Day 22 – National Preparedness Month Challenge- Medical Supplies and Home Health Preparedness
I’m not a nurse, but I play one in real life. As a mom, I’m the first responder for every puke, cold, headache, boo-boo, and wound care. What I know and how I react can make a big difference to my little, trusting patients. It’s important to know how to use medical products when a problem arises.
However, even the world’s greatest doctors are useless if they don’t have the correct medical supplies. So today, we will focus our attention on stocking your medicine cabinet for home health and medical emergencies, big and small. This is more long-term storage and is geared more toward pandemics and shelter-in-place situations instead Of the more average portable variety discussed in Day 5 – First Aid Kit Inventory.
Medical Supplies Education and Training
Education and training on medical supplies and healthcare products are paramount in ensuring effective and efficient emergency response and healthcare delivery. These elements form the backbone of preparedness and can be critical in life-or-death situations.
First and foremost, education equips individuals with the knowledge required to identify and use medical supplies correctly. It empowers them to make informed decisions during emergencies, potentially saving lives. Training goes a step further by providing practical, hands-on experience in applying medical supplies in realistic scenarios. This not only builds confidence but also hones the skills necessary for effective intervention.
Additionally, education and training enhance the capacity of healthcare industry professionals, first responders, and ordinary citizens alike to collaborate seamlessly during crises. Whether it’s understanding the appropriate use of first aid materials or operating complex, durable medical equipment, the competence gained through education and training on medical supplies plays a pivotal role in mitigating harm, reducing suffering, and fostering resilience in the face of adversity. Ultimately, the knowledge and skills acquired can make the difference between chaos and coordinated, life-saving action during times of crisis.
More people will die from infection than from wounds after a disaster. Most of us keep rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide in our cabinets, but few of us know that there are better cleansers available.
- Chlorhexidine gluconate 4% – antiseptic OTC Hibiclens
These over-the-counter cleansers (found at most pharmacies) are used by medical professionals regularly and should be given a rightful place in our cabinets. They are mainly for cleaning wounds and killing the bacteria that often mutate along with the ones that cause the worst infections. Include cotton balls and Q-tips with your cleansers. Be sure they’re kept in air-tight containers or bags to keep them as sterile as possible.
Epsom salt is another must for your cabinet. This is a soaking agent that can help with infections and sprains.
Last fall, my daughter had a really bad cold, and like any well-meaning mother, I gave her the usual cold medicine. Then I realized she had a fever – of 103’! I had given her a combination of cold medicine, with Tylenol in it, which isn’t enough to reduce a fever. And I couldn’t give her any more Tylenol without putting her at serious risk. What did the doctor at the ER tell me when I couldn’t break her fever – NEVER use medicine for multiple symptoms. ALWAYS treat each symptom individually. This also prevents giving your body medicine that it doesn’t really need, which isn’t good for it anyhow. So, what are the essential medicines for your cabinet? Be sure to have resources for adult, children, and infant varieties as needed for your family (or neighborhood). Remember, proper dosing is just as important as what you take!
- Ibuprofen (Motrin) – Anti-inflammatory – best for pain and swelling.
- Tylenol (acetaminophen)– best for fever
- These two work best together, especially for fevers, as a fever involves both pain and swelling. Alternating doses between the two will have the maximum benefit.
- Benadryl (Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride) – the go-to for allergic reactions of all kinds, from hay fever to stings and food. It can also be used to help with headaches and migraines. As an antihistamine, it also helps to dry out mucus when used for colds.
- Pseudoephedrine Hydrochloride (Sudafed) – (Phenylephrine HCI in states where the original is only available by prescription) Nose and sinus issues. Dust and debris from a disaster will increase the risk of sinus problems, so have some on hand.
- Vicks Vapor Rub – it’s best to avoid medication if you can help it, and this will give the best relief possible for a cold while your body fights it off.
- Imodium A-D – diarrhea is a common symptom of trauma and stress. Also, a buddy of unclean water and food, which will be more likely after a disaster
- Tums/Rolaids – these are good for stomach and heartburn issues, and the calcium in Tums can replace milk consumption, and the magnesium can help with muscle cramps.
