Disaster Bag First-Aid Essentials

Disaster Bag First-Aid Essentials

My first-aid kit is a little red bin full of odds and ends, tucked away in between the towels and sheets in our bathroom. There are leftover and dwindling supplies from my military days, many random cartoon-covered Band-Aids, and a handful of OTC meds. Nothing is organized. Nothing is inventoried. All of which might come as a bit of a surprise, considering I’m an ER doctor.

But I’m also a busy mother. Fifteen years ago, as a flight surgeon in the United States Air Force, I carried around a huge military backpack chock full of supplies for almost any minor emergency. I had gauze, suture kits, IV tubing and saline, SAM splints, ACE bandages, and a whole mini-pharmacy supply of medications. I would meticulously inventory all my supplies prior to each deployment and restock as necessary. This pack weighed close to 40 pounds, and lugging it back and forth between my clinic and my room was no easy task, especially considering I would rarely use more than five to ten percent of my supplies during a mission.

When I was asked to consult on the first-aid section of the LadyBugOut bag, our goal was to find a happy medium between these two approaches. We aimed to include supplies that were the most useful, least bulky, and easiest to use and maintain as possible, while also being child-centric—items that would make kids feel safe, and that they could learn to use themselves.

But another key consideration were the real-world experiences of parenting. As I worked with the LadyBugOut team, we shared stories of our own children’s mishaps, including trips, falls, cuts, scrapes, sunburns, allergic reactions, near-choking incidents, fevers, and trips to the ER. We discussed our own reactions to those events, what we used to treat our kids, and if a visit to the doctor or ER was involved. From that perspective, we narrowed our list down to the essential items that are currently in your bag:

  • Emergency ID bracelet - This is one of the most important items in the bag, as it ensures that your child can be identified and reunified with you.
  • First aid kit for kids
  • Sunscreen
  • Hand sanitizing spray
  • Bandana -  Also referred to as a “cravat” in the military, is a versatile tool that can be used for broken bones or a sling (see first aid 101), or to shield from sun, or play with.  
  • Instant hand warmers
  • Cold pack

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that every kid is different and so are their needs. Thus, this section, just like the others, is meant to be customized so each family can add necessary supplies as they see fit.

In an emergency such as an earthquake, wildfire, or hurricane, access to a medical professional or supply stores may be limited or altogether unavailable. Our first-aid pocket, along with some basic instructions, can enable medical care to start immediately, until further help is available.

Here are some of the most important questions to ask yourself when you are customizing your child’s first-aid section of the LadyBugOut bag:

Does my child have any special medical needs?
Consider including medical information cards and instructions. This form was developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and American College of Emergency Physicians and is a great resource.

Does my child take any prescription medications?
Consider including at least a 72-hour supply of medications. It is safest to use child-proof containers such as original prescription bottles. Include instructions on how and when to administer medications.

Does my child use any specialized medical equipment or devices, such as glasses, hearing aids, insulin syringes, insulin pump, asthma inhaler or catheters?
Consider including replacement batteries, as well as instructions on how to safely use devices.

Does my child have any allergies?
Clearly list any drug and/or food allergies on your child’s emergency ID bracelet. Consider adding medication for allergic reactions, such as Benadryl, to your child’s bag. If necessary, add an Epi-pen if your child has a history of anaphylaxis, and be sure to include the instruction card on how to administer it.

Lastly, make sure you sit down with your child and talk about each item in their first-aid section and what it is used for. Check to make sure they know where their emergency ID bracelet is and how to wear it; in the event of an emergency or separation, they can simply point to it when asked any questions regarding how to get in touch with parents, or if they have any special medical needs.