December is usually a special time of the year. As South Africans, we generally take a well-earned break and head off for some quality family time. The sunshine, outdoor activities and break from routine are better for our health than any doctor’s prescription. That is, provided the kids are healthy or that we have what we need by way of an emergency kit if things go wrong.
It is a common question: Doc, what should I take with us, just in case…? Nothing kills the joy of a family holiday faster than a sick or injured child. It is so stressful to be in a remote place without your normal support structures close at hand.
What I would strongly suggest is that you pack your first aid kit before you worry about your toothbrush! That way you will have what you need to deal with an immediate crisis while you find medical assistance close to your holiday spot.
“While none of us want to think about things going wrong on holiday, it is my experience that many families do have a crisis of some kind when they are far from home.”
So, here’s what I would suggest to my patients.
In your emergency box there should be:
- Paracetamol for fever and pain. Be sure to give the correct dose for your child’s weight. This is very important if you want to control a fever.
- Rehydration solution. This is given to a child with vomiting and diarrhoea. It is generally in a sachet form and should be mixed in 250ml cooled boiled water. Your child needs about 50ml per loose stool or vomit. Give it in tiny sips to avoid this being vomited up as well.
- Anti-nausea medication. Make sure the medication is safe for the age group of your child.
- Oral anti-histamine. This is given in case of an allergic reaction.
- Eye drops
- Decongestant nose spray
- Anti-inflammatory – this is given only in the event that paracetamol is not controlling a fever. It should only be given every 8 hours and in the correct dose.
- Cream for stings and bites
- Insect repellent if you are going to a malaria area
- Cling wrap (small one about 20cm in size) is very handy if you need to keep a wound dry. You could put it over a bandage.
- Jelonet gauze/Cuticell
- Cohesive bandages. This bandage sticks to itself so that you don’t need safety pins.
- Melladerm Gel. This is a honey-based gel and is wonderful for wounds.
- Micropore 12mm and 48mm used to stick gauze into place.
- Talfa (this is a pressed gauze with holes in it to put your gel onto and is great for fast healing).
- Plasters with “silver” in them aid with healing. They should have a broad sticky area so that they stay in place.
**** Please check the expiry dates on all your products.
**** Always wash your hands before you start dealing with a patient.
Some simple first aid rules
- Make sure that you are giving the correct dose of medicine.
- Clean wounds with saline and gauze. Use a rolling movement to clean.
- Avoid using waterproof plasters, which can make a wound sweaty. This will encourage bugs to grow.
- If your child gets burnt, run cold water over the burn for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not clean a burn unless it has ash in it. Do not pop blisters!
- For stings, remove the sting with a credit card, butter knife, tweezers or your nail. Avoid taking it out by pinching your fingers together. You are likely to squeeze more of the venom out when doing so.
- If you find a tick on your child, do not simply pull it off. You are likely to leave the head behind. Cover the tick with Vaseline or Vicks. This ointment will smother the tick and cause it to withdraw fully from the skin.
- A high-factor sun cream is vital at this time of year. Remember to put sun cream behind your child’s ears. We usually turn our faces away from the sun so the little ears take a pounding.
- If you are in a remote area, drink bottled water or water that has been boiled. Tummy upsets often arise from a change in water quality.
- Make sure that your child takes malaria preventative medication if you are going into a malaria area. Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn, so ensure your child has long sleeves and trousers on during these times. Use an insect repellent on the skin.
- Carry your medical aid card with you and ensure you have the contact numbers of family or friends who can be contacted in case of an emergency.
- Keep your emergency box out of direct sunlight. Heat may affect some medicines.
While none of us wants to think about things going wrong on holiday, it is my experience that many families do have a crisis of some kind when they are far from home. Knowing what to do in case of an emergency goes a long way to easing the stress.
I would suggest that you also get the contact details for the local doctor, hospital and pharmacy in the area you are travelling to. Take time to rest, do things that the family loves doing but perhaps avoid situations which are completely unfamiliar if you are in a remote place. Have some summer lovin’, and enjoy the break.