First Aid - What to stock in your medical kit
Posted on 08 January 2009
Written by Dr. Michael Jacobs
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An exposed cotter pin puts a deep gash in your leg while you move to pick up a dock line. A crewmember spills boiling water on his hand when the boat rolls. A guest breaks his little toe on a deck cleat. Can you manage these problems?
For weekend or extended coastal cruising, the contents of your marine medical kit should enable the crew to initiate appropriate care for common medical problems encountered in the marine environment until professional care, if necessary, is available. If you are within 12 hours of medical care, as are most coastal cruisers, your requisite supplies are different than if you are headed to secluded harbors or offshore. The same medical problems may occur on a weekend cruise or weeklong trip; proximity to medical care is what determines how you stock your kit. The further you are from help, the larger the required inventory.
The goal is to increase self-reliance, prevent minor problems from becoming major ones, and avoid a high-risk medical evacuation for a low-risk medical problem. First-aid training or a wilderness/marine medicine course will increase your skill level and boost confidence. At a minimum, familiarize yourself with a good book on marine medicine and know how to use it.
It is useful to have a separate, easily accessible crew medical kit containing medications and supplies for managing common medical problems. Having a separate crew kit encourages early treatment and ensures that supplies in the ship’s primary medical kit are left intact, inventoried, organized and protected.
A partial list of the contents of the crew kit would include seasickness medications, sunscreen, lip balm (SPF 25), aloe vera gel (especially useful for sunburn), eyewash, vinegar or wipes for jellyfish stings, cortisone cream, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, and some other commonly used non-prescription medications, such as antihistamines, antacids, drugs for diarrhea or constipation, etc. Stock wound care materials for minor cuts and scrapes, including a variety of small waterproof adhesive bandages, antiseptic (BZK) wipes, and antibiotic ointment.
If any crewmember suffers from severe life-threatening anaphylactic reactions, be sure to stock some epinephrine auto-inject pens in the crew kit, and know how to use them. Items in the crew and ship’s main kit should be stored in labeled zipper freezer bags.