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How to take the sting out of summer

May 5, 2013
By KIM LOCCISANO - Staff Writer ( , Times Leader

It is almost summertime: the peak season for life's little surprises to surface when least expected and when time to run in the house to wash out a skinned knee or to keep a small cut protected with a fresh band-aid is not a welcome addition to anyone's plans for the day.

But the simple fact of life is we do not get to control all the things that impact our personal or family schedules; that's why we call them emergencies and why checking the condition of your first-aid kit or family medicine cabinet can prove of vital importance when the unexpected happens at a time of year when families look forward to outings to the ball park, not the emergency room.

If you choose not to find a few minutes in the near future to literally go through the contents of the various first-aid kits around the house, in your cars and even in the grab-and-go bag for family trips to the pool or lake, things like the following questions may signal an immediate and complete loss of control over your personal or family schedule:

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While most first aid kit items don’t require a prescription or physician’s order, EpiPens do, said John Griffiths of Griffiths Pharmacy in Martins Ferry. The EpiPen is one of the most popular items available for basic emergency preparedness when your family includes someone with severe allergic reactions.

"Do you have anything I can put on this sunburn?"

"Do you have a little band-aid?"

"Is there anything in there I can use to wash out the dirt from her skinned up knee?"

"Did you put any sun block on before you left the house?"

"I'm fixing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the others, would you like one?"

"Oh! Is that what poison ivy looks like?"

"How many double fudge cookies were in the box when grandma gave it to you before we started our trip today? How many are left? Oh I hope there is some Immodium in that little bottle."

When doing a quick inventory of the first aid supplies available to you and yours, a good thing to remember is that just because it sounds like there is something in a box when you shake it, does not mean what is supposed to be in there actually is - or that it has not stayed there well past its expiration date.

Open the box and see for yourself what, if anything, is in it and verify its actual condition.

If a basic first aid item has survived on your medicine cabinet shelf past its expiration date, throw it away and replace it immediately, if at all possible.

Remember to keep a piece of paper and pen handy when conducting even a quick inventory, then take the list with you to the store to avoid wasting money, time and effort buying items you already have on hand and missing those that needed replaced.

The professionals at your local pharmacy can be a great source of help when it comes to getting familiar with some of the newer multi-use or convenience products available to help meet the needs of your household first aid kit wish lists.

Local registered pharmacist and business owner John Griffiths and his staff at Griffiths Pharmacy on Hanover Street in Martins Ferry can help customers choose items selected for their particular household needs.

"In general most of the items people would consider for their home first aid supply needs do not require a physician order or prescription to be available for purchase, but the EpiPens do," he offered, referring to one of the most popular items available for basic emergency preparedness when your family includes someone with severe allergic reactions.

"These are wonderful and are easy to have, to maintain, and to use when necessary," shared Griffiths.

When your child makes a new friend, and you as a parent are delighted by the prospect of more fun-filled afternoons and adventures being enjoyed by all thanks to newly formed friendships, take a minute and remember to exchange basic emergency information about the youngster with their parent or caregiver.

It is the kind of easy-to-do, pre-emergency planning that comes with no downside to it. This is one of the main messages shared by healthcare professionals.

The idea is straightforward: be prepared for life's little hiccups like skinned knees and the occasional blister, an upset stomach or even a three alarm sunburn, and they are less likely to happen - or at least less likely to completely derail your day's plans.

While this is not the logic of Sun Su shared in the timeless lessons of "The Art of War," it is the stuff of such modern day classics as your average scouting manual, basic first aid class text, or 4-H camp counselor preparation training.

If you are unsure what items really should be stocked for your family's first aid needs, spend a few minutes at WebMD, at the Mayo Clinic's website or at the health department office.

Basic first aid supplies:

For the first-aid and emergency preparedness kit to take with you on the road, experts recommend considering the following items and information:

If you are interested in taking a first-aid course the American Red Cross routinely offers these classes. They can also help families or youth organization leaders with programs designed to introduce youngster to information that will help them be less stressed and to respond more calmly when accidents and basic first-aid situations do happen to or around them.

Helping children have a better understanding of what is happening when certain emergency situations arise is always time and effort well spent, according to both Griffiths and experts from the Mayo Clinic as well.

Introducing youngsters to information such as what they should do if a friend has a severe allergic reaction, or how to behave if their little brother or sister falls and skins a knee is also empowering for many children, rather than being a frightening experience.

With the number of severe allergic reactions among children on the rise in recent years, it is very likely youngsters at pre-school or in elementary school will have seen EpiPen both in the classroom and when students are taken on school field trips.

Preparedness lessons will also help them understand such items are not toys to be played with.

Bee stings and food allergies are not the sort of situations to be taken lightly.

Bee stings are at the very least least painful and can be deadly, depending on if the victim is allergic to the bee venom.

"The best way to reduce any reaction to bee venom is to remove the bee stinger as quickly as possible. If a bee sting victim has had any allergic reactions to bee stings in the past, consider the possibility of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction," said Mayo Clinic experts.

"Hornets and wasps are related to bees and their venom often causes anaphylaxis in people. Band wasps don't leave their stingers behind and each insect can sting multiple times."

It's OK to pull stingers out with your fingers, brush them off or get them out any way you can. The longer bee stingers are allowed to remain in the body, the more severe the reaction will be.

If the victim is allergic to bees, check to see if the victim is carrying an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen). If so, help the victim use the EpiPen. If they are supposed to carry an EpiPen and do not have it with them, call 911 immediately.

Do not wait for symptoms to appear to make the call asking for emergency help.

One of the first rewards for embarking on a new seasonal exercise plan can be the development of blisters.

If the blister is small, unbroken and not very painful, it is probably best to leave it alone. If the blister is large or painful - especially if the activity isn't finished (such as you are in the middle of a hike) there are a few basic items you will need to be able to drain and dress it, offer experts.

Items to have on hand to address blisters should include not only an antibiotic cream, but also a small package of needles and a supply of matches to be used to heat the tip of the needle (allow it to cool before using it) before gently poking the blister sack, pressing lightly on it and allowing it to drain before protecting it with a bandage.

When it comes to cleaning out a simple cut or scrape, experts today suggest a gentle wash with clean water and a small amount of soap is a great way to start wound care, remembering that a little blood flow can also help flush a cut or scrape.

Key items to have available if you need to help stop blood flow from a cut or scrape include pads of clean cloth or gauze.

It is good to remember that regularly lifting a bandage up to see if the flow has stopped will often simply work against you. If the cut is on your hand or arm, help slow the bleeding by raising it above your head.

However, if a cut spurts blood or if it doesn't stop bleeding, get medical help right away.

In all first aid kits you and your family set up in the hope they will not be needed should also be phone numbers for local hospitals and poison hotlines, and local emergency responders such as police, fire and EMS.



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