doctors who look like Patrick Dempsey or George Clooney, or advanced machinery such as a defibrillator. With a few basic items you can help prevent a trauma or wound from worsening before seeking professional medical attention.
A typical commercial kit will contain the following:
• Surgical gloves
• A mouthpiece for administering CPR
• Bandages of varying sizes
• Antiseptic wipes or antiseptic lotion
• Sterile dressings such as gauze
• Tweezers, safety pins and scissors
• A basic first aid handbook
• Emergency contact numbers
Special pre-conditions may require extra items to be added to you household kit. For example, if you have a pool you should keep eye drops and burn cream for sever sunburn. If you or someone in the family is diabetic or prone to hypoglycaemic episodes it is a good idea to keep blood sugar level testing strips. If anyone in the household is prone to blood pressure problems, a cheap stethoscope and sphygmomanometer will help identify fluctuations.
Perhaps the biggest tool in your kit is education. I’m sure we’ve all heard that urine is the cure for jellyfish stings and have marvelled as some cover model-looking doctor in a TV show performs an appendectomy with a spoon in a fast food restaurant. The reality is that many of the responses that we have to emergencies are based on old wives tales or glamorised from TV shows. In the best-selling novel Why do men have nipples? Dr. Bill Goldberg and humourist Mark Leyner examine these urban legends and set the record straight. While this witty book is by no means the definitive answer, it does illustrate that more harm can be done by improper medical care.
For this reason, it is a good idea to undergo some formal first aid training. A quick online search will reveal a number of centres around South Africa with a variety of courses. You can learn basic adult and child CPR and choke prevention in a course that takes only a few hours. If you have the time and means, you can tackle more advanced courses that cover splints, burn treatment, head injuries and more.