Friday, 28 March 2014

Is there blood?

I suppose it was inevitable that some point I would write a blog about first aid. It is a topic which comes up frequently on cruisers forums with interesting discussions about what should be carried; up to and including defibrillators. Having got the paper sutures out of the first aid kit for the second severe laceration in under a week, I decided that now was the time.

Some of you will know that amongst other things I spent 7 years employed as a trainer for St John Ambulance. On top of that having three young boys, I’ve stuck on my fair share of plasters over the years so when it came to preparing for our adventure I had a good idea of all sorts of horrible, horrifying things that could happen to us and the possible life changing – or even life ending - results.

Our first aid kit was therefore planned and thought out in detail. I had an appointment with the GP to arrange antibiotics for all of us (6 different lots - aerobic and anaerobic for 3 age ranges, if you are interested in such things) and the chemist ordered in suture kits specially for us.

This is a list of our first-aid kit contents (in no particular order):

Painkillers suitable from 4 years old through 10 year olds up to adults
Rehydration sachets
Anti-diarrhoeal tablets
Paper sutures
Sterile suture kits
Dressings (various sizes)
Plasters (various sizes and of course with pictures on for the deckhands!)
Bite cream
Antihistamine tablets/liquid
Compression bandages
Forehead thermometer
Antiseptic spray (for surfaces and skin)
Spray on plaster
Travel sickness tablets
Flannel for wetting when needed as a cold compress
Triangular bandage

We also have a much smaller first aid kit doubled up with sutures and dressings which fits in the grab bag.

(Please note: I am not suggesting that this is a list for everyone, this is list specifically for our crew and our journey but feel free to adapt it for your own adventure)

First aid kit on the light box ready for action
It is interesting that whilst the skipper and I have many scars as mementoes’ of our trip from the ropes, rigging, tools (angle grinder springs to mind), fending off and general boat injuries, the deckhands injuries over the last couple of years have been general childhood stuff mainly through skateboarding/scooters, climbing (well more the falling bit) or running in to things.

The deckhands did a mini first aid course early on in the trip and have proved themselves capable in an emergency many times. The first question in the crew when anyone shouts ouch is always - 'is there blood?'

So what have we actually used? In the last week alone we have used paper sutures, plasters and micropore tape to stick fingers back on - twice.  We have used painkillers on most of us at one time or another and a variety of different sized dressings and plasters to patch ourselves up after injuries. It has been easy enough to replenish plasters, dressings, simple painkillers and antihistamine tablets several times from pharmacies in bigger places using the generic name and staff have always been helpful. The most used item in the first aid kit however has always been one of my favourites – the wet flannel.

Spanish gauze and French plasters

What did we not need? Well actually most of the big stuff. We came close to needing the sutures for the skipper a couple of times and nearly had to start antibiotics for a dental infection. There is a lot of unused ‘just in case’ medication, such as Calpol, which is now on its way out of date.

Would I pack the same again? Absolutely. Things happen and on a boat you have to be self reliant. It is essential to plan for most possibilities so you can deal with incidents if they do happen. I would rather come back with unused kit and a whole and healthy, if slightly scarred, crew.



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