Offshore First Aid Kits
The farther offshore you go and the longer you'll be gone the more prepared and self-sufficient you'll need to be. An offshore first aid kit meant for an ocean voyage will be so much bigger and more sophisticated as to have become almost unrecognizable. While many of these first aid kit contents will be familiar, the humble kit has now morphed into a full-fledged professional medical kit.
These kits are not something you can get here or anywhere else--at least, not completely stocked with everything you'll eventually need to take. That's because in addition to things like cardiac and IV equipment, scalpels, and the like, before leaving for a long voyage a doctor will prescribe certain medications for the medical kit like antibiotics, pain relief, etc. that can be administered for severe or life-threatening illness or injuries. However, that professional doctor-assisted medical kit has to start somewhere more basic, like the Adventure Medical Marine Kit from Tender Corporation.
This type of thing is the big leagues where at least one member of the crew (hopefully more) gets advanced medical training from a medical company that specializes in teaching them how to care for patients in an environment that is constantly moving, damp, cramped, and poorly lit. Many of these companies have a medic who will act as an onshore consultant during the voyage and in the event of injury or illness, the onboard medic can communicate with them via satcom and send photos. The onshore medic can then give instructions.
Another thing to keep in mind is, no longer will the captain and crew be working from a simple first aid book--as the marine first aid kit morphed into a professional medical kit, so the first aid book morphed into a medical manual. And in the case of long sea cruises, the onshore medic should have a copy of the same medical manual you'll be using, so you'll all be on the same page, so to speak. He or she will also need the details of you and your crew and any known medical conditions and an inventory of your medical kit.
You and Your Marine First Aid Kit Could Save a Life
It may sound tiresome and cliché to go through life hearing (and reading) admonitions about how "...this or that could save a life!" [rolls eyes] But really, no one is trying to bore the boating community to the point of choosing betwixt the devil and the deep blue sea, or alarm folks to the point of enrolling in medical school. Or even medic school. Okay, maybe a basic First Aid course.
But seriously, being prepared for emergencies costs little in time and money when compared with the greatest savings of all that so often come from being prepared--that of saving a life.
Being prepared for an emergency goes a long way in determining the outcome. Part of this preparation is having a simple plan. Then the preparedness is broadened in the hopes we never put it to the test. A high priority consideration for any boating is a boat first aid kit. Marine first aid kits are typically put together for the marine environment where medical assistance is not easily or readily available. An alternate consideration is vessel integrity and mechanical safety such as bilge pumps, fire extinguishers etc. An added part of the emergency plan encompasses vessel identification. This is how we can call for assistance if required and how we aid the rescuers in locating the vessel. All the while not to forget the importance of items such as life preservers, throw lines and man overboard poles that are essential in any boating activity .
First Aid Kits
A basic boat first aid kit such as the one from SeaChoice® contains first aid supplies for the treatment of fainting, dizziness, lightheadedness, a minor cut, a prick from a fish hook or a jab from a fish spine. The kit also contains some non-aspirin tablets for a headache. These types of First Aid Kits do not provide sufficient resources where medical assistance is not readily available. A larger and more diversely stocked boat first aid kit should accompany any overnight or weekend cruise with the family. These often come with placards or instruction providing additional medical guidance. A good example of such a first aid kit is the Marine 600 Version 2, First Aid Kit from Tender, a 300 or 400 series from the “Tender Corporation®”, or the Fish N Ski First Aid Kit from Orion®. Comprehensive type first aid kits provide a large selection of supplies and are tailored for conditions where medical assistance could be hours or days away and also are supplied with first aid contents for more serious injury. The larger kits offer the advantage of more quantities of supplies ensuring that first aid assistance is capable of being rendered for a longer duration. Providers of comprehensive marine first aid kits are Orion, and the “Tender Corporation®”.
Most sailors and vessels have electronic equipment aboard to readily call for assistance. Then comes the task of displaying the vessels location which is easier said than done. There are a number of products available to aid with this, such as a distress flag, the trusty mirror, and flares of different kinds from manufacturers such as Orion® or electronics such as an epirb or electric signaling light from ACR®.
On Board Rescue
A man overboard situation is often not a topic of discussion yet is more frequent that realized and can happen in a blink of an eye such as when losing one’s step when stepping aboard or leaning over the side to retrieve a prized catch. Preparation for this type of emergency is not complicated and some components are a Coast Guard requirement. A floating throwable device rated for the type of vessel and a throw line might be all that is required yet there could be no harm in adding to this to suit one’s boating style, activities or habits like adding a floatation device for a pet. If a man overboard or another type of onboard emergency should ever occur it will certainly be accompanied by the need for some medical attention and a reach for the onboard first aid kit.
