Features July 2014 Issue

Performing First-aid Feats When There is No Kit

By David Liscio

If you reach for the onboard first-aid kit and find out there isnít one, donít panic during an emergency. Some out-of-the-box thinking will help put the needed medical tools in your hands. The guiding rule to survival is to use whatís available and improvise.

If you reach for the onboard first-aid kit and find out there isnít one, donít panic during an emergency. Some out-of-the-box thinking will help put the needed medical tools in your hands.

The guiding rule to survival is to use whatís available and improvise.

  • Battens make ideal arm and leg splints.
  • A rolled magazine can become both a splint and temporary cast, particularly when fastened snuggly with duct tape.
  • Popsicle sticks make good finger splints.
  • A towel cut into a triangular shape is a sling.
  • Rolled towels can substitute for the foam blocks used to secure a patientís head to a long spine board before transfer to a stretcher and ambulance.
  • A belt is a tourniquet, as is a cloth sail tie or piece of webbing, both far better than twine or thin-diameter line that might cut into the skin when tightened. Be careful not to stop blood circulation completely or for longer than necessary.
  • An eye injury can be covered and protected with a paper cup. Duct tape can be used to keep the cup in place.
  • A baseball cap, the top material collapsed against the inside of the front insignia panel, can serve as a rudimentary cervical collar when tucked upside down beneath the chin. It can be fastened with duct tape or tied with a piece of fabric.
  • A sail, especially a clean one, provides a warm and comfortable wrap for patients suffering from hypothermia.
  • Aluminum foil works wonders when trying to keep a patient warm. It also can be used as a bandage cover.
  • Clear plastic wrap can cover a sucking chest wound. Tape it on three sides.
  • A clear plastic bag can shroud an injured hand or foot.
  • Fresh water sterilized by boiling can be used to flush wounds.
  • A turkey baster makes a wonderful syringe for irrigating a laceration.
  • Bunk sheets can be folded into compress bandages.
  • Napkins can be cut into small wound dressings similar to gauze pads.
  • A plastic credit card can be used to brush off a beeís stinger or nettles.
  • For sailors with emergency medical experience, a cockpit winch and a length of webbing can be carefully implemented as a mechanical traction device for femur fractures.
  • Sanitary napkins like Kotex make for absorbent wound dressings, while tampons can be used on nosebleeds or injuries with minor blood flow.
  • Tea bags will sop up blood in a mouth injury.
  • Fresh oranges can provide vitamin C. No glucose on board? Orange juice and sugar packets can assist in case of a diabetic reaction.
  • And last, but not least, rum can be both painkiller and anesthetic.

ó David Liscio, a Practical Sailor contributor, is a Massachusetts Emergency Medical Responder and certified Emergency Medical Technician.

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