First Aid Kit
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Basic Information

A first aid kit is a type of medical kit intended to equip and support the provision of first aid. What exactly is in a kit will depend on the culture of origin and the era in which the kit is put together, but they are generally limited to things that fall within the purview of first aid and so need minimal medical training to use.

Basic contents are likely to include:

  • Adsorbent dressings: fabric pads, designed to absorb and contain blood. Usually in convenient sizes and, in the modern era, frequently sterile packaged.
  • Bandages: Generally not sterile, used over adsorbent dressings to hold them in place and/or to exert pressure to close a wound. Modern adsorbent dressings have a built in bandage, but many kits also include a triangular bandage for making slings and compressions from.
  • Dressing fixtures: tape and/or safety pins used to secure bandages.
  • Swabs: used for cleaning around wounds - either small pieces of cloth or, in the modern era, pre-packed sterile wet-wipes.
  • Scissors - or similar - for cutting things.
  • Antiseptic creams or sprays: pretty modern, although the Good Samaritan's oil and wine served a similar function. Vinegar was also used historically - often in conjunction with the swabs.
  • Adhesive plasters: modern, but not to be over-looked.
  • Sutures: Used for holding wound edges together - can be actual stitches (which are not recommended as basic first aid) or similar to adhesive plasters.
  • CPR mask or face shield: used as a hygienic barrier between aider and patient for CPR (very modern).
  • Gloves: something of a modern convenience.
  • Forceps
  • Flashlight (if available).
  • Burn dressings: a relatively recent invention, comprising a non-adherent dressing with an integral cold pack design to provide protection and cooling to burns.

More advanced kits may include tools designed to open and maintain a casualty's airway and similar pieces of equipment verging on those found in a full scale medical kit.

Military, or other high end users are likely to add:

  • Styptic: aluminium salts, used to arrest bleeding on application - more modern versions using substances like chitin also exist. Our ancestors were known to use spider webs.
  • Morphine: an opium derivative used as a pain killer - although this is increasingly replaced by ketamine in modern service due to its reduced effect in lowering blood pressure.
  • Antibiotic powders: used to control infection in battlefield wounds - only in use since the second half of the twentieth century, although the Sulphanilamide drugs precede them by a few years.
  • Anti-gas agents: used to counter the effects of chemical weapon attacks. Examples include atropine used as an antidote to nerve agents.
  • Haemostatic forceps: used to clamp off blood vessels to reduce blood loss.
  • Artificial airways: A plastic tube, inserted into the mouth and upper airway to keep it open.
  • Tampons: ideal for plugging gunshot entry wounds from small arms.
  • Oxygen: used to support and complement breathing.
  • Wound packing gauze: again, verging on surgical supplies, but designed to keep the upper part of a deep wound open to allow drainage and deep tissue healing1.
  • Isotonic saline: used to restore lost blood volume by intravenous infusion (actual transfusion being well outside the remit of anything resembling first aid).

Other drugs are rarely found in generic kits, but personal or family kits may well include those appropriate to the users and other substances may be added for users with specific hazards (for example, where hydrofluoric acid is in use, a first aid kit should be present with calcium gluconate gel and oral calcium tablets - or equivalent precautions). Likewise antidotes for common environmental poisons (especially for the venom of common local species) may well fall within the remit of first aid. Iodine tablets are often included where there is a risk of radioactive fallout as a counter to radionuclide adsorption.

Tourniquets are generally not recommended for first aid use as, except in very limited circumstances, using one is likely to sacrifice the limb you use it on … and still need to come off at some point. They still appear where the choice between limb and whole casualty is unavoidable.

Sci-fi kits may include spray-on replacement skin, advanced blood substitutes, nano-tech swarms or doses of injectable healing factor, pre-modern users may have all sorts of things.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • If PCs are going to use first aid skills, they should generally have one of these or face a penalty. If they're not going to use first aid skills … better hope your system doesn't have bleeding rules.
  • The difference between a medieval kit and a modern one will be huge - as can the differences between various modern kits. Some flavour can be had in assigning exactly what the PCs are carrying.
  • Unless your party first aid kit is also known as The Cleric someone is likely to have to carry it.
  • Note that in a setting with lots of different species, first aid kits may vary. A lot.
    • For example in the RPG 2300AD the alien species known as the Kafers have an unfortunate reputation for torturing wounded human prisoners. This is actually the result of differing biology as applied to first aid: the kafers have a relatively simple and robust anatomy and very little sense of pain, and so their treatment of "flesh" wounds consists of cauterisation and sterilisation with heat and corrosive liquids. Kafers take this in their stride and quickly regenerate the damage, whereas to humans it causes intense pain and further injury which the Kafer medics are then at a loss to address.
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