- Miralax – laxative for constipation (stomach issues are a part of stress and trauma and a common side effect when you’re uncomfortable using “primitive” bathroom facilities)
- Guaifenesin (Mucinex) – Expectorant – for coughs and mucus – this is the best in preventing pneumonia.
- Old meds and prescriptions – keep on hand for emergencies; even if they lose their potency, something is better than nothing, especially for antibiotics and those medications that can be life-sustaining for chronic conditions. Even if you don’t use them, someone else may need them. Check prescriptions for expirations and special instructions, and keep them with the bottle.
- Over-the-counter pink-eye and ear infection drops – these are often linked to sinus issues, so you should treat for both. As long as the infected area isn’t touched, the medicine is still good.
- Antifungal – Tinactin (Tolnaftate) – a good multiuse antifungal (if prone to yeast infections, keep Monistat on hand)
- Alka Seltzer – good for stomach issues and colds
- Hydrocortisone cream 1% – great for pretty much everything
A good rule of thumb for any medicines that you add to your cabinet is how many uses it has. The more you can use it to treat different ailments, the better. It saves space and money. Since cold and flu season is coming, keep a tally of how much medicine you go through so you know how much you need to have on hand for an emergency.
Storing Medications Safely
Storing medications safely at home is crucial to maintain their effectiveness and prevent potential harm. Here are some guidelines to address common questions about proper medication storage:
- Temperature Considerations:
- Store medications in a cool, dry place. Avoid exposing them to extreme temperatures, as heat and humidity can degrade the effectiveness of many medications. The bathroom is generally not an ideal location due to high humidity.
- Keep medications out of reach and sight of children. Use childproof containers and store medications in a locked cabinet or drawer. Child-resistant packaging is designed to make it challenging for young children to open, but it doesn’t guarantee childproofing.
- Avoid Sunlight Exposure:
- Some medications are sensitive to light. Keep them in their original containers, and store them away from direct sunlight. Translucent or amber-colored containers can also help protect medications from light exposure.
- Check Expiry Dates:
- Regularly check the expiration dates on medications. Discard any expired or unused medications to ensure you are using only those that are safe and effective.
- Proper Container Sealing:
- Close medication containers tightly after each use. Ensure that caps are securely sealed to prevent air and moisture from affecting the medication.
- Separate Medications:
- Keep different medications separate to avoid mix-ups. Use individual containers or compartments to organize and store medications.
- Refrigeration When Necessary:
- Some medications, such as certain antibiotics or liquid suspensions, may require refrigeration. Always follow the specific storage instructions provided by your healthcare provider or pharmacist.
- Avoid Pill Organizers for Certain Medications:
- Some medications, especially those in the form of capsules or gel caps, may be affected by exposure to air and humidity. Avoid using pill organizers for these medications and keep them in their original packaging.
- Store According to Medication Type:
- Store medications separately based on type (e.g., prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins) to prevent accidental misuse.
- Secure Opioids and Controlled Substances:
- If you have prescription medications such as opioids or other controlled substances, take extra precautions to secure them. Consider using a lockbox or safe.
If you have specific concerns or questions about the storage of a particular medication, consult with your healthcare provider or pharmacist. They can provide guidance based on the characteristics of the medication and your specific health needs. Always follow any storage instructions provided on the medication’s packaging or by your healthcare professional.
Keep Your Supplies Well Stocked
We’re all hopefully pretty good at keeping the accessories well-stocked, particularly band-aids (unless you have kids). But there are still plenty of other medical supplies that you need outside of the good old band-aid.
- Oral gel
- Lidocaine spray (best)
- Duct tape – when used with cotton balls, it’s an instant band-aid
- Super glue/liquid band-aid – good for deep cuts and heaving bleeding in an emergency
- Bacitracin – is now preferred over Neosporin by most doctors
- Vitamin E oil – great for burns and stings (use like hydrocortisone cream)
- Pedialyte and Gatorade – dehydration due to stomach issues or heat issues are the biggest ailments in ER and after disasters. These are the most important tools for rehydration.
