Are you sure you have everything you need in a medical emergency? Medical preparedness varies greatly from home to home. In some homes, you may find just aspirin and a few band-aids. More often, you may find a real first aid kit, a digital thermometer and a well-stocked medicine cabinet.
For those who are taking care of the elderly, babysitting, live in remote locations or have a family member with serious medical issues, your first-aid arsenal will need more advanced technology. I take care of a diabetic with end stage renal disease and have ended up with all the devices in this article. This not a huge investment, considering the good deals you get these days on small gadgets. Consider the alternative of not knowing what is wrong with an ill family member.
Digital Thermometer ($8 typically)
No home should ever be without one of these. Flu bugs are always accompanied by fevers so having a thermometer on hand is a necessity. I’ve seen them as low as $2-3 but they average closer to $8. Compared to the old glass thermometer, the electronic version gives accuracy to a tenth of a degree and beeps when it sees the measurement stabilize, usually in 10-20 seconds. The thermometer shaft should always be cleaned with hydrogen peroxide or alcohol after use.
A more advanced digital thermometer designed for the ear will cost about $35 but measures in two seconds and works better with small restless children. The lens filter tips are $0.12 each and need to be replaced after each measurement so that adds long-term cost to the in-ear model.
Oxymeter ($23 for the cms-50dl fingertip oximeter)
A fingertip pulse oxymeter clamps on your finger tip and measures both your pulse and oxygen content in your blood. They are used commonly in emergency rooms in hospitals but also by athletes. Because of the popularity for athletes, you can pick up a fingertip oxymeter for $15-40.
If anyone gets pneumonia or is on oxygen constantly in your household, the oxymeter is a necessity. For continuous monitoring of pulse rate, the fingertip oxymeter is the best choice. Using one requires no training at all - just clamp one on your index finder and press the start button.
Digital Blood Pressure Cuff ($45 for the Omron HEM-712C Automatic Blood Monitor)
High blood pressure is very common, due to our eating and exercise habits. Low blood pressure is also a worry with traumatic accident victims and the elderly. Whether someone in your household is trying to control high blood pressure or if you care for ill elderly relatives, having a blood pressure cuff on hand is prudent.
Nice digital readout versions of blood pressure cuffs with an electric cuff pump are available for under $50 and are quite accurate. They are very simple to use - just wrap the cuff on an arm and press the start button.
The digital blood pressure cuffs come with one cuff size for an average sized person, so you might consider getting one extra large cuff as an accessory. The cuffs also give pulse measurements during the measurement cycle and can store previous readings in memory to refer to later. If you are planning on buying a stethoscope, you could save $10-20 by buying the old manual blood pressure cuffs with a dial and squeezeball.
Stethoscope ($48 for 3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope)
Why would a non-medical person want a stethoscope, you ask? Most of us wouldn’t know what normal breathing or heart noises should sound like. Search online for “basic lung sounds” and you will be directed to a site with playable sound snippets of assorted good and bad lung and heart sounds.
A stethoscope helps you monitor the progress of pneumonia victims by listening to their lungs and comparing the improvement in gurgly sounds each day. Practice listening to both lungs and hearts of healthy people and at least one long-term smoker for practice using a rea stethoscope.
Stethoscope models are available from $6-160 with Littmann being a known good brand that starts at $48. Models designed especially for cardiologists are the expensive ones and overkill for casual home use. Other brands can vary greatly in acoustic sensitivity but if you are on a tight budget, it may be worth the gamble.
Glucometer ($22 for True Track Smart System Blood Glucose Monitor Kit
which includes 10 test strips and lancets)
With the rapid increase in type 2 diabetes, a glucometer is almost becoming a necessity in the modern first-aid arsenal. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a different disease than diabetes and also occurs in a large segment of the population and having a glucometer is handy for diagnosing that disease, too. If you household already has a diabetic, you will have a glucometer and prescriptions for test strips already.
The test strips are expensive, about $0.30 apiece and usually are only sold in minimum 100 count quantities. Also, the strips have an 18 month shelf life. The ten strips and lancets that come with the glucometer kit should suffice for emergency use in a non-diabetic home.
If you bought every one of these items, it only comes to about $150. All the prices on here were obtained from Amazon at the time if this writing. The problem with waiting to get equipped is that it may be the middle of the night or you can’t leave the patient for a minute when you really need one of these items.
Except for the stethoscope, you can buy every item on here at Walmart. Buying online will give you broader selections and prices, however. Given the tendency for hospitals to send patients home these days with complex equipment and care instructions, owning the above devices is not out of the norm for the modern household. Now go update your first-aid arsenal - stat.