Is your Every Day Medical Kit Good-to-Go?

By Brandon Danks

In the medical field we often say “air goes in and out, blood goes round and round. Any variation of this is a problem”

With that in mind we need to prepare ourselves for the serious stuff, and I’m not talking plasters and upset stomachs here. I’m talking about an active shooter in the local mall. I’m talking about a hijacked tour bus in a foreign town. I’m really talking about the stuff that makes you think “shit, that will never happen to me.” Well folks, have you checked the news lately? It’s happening an awful lot.

Obviously we cannot all walk around with a large medical bag, so we need to focus on the basics, the necessities or the foundation of medical gear if you will. My opinion below is factored on the basis that hemorrhage is largely the main cause of combat fatalities.

You will notice that I do not include items like trauma scissors and space blankets – this is intentional. This list will be primarily for self-aid follwed by buddy aid as a last option. It is not a comprehensive kit.

These items can be listed as follows:

  • Tourniquet.
  • Gauze.
  • Compression bandage.
  • Gloves.

Thats it.

To briefly expand upon each item:

Tourniquet

There are many. Very many.
RAT/CAT/SOF T, etc. My personal choice is the CAT. This is a critical item, and it can stop massive bleeds. It is easy to apply and can also be applied one handed.

Gauze

Not all gauze is created equal. We have gauze sheets, gauze rolls, and the king of them all is hemostatic gauze. Traditionally the “S” or “Z” rolled gauze and gauze sheets have been used to pack wounds. However, where they suffer a critical breakdown is once they reach their saturated capacity they need to either be replaced or have further dressings placed over them. Where hemostatic gauze, when impregnated with with an agent like MCH such as quick clot combat gauze, not only slows the bleed, but also reacts with the blood to start the clotting cascade immediately. It does cost more, but who puts a price on life?

Compression bandage

There are again many! Such as Criti bands/ Israeli/Olaes/Blast, etc. The more common to SA would be the numbered field dressings or conforming bandages.

I prefer a bandage that has a “pad” on it,  as this assists with wound protection. However a good conforming bandage will work with gauze.

Gloves

Non powdered. Right size. Nitrile. Extended cuff if you can.

That is the absolute foundation of a kit. These items require minimal training to use effectively. Now, there are other items that can be beneficial such as chest seals. However, there is a bit of knowledge needed to identify the necessity of one. The above list is small because the more you add to it, the less likely you are to keep it on you. I always preach a tiered approach to all gear, with the thought that “one is none and two is one”, and you can have more comprehensive kits available to you. As an example, carry the above items on your person or in an EDC bag. Then duplicate them, and add a few more items to a bag that lives in your car or office. That way you have more options. If you are travelling, make sure each person has a kit and the knowledge to use it.

There are ready-made kits out there by good local companies such as TacQM and 480BC and Cerberus Tactical. They have the basics in them to get you started.

It is just as important to have sufficient training as it is to have quality gear. I cannot place enough emphasis on the importance of training. Remember that the goal of an IFAK is not to provide prolonged care, but rather to sustain life up until you can get the person the definitive care they require as quickly as possible.

A vehicle medical kit or office kit is slightly more advanced based purely on the fact it is not carried on your person. This allows a wider spectrum of kit to be packed into it, thus increasing the scope of what you can deal with.

Trauma is the primary concern, so immediately double the contents of your IFAK and add it to a pouch in the bag labeled “trauma” or whatever you like. Remember in high stress situations simplicity saves lives.

You can now explore other options like splints, different dressings, plasters, over-the-counter medications, a small head lamp, etc.

A lot of us carry E&E bags or get-home bags, so the idea of adding another bag to an already crowded boot often sounds like a chore. However, the bag need be no bigger than rugby ball if packed correctly.

You are preparing to render aid in an “immediate” capacity, not long term, thus you do not need to carry a mountain of gear with you.

It’s 2017 – decades of research has shown that tampons, sanitary pads, and nappies are no longer necessary. So don’t even pack them. Rather get purpose-designed gear that has the ability to increase survivability in traumatic situations.


Brandon has been putting plasters on boo-boos in a few exciting places around South Africa for well over a decade. He’s a gun-lovin’, knife-crazy big ol’ grumpy bastard, with a passion for providing the best level of medical care to anyone in need.

7 thoughts on “Is your Every Day Medical Kit Good-to-Go?

  1. Would you recommend something like Axiostat as a haemostatic gauze?
    And if so, which size? It’s pretty expensive, but it doesn’t help you buy the small 5cmx5cm and it’s not useful for a knife of bullet wound.

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    • Hi Herman.
      In the Eastern Cape and Western Cape I may steer you in the direction of ESS Medical. They are in Port Elizabeth. Francois may assist you if you are in anothet province.
      Please, it’s your choice whom you use.
      I’m available on WhatsApp on +971503350798 if you need to chat.

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  2. As a paramedic and instructor I urge anyone who owns a firearm to go for first aid traning. It has evolved over the years to much more than being a plaster master. You get different types of first aid training. I am not in SA but there are many good places to go for training. Go on the internet and research what training you need and where to get it. Most are valid for about two years.
    I agree with Brandon on the minimal equipment needed. Please don’t do stuff you saw on TV or heard about. Get the training.

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