Duct tape for the win! Using household items for first aid needs.

For many first aid requirements, improvisation is key.

Injuries don’t usually happen while the victim is standing right next to First Aid kit. In many cases of injury - when we accidentally cut ourselves preparing food, smash a thumb working on a home project, or get poked in the eye by a low-hanging branch at the park - we end up applying first aid using what we have immediately at hand - and often, these items may work just as well or better than the things we might find in an “official” First Aid package. Editor’s note - do not use a Grande Americano to irrigate an eye wound. Trust me on this.

The following suggestions are not meant to substitute for keeping a well-stocked First Aid kit in the home or car, but mainly to show how we can repurpose and adapt these items to our emergency needs.

Diapers and sanitary napkins - these make excellent dressings for bleeding. They are absorbent, clean, and easily adapted to various locations on the body, especially those requiring some freedom of movement (plus, the colorful characters present on many diaper brands will serve to distract and amuse the bleeding victim).

Elmer’s glue - got a painful splinter while sanding that new stair rail? Put a drop on the splinter, let it dry, and peel it away; it should take the splinter with it.

Vinegar - an excellent natural disinfectant; combine vinegar with an equal amount of water to irrigate and cleanse a minor abrasion or wound. Combine with an equal amount of cucumbers to make pickles.

Plastic wrap/cling film - to be used to cover burns. Burnt tissue tends to become infected quite easily, and applying plastic wrap over the wound will protect it while providing a non-sticking bandage.

Frozen vegetables -  sprained an ankle at that half-marathon in Redmond? Run over to the nearest grocery and get a bag of peas. You need to ice that sprain, and a bag of veggies will stay cold enough and conform to your ankle. Wrap it up in a souvenir t-shirt first - we don’t want to freeze the tissue.

Baking soda - make a paste with water and apply to a bee sting (once the stinger has been removed by scraping it out with your Everett Silvertips discount card) to relieve pain.

Duct tape - the MacGuyver of household materials. Use it for:

  • a band-aid substitute by placing a strip over gauze
  • removing splinters as with the previously mentioned glue
  • securing a splint for a broken bone
  • covering blisters or surrounding blisters to prevent rubbing
  • a temporary suture to close deep wounds
  • keeping yourself from falling out of a tree and being eaten by alligators. (This is true. See http://www.disk-o.com/disk-o06/katie/index.html)


The point is, until you can get to that First Aid kit, see what’s immediately available. You may already have everything you need.