by Melissa Rivera
Yesterday, my church sent a mass text asking questions about its members’ emergency preparedness. After last week, such concern is understandable.
At the moment, my family is woefully unprepared for a disaster, especially when it comes to first aid. A month ago today, we left Utah to drive to our new home in Virginia. To test our preparedness, we tried to live out of our emergency kit during the trip.
When it came to first aid supplies, that effort lasted all of an hour. My children were crawling around in the stacks of boxes awaiting the movers when my middle daughter jammed her finger. As the digit swelled, I grabbed the first-aid kit for medical tape to splint it. The kit contained an ankle wrap, a piece of an asthma inhaler, two expired prescriptions, and three foil blankets.
Fortunately, we still had plenty of tape around from packing boxes, so we splinted her finger with tape. Make sure you have a fully stocked first-aid kit.
Before we left, I restocked our first-aid kit, adding supplies like pain and cold medication, prescriptions, antibiotic cream and a whole box of adhesive bandages. I even tossed in a stethoscope and pulse-oximeter.
Our fourth day traveling, we spent the night with relatives near St. Louis. As I put my hand on their door jamb, something stung my thumb. (We believe it was a spider.) My aunt had baking soda and ice, so I covered the bite in baking soda –who knew?—and an ice pack overnight. It seemed fine when we set out the next morning, but throughout the day my thumb swelled to twice its size. It itched abominably. And, of course, we had nothing for the sting or the itching. We had to stop to buy hydrocortisone, antihistamine, and cold packs.
Don’t get me wrong, it can be useful to have equipment like a pulse-oximeter for major health care emergencies. But minor health-care problems are far more likely. Make sure you’ve got plenty of pain reliever and other basic supplies.
Also update your kit regularly and get rid of older supplies. I didn’t check the expiration date on the cold pack I bought. It had already expired.
According to Harvard Health Publications, most expired medicines are safe, even if they expired many years ago. (Exceptions include nitroglycerine, insulin, liquid antibiotics, and possibly tetracycline.) However, medicine may not be as effective
The cold pack was supposed to work for a few hours. It only lasted 15 minutes.
“If the expiration date passed a few years ago and it’s important that your drug is absolutely 100% effective, you might want to consider buying a new bottle,” according to the Harvard Health Publications paper
Finally, put plenty of your prescription medications in your emergency kit. My middle daughter has asthma. A month before we left Utah, her doctor changed her daily medication. We almost had to postpone our departure date because our insurance wouldn’t allow us to pick up her medicine more than a month at a time. We didn’t want her to run out before our new health insurance kicked in. Fortunately, we were allowed to refill her medication the day before we left.
We had more trouble with my special needs daughter’s medication, however. When I refurbished our first-aid kit, I added about three weeks’ worth of her prescriptions and packed the rest in the moving truck. I thought that would be enough. But the moving truck didn’t arrive for a month. And our new health insurance still hasn’t kicked in. We had to pay almost $100 out of pocket for two of her medicines.
Finally, if you have powered medical equipment, please have backup power sources. Hurricane Irma knocked out power
to almost 7 million people in Florida on Sunday.
Melissa Rivera is a jack-of-all-trades who is master of none. She has been a writer and editor for more than 15 years.