How to prepare for a home emergency

January 24, 2009 5:50:30 AM PST
Andrew Yacht, Vice Chair of Medicine at Maimonides Medical Center, offered tips.

Q: If you don't have a first aid kit at home, what's the easiest way to put one together?

A: Go to your local chain drugstore and purchase a standard first aid kit. You can supplement them with some of the items we've discussed today. Also, check with your doctor to see if there's anything you need that is specific to your health situation - i.e. if you have a chronic illness.

Key Items to Include in a Home First Aid Kit:

Band-Aids of various sizes
Gauze pads for cleaning wounds
Dressing bandages for wounds and cuts
Medical tape
Cotton balls
Hydrogen peroxide for cleaning skin wounds
Ace bandage for wrapping sprains
Ice and cold packs
Oral thermometer for adults, rectal thermometer for young kids
Tweezers for removing splinters
Antibiotic ointment for cuts and scrapes of the skin
Steroid ointment for poison ivy and itchy skin
Medicated sunburn spray or cream; aloe
Calamine lotion for bug bites

Key Medications That Should Always Be in Your Medicine Cabinet:

Tylenol (Acetaminophen) - pain and fever reducer
Advil (Ibuprophen) - anti-inflammatory for pain, swelling, and fever
Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) - antihistamine for allergic reactions, itching, and runny nose)
Sudafed - a decongestant for stuffy nose (or decongestant nose drops)
Cough suppressant
Anti-diarrheal (Pepto Bismol, etc.)
Aspirin - to chew on in case of a possible heart attack
Throat lozenges for adults
Children's Tylenol or Motrin for kids
Maalox or Mylanta for indigestion

Q: It's important to remember that illnesses and accidents can happen away from home, and that you need to be prepared for that scenario, isn't it?

A: Yes. You should have a basic first aid kit in the trunk of your car. You should also create a travel first aid kit to take along - whether you're traveling alone or with your family. And bring a long a list of any prescription medications you and your family regularly take. Always bring more doses than you need, just in case your trip is longer than expected.

Q: How important is it to check your supplies periodically to make sure medications haven't expired?

A: It's critical. Think of it as something you should check on a couple of times a year, much the same as you'd check and replace batteries in smoke and CO2 detectors. Also, it's important to discard, in a safe way, any medications that are either expired or that you are no longer using - specifically, prescription meds. You don't want those falling into the wrong hands.

Q: What are the most common household dangers?

A: Fires, falls and drowning are common household dangers

Steps to Avoid Household Dangers

Follow all basic fire and water safety tips

Poisoning - keep all chemicals - including detergents, cleaners and medications --out of the each of children and, preferably, locked away.

Make sure window guards are installed if you have small children in an apartment.

Children can drown in toilets (use locks) and bathtubs with very little water in them (never leave children unattended when there is water in the tub)

Have any cracking or peeling paint fixed immediately.

Your hot water heater should be set to a maximum of 120 degrees F to prevent scalding.

Follow other basic safety measures when there are young children in the house - electrical outlet caps, safety straps to secure large bookshelves and dressers to walls, locked fences around pools, etc.