Boat First Aid Kit
Being prepared for an emergency while boating goes a long way in determining the outcome. Part of this preparation is having a simple plan, and one of the most important tools you can have to help put your plan into action if need be is a well-stocked boat first aid kit. And of course, while you needn't be a medical professional, it is vital to know at least the basics of first aid and how to use that kit.
A boat first aid kit is typically put together for the marine environment where medical assistance is not easily or readily available. Many medical professionals with boating knowledge recommend that one of the larger marine first aid kits be purchased, and then other items added to it to personalize it depending on the needs of you and your crew or family. You also need to take into account the type of boating you do.
Some folks who boat only in small lakes and inlets where they are never more than a few minutes from shore or from help would disagree and prefer a simpler first aid kit. Orion Safety Products makes, among many other things, first aid kits ranging from small and simple to huge and professional. On the smaller end of the spectrum, these boaters might like the Orion Weekender kit or the Orion Cruiser first aid kit; regardless of what kit, every boat from a canoe or kayak to a ship needs to have first aid available.
Think about the places you usually go. Do you anchor out and if so, does anyone swim? Do you use towables, or does anyone waterski? Where do you like to anchor or tie up at night--in small towns or big cities? In rural areas, or at tiny hidden islands? Do you camp, fish, paddle board, hunt, or hike?
The answers to these and other questions about how you'll be boating, where you'll be going, how far, how long, what you'll be doing, and more, will largely determine the extra contents of your boat first aid kit. Of course, who will be going is equally as important. For example, many people have allergies to certain foods or animal venoms, like bee, wasp, or jellyfish stings.
And some folks are allergic to acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin, so hopefully you have all three in your kit as rarely would anyone be allergic to all of them. You should know before heading out if anyone onboard has an allergy that could potentially be life-threatening because if so, at least one person onboard needs to be able to access and use an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) in case one is needed.
First aid kit contents vary, and no one kit has everything because it's impossible to know exactly what each person, family, or crew will need. But it's always a good idea to personalize your kit according to your needs. To get you started, here is a list of some essential items a basic marine first aid kit should contain.
- First-Aid Book — an absolute essential. Read it before you leave the dock.
- Aspirin — pain relief, or for suspected heart attack
- Ibuprofen — pain relief, anti-inflammatory
- Acetaminophen — pain reliever for those who can't take aspirin or ibuprofen
- Large Adhesive Pads — for large cuts and wounds
- Elastic Bandages — give protection and support to injuries
- Sterile Absorbent Pads — cover wounds and abrasions
- Fabric Tape — to hold dressings and bandages in place
- SAM Splint — to immobilize a suspected fractured limb
- Triangular Bandage — to support and immobilize an injured elbow or shoulder
- Scissors — to cut bandages, surgical tape, and clothing away from a wound. Get the trauma shears--the ones with the bent, blunt-edge design for safely cutting.
- Safety Pins — to hold bandages or slings in place
- Tweezers — to remove ticks, splinters, and other small foreign bodies embedded in the skin. For ticks, use special tick-removing tweezers or the type with the long, pointed ends, and refer to your first aid manual before removing a tick, as doing it wrong will make things much worse.
- Syringe (no needle) — to fill with saline. Flush dirt from wounds, fill for use as an eye wash, etc.
- Saline Solution — to flush wounds prior to applying bandages
- Adhesive Bandages — keep a selection from small to large. include round ones, and butterfly bandages to effectively close a deeper cut
- Rolled Gauze — to cover wounds where an adhesive bandage is too small or extra absorbency is required
- Disposable Gloves — should be a no-brainer. Use nitrile gloves, as some people are allergic to latex.
- Instant Cold Pack — for minor burns and swelling from sprains and strains
- Foil Space Blanket — for treating shock; helps retain body heat
- Burn Cream — treats sunburn or galley burns, although a serious should be treated as a medical emergency
- Eye Wash — for flushing chemicals, fuel, dirt, and grit out of the eye. Can also be helpful for those with pollen allergies.
- Individually Wrapped Common Medications — for treating stings, seasickness, diarrhea, etc.
- Alcohol Wipes — to sterilize hands, clean scissors or tweezers before and after use; to clean a wound
- Cotton Swabs — to clean small/delicate areas before applying a dressing
- Antiseptic / Antibiotic Ointment or Spray — for minor scrapes and abrasions to prevent infection
- Storage Container — The best ones are brightly colored, waterproof, and float, as well as keeping things organized and easily accessible.