- Clean water – even if you have some stored for drinking and such, have some that stay with your first aid supplies so you know it’s clean and available.
- Bag balm – used for re-hydrating skin and sealing cracks to prevent infection
- Cough drops and throat lozenges – my favorite is the Fisherman’s Friend; it’s strong but works great. But keep some halls on hand, too.
- Airborne/Emergen-C – these do help keep colds and sickness to a minimum in duration, frequency, and severity.
- Band-aids– regular no ointment added, be sure latex sensitivities are taken into account
- Ace bandage
- Masks – N95 (best for air quality issues) – be sure the mask fits
- Test masks by having someone spray perfume close by; if you can taste or smell it, then the mask is not fitting properly, and the particles are still getting in.
- Non-latex gloves
- Lots of gauze
- Needle and thread – and a strong stomach if you have to do stitches yourself
- Butterfly bandages – best for cuts that should or could be stitched. When used with superglue, they can substitute for stitches.
- Candy – soothe patients, help for diabetics, peppermint for upset stomach, chocolate for minor headaches
- Vinegar – for sunburns and vaginitis (use in for sitz baths)
- Stickers – for kids to help calm them, just like the doctor’s office
- Popsicle sticks – splints, tongue depressors, etc.
- Saline solution – (contacts works) for flushing sinuses and eyes
- Sinus flushing kits – hospitals give these to their employees!
- Scrap fabric – making extra bandages, slings, etc
- Scissors – sharp! Think fabric scissors; these can be for cutting bandages or double as a knife.
- Lighter or matches – sterilizing type of equipment
- Small flashlight – for looking in throats and eyes (pay attention the next time you go in for a doctor’s visit and pick their brain for what to look for)
- Aloe – keep a plant growing in your home for ready-use
Please feel free to comment on any high-quality home remedies and medical supplies that have become a permanent part of your medicine cabinet.
- Garlic oil capsule – a natural antibiotic; I use this for ear infections as soon as there’s any discomfort, and our family has rarely had to use antibiotics to treat an ear infection.
- Cranberry pills – if prone to urinary tract and yeast infections
- Herbal teas
- Black tea – brew and use tea to draw out heat from sunburns (not as a drink)
- Chamomile tea – cold and flu
- Lemon tea – sore throats, if used with honey, helps coat the throat for greater comfort
- Peppermint or ginger tea – for stomach issues
Not everything will fit in one cabinet, but everything should be in your house and accessible. Remember, child safety is important when putting things away. Put as many barriers as possible between curious hands and your medicines. Lastly, keep your medical reference folder close to your medical supplies.
Today’s Challenge: Stock your medical supplies cabinet
Good: Print off the charts and information for a handy reference folder. Make a list of your family’s medical tendencies and conditions so you can stock accordingly.
Better: inventory your cabinet of supplies and figure out what you need to improve your mini-hospital. Ask your doctor or advice nurse what you can keep on hand for those issues your family is more prone to. Add these to your list of supplies and your cabinet.
Best: Get everything together and in order for a fully stocked medicine cabinet ready for any emergency.
In conclusion, obtaining the highest quality of medical supplies and home health preparedness cannot be overstated, especially in light of the challenges and uncertainties we face in our rapidly changing world. Whether it’s a global pandemic, a natural disaster, or a personal health emergency, having a well-stocked and well-prepared home health kit can make all the difference in ensuring the well-being and survival of ourselves and our loved ones.
Moreover, we must remember that preparedness is not solely about the physical supplies; it also involves knowledge and training. Acquiring basic first aid and medical skills is a vital part of home health preparedness. Knowing how to use the supplies and personal protective equipment in your kit can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency.
In today’s unpredictable world, the adage “hope for the best but prepare for the worst” holds more significance than ever. By heeding the lessons and recommendations outlined in this article, we can take proactive steps to ensure our own health and safety and that of our families. Being prepared is not just a matter of being ready for the worst-case scenario but also a way to gain peace of mind, knowing that we have done everything in our power to safeguard our well-being and that of those we are caregivers for.
Check out this medical supply store to restock your medical cabinet!