At TheHikingChild we recommend a ‘child-centered’ approach for your outdoor adventures where child comfort, fun, and safety are the priority. But no matter how hard you try sometimes things will go wrong. A slip or sprain can happen to anyone irrelevant of how seasoned they are. With kids being kids, there is always a risk of them doing something goofy, usually in the most unforeseen situations. So when safety is concerned your correct approach must be ‘when’ not ‘if’, and as such, will you be ready when something goes wrong?
It is not recommended to give Aspirin to children because of links with a potentially deadly disease called Reyes Syndrome. Use other medications instead.
The old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” but what you can’t prevent you better be able to cure! That means you should carry a first aid kit with you at all times and some basic knowledge of how to use it. But there are literally hundreds of first aid kits available on the market, and they all contain a different assortment of products. Which do you choose for your adventures? The answer is – here we go… it depends.
Will I be ready? Ready for what?
Selecting a first aid kit is no easy task, especially given the amount of choice out there. There are first aid kits available for every imaginable type of outing, from fishing to biking to hiking to whatever else you can think of – it would be no surprise to find a first aid kit designed especially for opera lovers (it should include a wicked set of earplugs, and a pillow). But many of these kits are generic: they include the basics like bandages, wound dressings, disinfectants, etc., but they don’t necessarily contain everything that YOU need. So step one is to determine your particular needs. Ask yourself a few simple questions to get started:
- were are you going?
- what activity will you be doing there?
- how long will you be there?
Answering these questions will develop a sense of the safety concerns that you could be facing on your adventure, which in turn will help determine what safety equipment you should have when things go wrong. We will expand on that in a minute. Furthermore, don’t limit yourself to what’s ‘in the box’. Obviously you want to begin by finding the best first aid kit for your particular trip, but if it contains an item that you think is not necessary, get rid of it. On the contrary, if the kit looks good but is missing some items that are important to you, then by all means add them yourself. Begin with a good product and make it exceptional by modifying to your particular needs.
First Aid Kit For Hiking With Children
At TheHikingChild we prepare our first aid kits for… well, hiking with kids. Most of the time we are hiking in either forests or mountains in the temperate climate zone. This means that we don’t have to worry too much about extreme weather (hypothermia or sun/heat stroke), or other risks associated with sub-tropical and tropical climates (such as insect borne diseases, venomous creatures, etc.). We don’t really engage in adventures that leave us with the risk of getting lost or stranded in the woods (so no real survival situations to plan for – although we do practice survival basics just for fun), and in most cases the worst case scenario is a several hour trek to a car or source of help if it is needed. So in summary, we plan for the following complications:
- Blisters, burns, cuts, scrapes and splinters (happen all the time);
- Sprains (which have happened) and breaks (which have not – but most certainly can);
- Insects (prevention and treatment), including bees, wasps and tics;
- Sun (protection and treatment);
- Medicines (fever, pain, stomach related, motion sickness, allergies);
- On multi-night trips: eye and ear infection;
- Water purification
The above list is quite comprehensive and it’s a challenge to find a first aid kit that contains all of these elements, while at the same time being relatively small and light. We have used several different kits in the past but presently rely on the Adventure Medical Kits, Ultralight and Watertight .7. Let’s take a look at what it has to offer and you will see why.
The Ultralight and Watertight .7 is a very comprehensive package that contains all of the basics without the need for significant supplementation. As a bonus it is small (7.5” x 10” x 2” / 19 cm x 25.4 cm x 5.1 cm), light (8 oz / 227 gr), and fully waterproof. It contains an arsenal of bandages, sterile wound dressings, pre-cut moleskins, as well as an elastic bandage (which is bulky, but worth carrying for ankle and knee injuries, and is the reason why we select the Ultralight and Watertight .7 model over the .5 model, which does not include an elastic bandage). It also contains a good assortment of basic medications: Antihistamine (such as Benadryl®), Aspirin, Ibuprofen (such as Advil®), and Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol®). It also contains After Bite®, which relieves the side effects of insect stings. It also contains a good assortment of wound care products: antiseptic wipes, alcohol swabs, 10 yards (914 cm) of tape, Skin TacTM wipes to help bandages adhere to your skin better, and triple antibiotic ointment (such as Neosporin® or Polysporin®). Finally, the kit also contains (26” / 66 cm) of duct tape, nitrile gloves, safety pins, and forceps for removing ticks and splinters. Overall, it is an excellent starting package that we really like, and as previously mentioned, it is our favorite kit. However, even this great kit is not completely to our liking, and so we modify it to better suit our particular needs. Here is what we change.
