How do you manage medical problems until medical care is available?

Impressively, folks survive all the time with very little in the way of supplies, training, or equipment, but not everyone is so lucky. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, many people were cut off from the normal medical care that they need. Worse still, many were injured by the storm and had few places to turn for help.

Help can be difficult to reach through a variety of situations, not just hurricanes. Those in rural areas and wilderness areas may be far from help on a good day. Natural disasters and terrorist attacks can also create a delayed-help scenario anywhere or anytime. What can you do when you or someone with you cannot get the help they need?

First, you need to get yourself and your patient away from any dangers that may be present. Second, call for help or send someone to get help, if doing so is possible. In remote areas, this might mean signaling for help after treating the patient. Third, treat the wounds as best you can with a first aid kit. This kit should include a minimum of the following:

Non-stick Dressings and Bandages: These versatile items are critical for controlling bleeding and for applying pressure to open wounds. As a bonus, you can use them as emergency fire-starting tinder.

Headlamp: A reliable headlamp should be right in the top of your medical bag, to allow you to see what you are doing after dark.

SAM Splint: This is a flexible, multi-purpose splint that is useful for many injuries. Most importantly, a SAM splint can help to immobilize broken bones and neck injuries.

Latex Gloves: These are for your protection. You never know who might have a communicable disease, or what you may have to touch while providing first aid.

Disinfectant: This could be Betadine or a similar product used to disinfect a wound or equipment. Betadine can even be used to disinfect drinking water. (link to post on household chemical water treatment)

Butterfly Strips, Tape and Gauze: I lump these items together as bandaging material.

Band Aids: From bites, blisters, and burns to cuts, corns, and circumcisions, Band Aids cover them all.

Tweezers, Scissors and a Pocket Knife: These are all important tools of the medical trade.

Epipen: This is to treat anaphylaxis and other dangerous allergic reactions.

Assorted Medicines: You’ll need an assortment of meds, such as antibiotic ointment, burn gel, antihistamine, laxatives, anti-diarrhea medicine, pain reliever, and anything else that you can fit in your kit.

If you don’t have a first aid kit, you’ll have to scrounge up supplies as best you can. And finally, if no help is coming, you’ll have to transport the victim to help, if possible.

This can all be very daunting to think about–playing doctor if you’re not a trained physician–but there is a way to better prepare for this type of situation than to just hope it never happens. Your local chapter of the Red Cross runs classes in first aid, CPR, disaster preparedness, and many other potentially lifesaving topics. To find out about classes in your area, visit