No one likes to think about the possibility of injury during a storm or natural disaster, but to be truly prepared, you’ll need to learn about wound care essentials. Everything you need in an emergency should be ready ahead of time, including important first aid items to clean and dress wounds.
Please note: this information is for general reference only and is not intended as medical advice. Medical recommendations must come from medical professionals, and those recommendations are subject to frequent updates and revisions. This list does not include some wound care supplies, like suture supplies for closing wounds with stitches, suture removal kits, and some types of pain medications, because they are for medical professional use only. If you’re not a medical professional, consult with your doctor about proper preparation for emergencies involving wound care.
Regardless of whether you have medical training, you may need to render aid in an emergency. A first aid kit should always be part of emergency planning, and it should contain the following essential items for wound care:
Medical Grade Gloves
You can’t predict now where you’ll be when an injury involving a wound occurs. Even if you have hand sanitizer, the necessity to keep a wound clean while also protecting yourself from potential infection from blood-borne pathogens makes medical gloves an essential emergency wound care supply. Opt for nitrile or other non-latex gloves to avoid allergic reactions.
Your supply of emergency wound care essentials should include several types of gauze:
- Gauze sponges for cleaning wounds and absorbing excess body fluids and blood
- Gauze rolls for bandaging
- Non-adhering gauze dressings for burns
Medical Tape and Scissors
Most gauze bandaging doesn’t come with adhesive. You’ll need medical tape to secure gauze bandages in place over wounds to protect them.
Scissors are an essential wound care item as well, not only to cut gauze to the right length and size but also to cut away clothing that may be interfering with cleaning or dressing a wound.
Individually Wrapped Alcohol Pads
Alcohol pads can clean and sterilize the area around a wound to help prevent infection. They are also useful for removing dirt and debris from wounds like cuts and scrapes—but be aware, they may sting. You’ll need to prepare the wounded person for that and make the process quick but thorough.
Until you can get a wounded person to an emergency room or immediate care center, antibacterial ointment can help shield against infection when you administer it in a way that doesn’t interfere with adhesion (the tape or adhesive that holds a bandage in place).
These sponges are thicker than gauze sponges. The process to make them involves pressing fibers together, not weaving them, so they tend to leave less lint behind. They’re good for packing and protecting wounds.
Cotton Balls and Cotton-Tipped Applicators
Cotton balls and cotton-tipped applicators are useful for wetting with alcohol to clean wounds. Sterile cotton balls and applicators are also good for applying ointments and medications to wounds without directly touching wounds with one’s hands. The applicators can reach smaller areas where the skin is broken or torn.
Clean Water and Soap
While sterilizing the wounded area with an alcohol pad or sterile cotton ball is better for infection control, some wounds might need more extensive cleaning so that you can see what you’re dealing with. Rinsing a wound with clean water and cleaning the area with soap and water may be the first things you’ll need to do before you proceed to sterilize the area. Sterile saline solution is also useful for irrigating the wounded area to prepare it for bandaging.
Disposable Face Masks and Medical Drapes
Everyone is now familiar with personal protective equipment, “PPE.” Face masks are probably the most recognizable piece of PPE. They protect both the wounded person and the person administering first-aid from bacteria, viruses, and airborne germs. In addition to gloves, disposable face masks should be in your supply of wound care essentials. The things you need in an emergency to minimize the risk of infection will include both disposable masks and disposable medical drapes.
Medical drapes allow you to isolate a sterilized, wounded area to prevent infectious bacteria from entering while you’re dressing or treating the wound. Liquids won’t soak through medical drapes, and once you’ve properly bandaged a wound, you can dispose of the drape, preferably in a red biohazard bag. These bins indicate to trash collectors that bodily fluids may be present.
Pain Relief Medications
Over-the-counter pain relief medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen are a good addition to your emergency wound care supplies. These medicines reduce fever and inflammation.
Be aware, however, that due to pre-existing medical conditions, allergies, or interactions with other medications, some people shouldn’t take one or more of these medicines. Never give aspirin to anyone under 18 years of age due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome, a condition that causes brain and liver damage, coma, seizures, and sometimes death.
Read all the information included with the pain-relieving medication, paying special attention to warnings and restrictions. If the wounded person can’t tell you reliably whether they are allergic to these OTC drugs or take medicine that might interact with them, don’t administer them.
You can find wound care supplies online to create your stock of items you may need in an emergency. Depending on the size of your home or business, you may need a bigger supply or several first aid kits placed around the home or business facility.
Consider the size of your family, the number of employees you have, and the size of the buildings they spend most of their time in when ordering emergency supplies. Placing duplicate kits in different areas of the home or business is often beneficial because, in an emergency, some parts of your home or business may become inaccessible.
Even if you have all the necessary wound care supplies, you will still have to call for help in an emergency. Keep a charged power source for cell phones available or a solar-powered signaling device on hand. A whistle comes in handy to help rescuers (and rescue dogs) find you in a disaster.
Although everyone hopes they’ll never find themselves in a situation where they need to administer first aid, proper emergency preparation can ensure a better outcome if someone suffers a wound that needs immediate attention.