The old adage about an ounce of prevention equaling a pound of cure may ring true, according to medical experts - if you have a first aid kit on hand.
It's pretty simple and cheap to put your own first aid kit together according to Randy Romadka, a registered nurse with Memorial Health System's North Dirksen ExpressCare Clinic, located at 3220 Atlanta St.
Romadka said a homemade kit should contain antibiotic ointment, tweezers, Band-Aids, splinter forceps and scissors. If you break the skin, wash the wound, apply antibiotic cream and then apply a bandage.
"Anytime you break the skin you run the risk of infection," Romadka said. "You only get so many sets of hands to work with. You want to try to take care of them as best you can."
If a wound gets infected, the results could cause significant problems. Infections, if left untreated, could spread to other parts of the body and contaminate the bloodstream causing swelling, pain, and loss of range of motion in the joint. Certain people, like diabetics, are more prone to infection, he said.
Romadka recommends keeping a first aid kit in places where a person would work with his or her hands such as a tool shed, or in the garage.
"I'd have one there so if you nick a finger or ... get a piece of metal in it, or a sliver, you can get it out," Romadka said.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency recommends people include a first aid kit as part of a disaster preparedness plan.
"Things that would, if you have medical needs that you needed to tend to because you weren't able to get to a hospital or clinic quickly," said Patti Thompson, the spokesperson for the IEMA.
Thompson also urges people to have supplies on hand that would help sustain them and their families in the case of natural disasters, weather emergencies or even terrorism attacks. She said people should have enough provisions on hand to feed a family for up to three days.
"They just can help you fend for yourself," Thompson said.
Some of the items she suggests people include in a disaster kit include: a weather radio, plenty of non-perishable food, at least one gallon of water per person per day, a flashlight and batteries. Thompson said having these kind of supplies on hand could make a tough sitatuion more bearable. For example, take a look at what happened during Hurricane Katrina, she said.
"Those people that were stranded for days on end - the difference that having some of these items in their house could have made," Thompson said.
In central Illinois, the notorious 2006 ice storm that enveloped the area put many people in precarious situations.
"We had people ... in Decatur that were stranded that were in their homes for many days - some for up to a week or more without electricity," Thompson said. "We actually sent the National Guard out, and they did door-to-door checks on people, and they actually found people that were starting to suffer the effects of a sitting in a home with no heat and not enough provisions.".
Experts also urge people to keep safety supplies in their cars. A car first aid kit should be a smaller version of a home first aid kit. It should include items such as Band-Aids, gauze pads, burn cream packets and Tylenol, said Romadka.
The IEMA also urges people to have a disaster kit in their cars - particularly in the winter months.
"They slide off the road because the weather conditions are so bad. It takes people a long time to be able to get to them," said Thompson.
She recommends people have water, snack foods, blankets, extra clothing, jumper cables and a tool kit in their cars.
"They need to have things that will help them stay warm, stay dry and stay nourished," she said.
During the ice storm of 2006, more than 100 people were stranded at two different rest areas on Interstate 80. The food in the vending machines ran out quickly, according to Thompson.
"We actually had to fly in food on helicopters and use snowmobiles to be able to get it to the rest areas," Thompson said. "They were lucky they were in a nice warm place, but that doesn't always happen."
Kits for the elderly
Kids heal quickly from things like cuts and scrapes, according to Romadka. However, he said the same rules apply when it comes to treating wounds: wash the cut, apply antibiotic cream, and then a bandage. Continue checking the wound to ensure that it's healing.
In the case of an elderly person, Thompson said people should have extra medicine available in case something happens and they can't get to the store. In addition, people on special diets should have those food supplies on hand, and diabetics should have extra insulin stored away, she said.
According to Thompson, when it comes to crisis situations, a little preparation can make a big difference.
"The more you take control of things, the more control you have when an actual emergency happens."