One of the most common hiking ailments are blisters, unless of course you have read our article, How To Prevent Blisters, but even then you may find yourself dealing with this problem. The moleskins supplied in the Ultralight and Watertight .7 address sore spots on your feet and help prevent blisters from appearing, but if you do end up with a blister then you need treatment, or your adventure is over. We recommend supplementing the kit with Glaciergel Blister and Burn Dressing, also from Adventure Medical Kits. It is applied over a blister and helps keep it cool, isolated and cushioned. It also comes in its own sealed waterproof packaging so you can just throw the packet into your pack and keep it there until needed.
The Drug Trade: Medicine For Hiking With Children
The next issue is that both the Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen included in the kit (2 x 500mg dose and 2 x 200mg dose respectively) are too strong for young children, so we recommend supplementing with a few tablets of Children’s Acetaminophen (Tylenol® or generic brand – meltaway tablets not syrup) and Children’s Ibuprofen (Advil® or generic brand – again, we recommend you get tablets not syrup). In our opinion these are MUST HAVE items. Children often develop fever or pain, and Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and Ibuprofen (Advil®) are the medications to address such symptoms. We recommend tablets instead of syrups simply to lower bulk and weight (on most trips, taking 2-3 tablets of each medication with you will be enough, as opposed to two glass bottles of syrup). We also recommend dropping in a few tablets of Dramamine® Kids, but only if your child is prone to motion sickness, otherwise it is not necessary. Finally, running out of water is a big discomfort to adults and outright dangerous to children (obviously in the long run it’s dangerous to adults as well). We recommend adding a few water purification tablets to the kit, just in case you ever need them, but you must read up and learn how to use them. Tablets are better than filters because they take up much less space, and we’re talking about ‘emergency’ situations, not regular use (in which case we would go with the filter).
There are several ‘additional’ items worth mentioning. The kit does not include scissors, but if you read our article The Best Knife For Hiking And Camping you will know that we strongly encourage carrying a Swiss Army Knife, which has scissors and other useful accessories. Additionally, our article How To Treat Bee And Wasp Stings addresses the removal of bee stingers. While forceps work for removing stingers, a much better alternative is to use a sting extractor pump, especially on young children that are more susceptible to adverse reactions from insect stings. Next, the very important subject of sunscreen is addressed in our article Safe Sunscreen That Works Against UVA & UVB. In that article we recommend that you always carry a small sunscreen stick such as this Elemental Herbs All Good Unscented Sunstick. Finally, you should always carry a bandanna or large triangular scarf with you when going hiking. It serves multiple roles: a neck scarf, dust protection when over your face, a tie-down for splints if you need to stabilize a broken arm or leg, or even a tourniquet if you need to stop severe bleeding. It’s the only piece of clothing that we associate with first-aid.
So there you have it, an outstanding first aid kit that should come with you on every day hike or short overnights in all temperate regions of the world. Are there more things that could be added? Of course there are, but as parents hiking with kids you already have a lot to carry. This kit provides the essentials, is light, waterproof, and easy to pack.
Gear Won’t Help If You Don’t Have The Skills
Now let’s not forget one very important fact: you can pack all of the medical gear in the world, but it will be of little use if you don’t know how to use it. Consider purchasing a first aid manual and read it. The First Aid For Babies & Children Manual is endorsed by the John Hopkins Children’s Center and covers over 100 first aid topics and has plenty of pictures to go along with it. It’s a good ‘first book’ for parents that have absolutely no experience with first aid and require lots of visuals. You should practice some basic first aid skills as a family: putting on an elastic bandage, cleaning and dressing a wound, stabilizing a broken arm or leg using materials found only in the forest (and your first aid kit, of course), and so on. Practicing these skills will be fun for the family and hopefully nothing beyond that, but if something happens and the pressure is on, all your family members will remain calm and know what to do.
Safe and happy trails everyone.