First Aid Kit
A First Aid Kit can be anything from a packet of plasters to a paramedics resuscitation bag. What we are talking about here is the sort of small individual kit every soldier should carry, in order to self-treat minor medical problems that might otherwise lead to them becoming combat ineffective or a more serious casualty - the medical chain has enough problems without being clogged up with diarrhoea cases and infected blisters.
Issue personal first aid kits do exist, but they tend to contain controlled drugs which means they are only issued on operations, usually in the tropics. Every soldier is issued a basic trauma management kit on operations, comprising 2x FFD, 1 or 2 morphine autojects and an Asherman chest seal; all of which is great if you get shot, but sod-all use if your piles are giving you gyp.
You need to put together your own first aid kit yourself; and recruits are normally despatched into town on their first weekend in training to purchase the makings thereof. Sadly, they normally return with either a Boots travel first aid kit (in a fetching little bag, but containing spaff-all of any value), or family sized bottles of pills and sterile dressings which wont fit in anything smaller than a bergen and rattle like a mobile chemists.
Recommended contents for a personal first aid kit are given below. Obviously you can add or delete items as required; and don't forget there is nothing stopping you having a small first aid kit in your belt order and a more swept-up version in your bergen, for the full-on health spa experience in your shell scrape.
- Plaster Strip. Zinc tape is ideal, and is the best treatment and prevention for blisters. Otherwise a broad strip of plaster tape with padding down the middle will do fine. Strips of tape are more versatile and useful than individual plasters.
- Antiseptic Cream. It sounds gay, but it's worth having, particularly when the end of your knob starts going a bit funny after it's slipped out of your trollys and rubbed against your fly zip for the last 8 kms while you were too busy carrying an SF tripod to notice. Get one with local anaesthetic. (Brand name: Germolene or Sudocrem)
- Petroleum Jelly. A universal cure for chafing, rubbing and sores. Particularly valuable when you finally cut yourself free from your exercise pants with another week in the field left to go. And you never know. 3 Paras Mortar Platoon are out there, somewhere. (Brand name: Vaseline).
- Haemorrhoid Cream. You may not have piles yet, but you will. You do not know what hell is until they flare up, just as you step off on an advance to contact on a red-hot summers day. Be prepared, with Preparation H. (Brand name: Anusol / Preparation H).
- Ibuprofen. You could also carry Aspirin and Paracetamol, but Ibuprofen is the must-have pain killer because it is anti-inflammatory. Get the strongest you can usually 200 mg. (Brand name: generic supermarket stuff, or Brufen (AKA Army Smarties) from the med centre).
- Loperamide Hydrochloride Tablets. The active ingredient of Imodium, which costs half as much and works just as well and stops you shitting yourself, dead. If you have nothing else in your first aid kit, have this. (Brand name: Imodium, but buy generic).
- Antihistamine Tablets. Even if you don't suffer from hay fever these can be handy for easing the pain of bites, stings, sores etc. They can also help you get to sleep. (Brand name: Triludan, Piriton). When you're confronted with CS gas during an NBC drill, these tablets also help taking the sting out of the teargas.
- Suture Strips. Getting a little beyond trivial first aid; but they take up no room and weigh nothing, so why not?
- Safety Pins. Always handy. You could include a needle and thread as well, to make a combined first aid and sewing kit.
- Tweezers. The Swiss Army Knife ones are small and very good at getting out splinters, so ideal. Can be had off any Victorinox authorised supplier without buying the knife.
- Scalpel Blade. You're not going to do surgery with this, but if you get a deeply embedded blackthorn or splinter you'll need something sterile and sharp to go after it. Get them from arts supply shops; choose the pointy variety.
- Condoms. Unless you're a PONTI or an OTC PSI you are highly unlikely to get a shag whilst in green, but better safe than sorry. SDIs make you a casualty, HIV can make you a fatality.
There are plenty of other things you could include, like oral rehydrant powder, caffeine pills (maybe not first aid but, hey, drugs are medicine), a small pair of scissors (as long as you're not planning to fly anywhere), nail clippers, antiseptic wipes etc. don't overdo it, though: remember, you are not trying to put the AMS out of business and you've got to carry all this crap somewhere.
Hints and Tips
- Don't Buy Ready Made First Aid Kits. They come in a dinky little pouch and tick the box for kit inspections at the ATR, but having 15 assorted "sterile dressings" (whatever the hell they are) and a tube of Savlon in a gucci package will not help you in the field.
- Buy Generic. Supermarket versions of branded medicines are half the price or less. Check the branded medicines for their active ingredient and dose level, then buy the Asda version, which will have exactly the same medicine, just in a slightly naffer packet.
- Expiry Dates. Write expiry dates on packs of pills. You'll ignore them, obviously, but at least you'll know.
- Labelling. While you're at it, write what the bloody things are on there as well. You'll thank me for it when you're in a dripping forestry block with a splitting headache and constipation, wondering whether you've just taken Ibuprofen or Imodium.
- Packaging. One pocket cut from a 5.56mm bandolier is a good sized container for a personal first aid kit. Waterproof the contents in a plastic bag then slip it inside the bandolier pouch. Keep Vaseline etc. in small containers (the plastic plug-type ear defender packets are good) and squeeze stuff out of tubes to shorten them if you need to to fit them in.
- Personal Touch. The list above is generic and suits me, you will have other priorities so modify accordingly. For example, female soldiers may wish to include tampons in their first aid kit.
- Don't Go Mad. Remember, this is first aid of the "ouch I've cut my thumb" variety, not the "fuck me, my legs been blown off" type. For the latter, see your team medic or call the IRT.