Is it a first aid or a trauma kit? OR…..is it both?
First Aid is what is done immediately after recognition of a sudden illness or injury and can, indeed, be
lifesaving depending on what type of incident has occurred, the actions need to be taken and what
items are on hand. What we want to do is try to separate and clearly delineate what they are in our line
of work. Is minor, non-life threatening first aid warranted OR do we require more aggressive first aid
(trauma care) due to life-threatening trauma? As we say in our classes, the situation dictates the
Minor first aid are our “boo-boos”, while major first aid (trauma kit) is some type of injury which
requires immediate actions to be taken in order to preserve life. A minor first aid kit has more “comfort
care” items for situations that aren’t life-threatening. It is equipped for minor lacerations, abrasions,
minor burns, aches, pains, stings and other minor things. It typically isn’t equipped with any components
necessary to deal with massive trauma. So, we’re looking at adhesive bandages, small pieces of gauze,
over-the-counter pain meds, antiseptic wipes, sting wipes, burn gel and other items for life’s everyday
cuts and scrapes.
A very comprehensive first aid kit can have some life-saving components in it and that’s okay, but know
where they are, because in the first instance of trauma, it’ll become a “tactical yard sale” as all of the
“stuff” is being strewn in every direction while that “one” item is being sought out. The more “stuff” you
put into a first aid kit, the larger it becomes. The larger the kit becomes, the less likely you are to carry it.
That’s why we try to maintain a balance of compact sizing along with maximum efficacy. The smaller,
more compact and easier it is to carry, the more likely you are to carry it where it belongs; on your
A trauma kit has the basic necessities to help with the things that will kill us the quickest, the first being
massive life-threatening hemorrhage. At a bare minimum, you need to have a pair of gloves (non-latex
due to latex allergies) to protect you from body fluid-borne pathogens and a scientifically PROVEN
tourniquet, not the latest “cool guy” tourniquet or a frickin’ knock off from China. Next, you should have
some sort of hemostatic gauze like QuikClot Bleeding Control Dressing or a chitosan-based product like
ChitoGauze along with a pressure dressing to reinforce the hemostatic agent and hold it in place. Then,
add a pair of compact chest seals in there so that you have the ability to “stop the bleeding and start the
breathing”. Those are literally the basic foundations of a “trauma” kit.
What your first aid or trauma kit doesn’t need in them unless you are trained AND certified to use them:
Suture kits, chest decompression needles, surgical airway kits, chest tube kits, endotracheal tubes or any
other advanced, invasive procedure devices. Why? They are a HUGE liability and they take up valuable
space that could be occupied with more pertinent devices like tourniquets and hemostatic gauze. I’ve
yet to hear of a major trauma victim needing to be sewn up in the field at the site of the injury.
Any of the other stuff mentioned above, unless you’re an MD, NP or PA, stay away from it. It doesn’t
matter if you watched it on YouTube or took a TCCC class, unless you have those licenses you CANNOT
legally perform those procedures. Even if you’re a CCEMTP or Flight Paramedic, you can’t perform them
unless you’re under direct medical control.
Basically, know what’s in your kit, where it is and, most importantly, how to use it. Clear delineation of
your items (minor vs major) will greatly increase your chances of finding what you need should the
situation arise. Just because an advertised kit has “more stuff” in it most certainly doesn’t make it
better. In actuality, it can make things worse because chaos causes confusion and confusion causes
hesitation. Hesitation is something that is not conducive to life in a traumatic incident.
Furthermore, only place items in them with which you have been trained on or you are otherwise
certified/licensed to use. Stick to the basics of trauma management; “Stop the bleeding, start the
breathing, treat for shock.” and everything else will fall into place.
Get a kit. Get trained. Be the difference.
Y'all stay safe!