Before heading out on any adventure, you should have a comprehensive first aid kit appropriate for everyone in your group. This is particularly important for babies, as they have special needs and considerations. Your baby first aid items should be kept separate but next to the rest of your first aid gear. This is important because in an emergency, you do not want to have to search for the items you need or figure out what is safe to use on baby. Our approach was to use a Ziploc bag of baby specific items, this is a good practice in general, and we have created several different scenario based Ziploc bags for adults as well. With a clearly labeled set of baby items, you will be able to get to what you need quickly.
Here are some important considerations for your Overland Baby First Aid Kit:
- Age Appropriate Items: You want to keep track of items in your kit and make sure that they are appropriate for baby’s age. Any product in your kit should be reviewed ahead of time and you should quickly and clearly be able to determine how to administer a product. We like to use note cards that contain dosages for common medicines. It is important with baby’s items that you check them every 3 months. You must ensure that the product has not exceeded its expiration dates, and that they are still adequate for your baby’s age. For example, most over the counter ibuprofen and acetaminophen bottles do not have any dosage information for infants, they all have you call your doctor first. The problem is, when you are away from cell service and need this information, this is not possible. Your doctor can give you a dosage chart that will guide you in giving the correct dosage to your little one at their age group. Convert it into a durable card, and store it in your kit. Study the chart, pay attention to not just the volume of liquid that gets administered, but also the concentration of acetaminophen or ibuprofen in the volume of liquid. In July of 2011, they phased out the concentrated infant drops in the United States, which helps simplify the way these medicines are dosed, but you should always make sure that you are packing only medicine with the same concentration as is specified in your dosing chart. If you study the charts, you will be able to administer the medicine without the cards available in an emergency. You will find that some of the products have a linear dosage, and you can scale the information that is available so that it applies to your baby at their weight by using a little math. Again, talk to your doctor, and really get to know your basic medicines, and in particular, any prescription medicine. If your baby is on any prescription medicine, you absolutely must talk to your doctor before any trip to get details on any further considerations. For example, antibiotics make people sensitive to the sun, and other medicines can have side effects that aren’t always made clear when in a non-standard environment. It is best to be prepared with all the answers ahead of time, so that you can enjoy your trip and know just what to do if the unexpected arises.
- Sterile, Antimicrobial, Antibiotic: These key words are important for baby items. We always choose to purchase Sterile items for baby items. Bandages for example, can come in sterile and non-sterile form. Since babies are more sensitive, we like to take any precaution we can to prevent any potential infection. We treat even the most basic scratch as a potential source of infection. Having to cover up a scrape or cut we have the piece of mind that the we aren’t contributing any germs. With the minimal relative difference in price, its worth buying sterile. Antimicrobial is also important, we use antimicrobial wipes on our hands, as well as hand sanitizer to help stop the spread of microbes. If your baby gets hurt, you want to be able to properly clean yourself before treating, and also be able to clean your baby’s injury and keep microbes down. Explore the different options available, such as alcohol pads, wipes, and liquids. We personally chose to stock up with sanitizing wipes for our hands since they help actually remove dirt build up from your hands. Hand sanitizer is always around as well, for when our hands are mostly clean and we need a quick clean. For cleaning minor scrapes and cuts on baby, we carried a little hydrogen peroxide in a nalgene bottle since it doesn’t sting and helps reduce the risk of infection. Again, this is for minor cuts and scrapes. Anything larger, and its not advisable in babies or adults to use things like alcohol or other things that may further damage tissue and are beyond the scope of this article. Finally, we have Antibiotic. For this, we mainly mean the use of an antibiotic ointment such as the popular Neosporin or a Triple Antibiotic OTC ointment. Again, applying these will help reduce the risk of infection, which is a major problem if it happens with little ones and should result in immediate ending of the trip if signs of infection begin to develop. It is important to note that for little ones, these items aid in the prevention of infection, but will not be suitable for treating an already existing infection.
- Thermometer: This gets its own bullet point because it is very important. With limited speech, its hard for babies to communicate pain or an injury other than crying or mood changes. However, sometimes things like fever and heat exhaustion don’t result in crying and fussing, but rather, a quiet or lethargic baby. If its hot, the heat may mask your ability to perceive an increase in baby’s temperature as well. We recommend, specifically, a rectal thermometer for overland use up to age 3. This ensures an accurate and adequate temperature measurement (it is the preferred choice by doctors, and you’ll notice that they typically verify temperature rectally for infants and toddlers when a fever is suspected). It is important to know if your baby has a fever, because it can mean they have an infection, are suffering from heat exhaustion/stroke, or have contracted some kind of viral infection. Talk to your doctor about what temperatures are okay for your child’s age, as it varies, and make a note of these levels as well as how to combat fever with acetaminophen ibuprofen, or a combination of both. Your doctor can teach you how to stack the medicine, and how much as well as how often to administer each to keep the fever in line while you make it to a doctor or out to a more stable location. Our Vicks rectal thermometer has operated on its original battery over 2 years with regular use and provides consistent results. It has a safety tip that doesn’t allow for it to go further than is safe and needed for an accurate measurement. We like the fact the it has a lifetime manufacturer’s warranty.
- Hydration Helpers: If baby becomes dehydrated, you should know how to help them recover. Our baby was breastfed, and it was the only source of food and fluid. In general, we were told not to give our baby water, as it would interfere with the amount of breast milk that she consumed, and consequently, interfere with her nutrition. However, if she became dehydrated, this advise no longer applied. Dehydration can result in an electrolyte imbalance, and difficulty hydrating back to normal levels. This is when it is important to give them an electrolytic solution such as Pedialyte or an equivalent. In this case, breast milk might be too heavy and make them feel full before they can consume enough to hydrate properly. Pedialyte can be purchased in convenient powder packages that can be easily stored and then mixed with water when needed.
- Creams: Your typicals, such as diaper rash cream, to creams like Hydrocortisone in case they get an insect bite or some other form of allergic reaction.
- CPR & Choking Response Training: Depending on baby’s age, how you perform CPR and respond to a choking situation differs. Children under 12 months old are different then children over 12 months of age and adults. It is very important that you be aware of this difference, and know how to deal with a choking infant or toddler, and perform CPR on an infant or toddler. The American Red Cross holds courses that can get you properly trained, as well as host online training materials that can help you understand the key differences based on your child’s age so you can confidently respond should a situation arrive. A quick reference guide is also useful in case you panic, but again, you may have to make this yourself based on your child’s age since most will be focused on adult CPR procedure.
- Puncture Wounds: Be aware that if your baby has a puncture wound, age affects a few things. Aside from being able to control bleeding and clean the wound, you must be aware that if the object that punctured was dirty or rusty, your child may be at increased risk of tetanus. Babies generally get tetanus at their 2, 4, 6 and 15 month vaccine schedule (see Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, aka DTaP). If your child has not had all these vaccines, it may be advisable to immediately administer a vaccine or even a dose of human tetanus immune globulin which will contain antibodies to help fight off tetanus. So, even if you were able to get a good handle on the puncture and it was minor, you may have to end your trip early and seek medical help if the puncture, regardless of severity, with with a dirty or rusty object.
There is a lot to consider for handling any baby medical emergencies. Adequate preparation will help give you confidence and knowledge to feel comfortable travelling in the backcountry with your little ones. By working on your first aid kit, you also brush up on your skills. It helps to maintain a spreadsheet of your first aid items, their expiration dates, and quantities available. In this spreadsheet, you can also add comments to your experience with them, so when it is time to replenish, you can evaluate if they performed as expected, of if you should consider an alternative to better suit your needs.