July 2012

Marine first-aid kits

Stock up for on-the-water emergencies

Marine first-aid kits

Putting together your own marine first-aid kit is easy enough to do. Start by stocking up on many of the same items you’d keep in your medicine cabinet at home. Then take into account the added hazards of sun, wind, water and on-the-water activities.

Consider special needs, such as prescription medications you or your passengers may require, and bring extra to avoid getting caught short if your return is delayed. Check your assembled kit at the start of each boating season and replace expired medications.

First-aid kit basics

  • Stomach remedies to prevent or treat motion sickness, indigestion, diarrhea, or heartburn
  • Antihistamine for allergic reactions
  • SPF 15 or greater sunblock
  • Insect repellant
  • Anti-itch lotion or cream for treating insect bites, sunburn and other minor skin irritations
  • Pain/fever reducers such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, ketoprofen or naproxen
  • Adhesive bandages in assorted sizes
  • Butterfly bandages and narrow adhesive strips for closing gaping cuts
  • Individually wrapped sterile gauze pads to control bleeding
  • Hypoallergenic adhesive tape to hold a dressing or splint in place
  • Roll of absorbent cotton as padding for a splint
  • Sterile roller bandages, at least three rolls, to support sprained muscles
  • Cotton-tipped swabs
  • Eye drops
  • Thermometer
  • Syrup of ipecac (if instructed by medical personnel to induce vomiting)
  • Antiseptic ointment, spray or towelettes for cleaning wounds
  • Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection of minor wounds
  • Bottled water to rinse wounds
  • Clean towels to control bleeding or to wrap ice
  • Chemical ice packs
  • Emergency phone numbers: doctor, pharmacy, poison control, etc.
  • First-aid handbook

Prepackaged first-aid kits

Also a good choice, prepackaged first-aid kits sold in drug stores, marine supply stores or through online retailers often come with convenient features, such as color-coding to match the nature of the injury. Choose one appropriate for the distance you plan to travel from populated areas and how quickly medical help is likely to arrive.

For personal watercraft, a small kit for treating minor cuts and scrapes is probably adequate. But when boating farther from shore, you may need a more elaborate kit to hold you until medical help arrives. You’ll probably want to throw in an EPIRB as well, so emergency personnel can locate your boat as quickly as possible.

Quick action may be required for life-threatening emergencies such as heart attack, stroke or seizures, as well as for more serious sprains, burns, puncture wounds, cuts and internal injuries. So you may also want to enroll in a first-aid training course sponsored by the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association or another organization in your area.

Regardless of the supplies you have or your level of training, if you find yourself in a true medical emergency, seek help immediately. Prepare an emergency contact list and learn how to summon emergency medical assistance by marine band radio, not just a cell phone, before leaving home. U.S. Coast Guard



Stay cool this summer with this Tervis ice bucket with tongs and lid from the Ship's Store.

Mastering Marlinespike

Bowline on a bight

An ancient bowline variation still used in water rescue work, the bowline on a bight easily forms large loops in any part of the rope without regard to the rope ends.


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