- By Tom Severin

Summer has arrived, which means the four-wheeling season is kicking into high gear. Now is a good time to inspect all your gear, including first-aid kits. These are easy to overlook. They’re usually tucked away and tend not to get used often. But when you do need one it’s nice to have those supplies at hand. It's also comforting to know they’re in good shape.

You know that medicine, ointments and lotions lose potency over time. That’s why the containers and packages have expiration dates. Bandages and related supplies degrade over time as well.

Four-wheeling is tough on medical supplies, even those in a container. The jostling causes packets to tear and bottles to break. Dust and sand coat the products, potentiall­y contaminat­ing them.

Perhaps you just need to restock. Did you replace the supplies used during the most recent incident?


You have not looked at it in six months: Not looking inside the first aid kit for six months is enough of a reason to take a look. At a minimum you refresh your memory with the contents that you have available in the event you need to use them.

Shared Kits: If others share the kit or have access, clean out all the garbage. This includes wadded up, discarded packaging. Also throw out the other half of a two pack that's now open and possibly dirty and contaminat­ed. Throw out open ointment tubes that may be contaminat­ed. You do not know if the ointment was dispensed by rubbing the end of the tube directly on a wound.

“Boo-Boo” Kit for Band-Aids and Pain Meds: Consider establishi­ng a “boo-boo” kit to treat the common, minor problems. Things like pain meds, splinter kit, and band-aids, to keep everyone out of the big kit.

Adhesives dry out: Heat and dry air take their toll on adhesives. Band-aids and tape no longer stick well in hot conditions.

Gloves deteriorat­e: They dry out and can tear, even when packaged. Pack at least a half-dozen pair. You could go through several during an incident. Remember that you need to change gloves for each patient you attend to. Plus, other good Samaritans assisting may not have their own gloves. You cannot have enough gloves! In a large kit, pack gloves at the top of each compartmen­t so they are available no matter what you are retrieving.

Damaged goods are suspect: They may not be sterile anymore. Inspect all packaging for tears, holes and other damage. Replace any supplies whose packages are not in pristine condition. Replace any items with yellowing packaging or discoloura­tion. Use gloves to remove and cleanup anything showing blood or that you suspect has blood splatter.

Temperatur­e extremes affect liquids: Ointments, creams and liquids exposed to extreme temperatur­es lose effectiven­ess. Check labels for the effective temperatur­e ranges. Replace any products that may be compromise­d.

Remove Out of Date Treatment Methods: Get rid of that snake bite kit. We no longer slash and suck snake bites.

While you’re at it, consider replacing the batteries in your flashlight(s). That way you can count on getting light when you need it.

If you’re not sure whether something is good, replace it. If an item does not have an expiration date, write your purchase date on it. Then use your judgement when it should be replaced. Batteries are a good candidate to write an installati­on date on. Rotate them early to avoid acid leak damage.

Don’t like to toss out new-looking bandages and other products? Store them in the medicine cabinet at home. They’ll go fast enough. And at home, you have alternativ­e solutions if in fact a Band-Aid will not stick.

Stay ahead with a list of expiration dates: Type up a list of drugs and their expiration dates. Store the list in the first-aid kit for quick reference.

A word about OTC pain killers. You may have heard or seen the term NSAID. That stands for nonsteroid­al anti-inflammato­ry drugs. NSAID drugs like Advil and Aleve

fight pain, fever and inflammati­on. Drugs like Tylenol which are not an NSAID are designed just for pain and fever. They do not deal with inflammati­on. It’s good to have both types of medication on hand.

Refresh all your first-aid kits: You decided to inspect the first-aid kit in your 4WD vehicle. Great. But don’t forget about the kit in your: • other vehicles, including motorcycle,

motorhome and boat • cabin and other secondary home • garage, tool room, shed

The supplies in some of these kits could vary. But all supplies degrade over time.

The right container is important: A good container is sturdy and water tight. Most off-the-shelf first-aid containers are plastic with a clasp mechanism. Inspect the container. Does it seem sturdy enough for offroad use? Will the clasp withstand multiple uses?

Pelican containers are designed to be sturdy and water tight. Consider buying one of those (or a similar model) for your first-aid supplies.

Hikers often carry soft-sided kit bags. Being soft, they can conform to many spaces in a vehicle. If you go that route, choose one that appears well made, or has received good reviews.

Regardless of the type of case used, inspect and clean it frequently. A light coat of wax on a zipper will extend its life. If the case is broken or cracked, find a replacemen­t.

If it has been a while, I recommende­d you take a First Aid Course. Wilderness Medical Associates, www.wildmed.com, offers courses of two, four or five days. These courses are geared for the kind of first aid we need when calling 911 is not an option.

First-aid kits are very important, so every off-road vehicle should have one. If you don’t own a first-aid kit, buy or build one. Then inspect it regularly so the supplies will be ready if and when you need them.

Tom Severin, 4x4 Coach, teaches 4WD owners how to confidentl­y and safely use their vehicles to the fullest extent in difficult terrain and adverse driving conditions. Visit www.4x4trainin­g.com to develop or improve your driving skill. Connect with Tom Severin on Facebook - tom.severin.77

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