Most sports people and regular travelers carry some form of first aid kit with them. This usually comprises favorite illness or injury treatment items, and may even be one of those conveniently available commercial first aid kits. I believe that you can get more value and use out of a just-in-case-because-you-never-know-when-you-might-need-it standby-first-aid-kit if you prepare this yourself. And here are some guidelines to get you started in building your very own sports first aid kit.
There are 2 essential considerations for your personal first aid kit: what you think you may need to treat, and what you feel you are capable of using to provide your own self-treatment. In addition to this, needs differ according to your activity: the needs of the weekend warrior soccer player are going to be different from the adventure racer who travels overseas to take part in wild terrain competitions. So let’s take a common ground approach and set up a sports pharmacy first aid kit that allows you to take care of bothersome minor illnesses (headaches, diarrhoea, etc) as well as little cuts, grazes or sprains that may not need the attention of a doctor. And let’s make sure that it is all packed in a small convenient container to make it packing-friendly!
I’ve divided your sports first aid kit contents into 3 categories: bandages/plasters/wound dressings, medicine & medication, and other useful items.
FIRST AID BANDAGES, PLASTERS & WOUND DRESSINGS
I have generally found certain items to be more useful than others. The important thing is to stay as compact as your needs might be so that your first aid kit does not become unwieldy.
1. Plasters in assorted sizes
For those small cuts and grazes. It is best to have these individually packed for sterility. Waterproof plasters offer the greatest versatility for all sports and weather conditions. No real brand preference here.
2. Crepe bandage
This comes tightly rolled and packed in its own plastic wrapping. I prefer the cotton crepe (pre-stretched) bandage that is 5cm wide for most purposes. The ones I have in my kit are made by Elastoplast, a well known brand to most of you sporting types out there. The usual crinkly crepe bandage is too elastic to support sprains and strains well, although it is good for holding wound dressings in place if you have space for a small roll. So the best bet is 1 roll of each!
3. Triangular bandage
This simple cotton bandage can be used to support a sprained shoulder, bind on a wound dressing, or help to splint more seriously injured parts. It packs flat and is very useful.
4. Wound dressings
If your sport or activity exposes you to the risk of an abrasion (where the top layer of your skin is abraded off e.g. in a fall on rough ground), you may want to have some small dressing items too. These might form a separate little kit in its own plastic bag, comprising a small bottle of antiseptic solution for washing the wound, a paraffin waxed gauze to cover the wound so that other dressings don’t stick to the surface (making it a tearful experience removing them later), some sterile cotton gauze pads, and tape or plaster to hold it all in place. These items can all be bought in single packaged form in local pharmacies.
5. More serious wound dressings!
If you feel that you might have to handle a little bit more than just simple scrapes (e.g road rash from a bike fall), two other items may be useful. The first is 1-inch (2.5cm) athletic tape. This is used to strap injured joints, etc and is very versatile for other purposes ranging from holding bandages in place to taping up the departing sole of your sports shoe to affixing your Power Gels onto your bike top tube. This is the medical equivalent of 90 mile per hour tape! And the other item is small suture strips. These are used in place of having stitches put in when a deep cut can be dried and needs to be closed until you can see a doctor.
FIRST AID MEDICINE & MEDICATION
The medications that you carry in your first aid kit can be readily purchased from any pharmacy without a prescription. Just be sure to carry the instructions along with you reminding you how to use the medication you pack. And wherever possible, pack the medication in those small plastic bags that lock up (as in the well-known Zip Loc bags) – you know, the ones you get your medicine in when you see a doctor?