What You Need in Your Summer Safety Kit
Midwesterners know the value of a winter survival kit in the car. But a summertime sack filled with the right stuff can really make your season be all that it should be.
Hilary Rockwell, MD, Avera Medical Group Emergency Medicine physician, offers expert advice on what your “go-bag” for hot weather should include.
No. 1: Water
Having some water in the vehicle – and on your person – can help you keep hydrated. “We all tell ourselves we’ll just buy a water when we get to our destination,” said Rockwell. “You can always buy that one later. If you’re packing your own, you always have it available.”
No. 2: Sunscreen and Sun Protection
The higher the SPF (at least 50), the better, especially for fair-skinned people and kids. Remember to reapply sunscreen and ensure you have plenty in your kit. Packing a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirts or clothes to cover your skin can make a big difference on super-hot, sunny days. “Protection is important, every time you go out in the sun,” Rockwell said.
No. 3: Bug Spray
Include an insect repellent with DEET in your kit to help keep ticks, mosquitoes and other bugs away. “Make sure you conduct tick-checks when you get home, too,” Rockwell said. “Don’t assume you’re OK – better to find those ticks and get rid of them right away.”
No. 4: Snacks and Electrolyte Replacement
In hot weather, much like cold weather, we burn a lot of calories, even when activity levels aren’t too high. Snacks can replace that energy, and if you’re sweating out important electrolyte micronutrients, it can catch up with you. Rockwell often includes packet of electrolyte powder in her kit that can be added to water. Try to find ones with no or little sugar, as too much sugar can lead to stomach troubles, diarrhea and dehydration.”
No. 5: First Aid Necessities
There’s a universe of first-aid kit options out there, from big ones you can keep in your truck or car, to backpacker-friendly versions that are in an easy-to-carry, lightweight package. “Or at least pack along some bandages or an elastic wrap-style bandage,” Rockwell said. “A complete kit is a good investment to have in your vehicle, camper or elsewhere.”
No. 6: A Simple Medication Kit
Expand your first-aid kit with a few over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, as well as an allergy medicine such as Benadryl. “Benadryl pills or capsules can help a person who has gotten into poison ivy or is having an allergic reaction,” she said. “There’s a liquid form for kids, too. Pain relievers can help reduce a fever or reduce the sting of sunburn, too.”
No. 7: An Emergency Cooling System
Lightweight wicking material towels are sold under many names as cooling towels, and they can help someone who might be facing the beginnings of a heat-related condition like heat exhaustion or heat stroke. “Cooling towels work great, and can help you reduce your temperature faster,” Rockwell said. “You can wet them down with your water supply and put them on the neck or forehead of the person who needs to cool off. Regular towels also can help, but not as well. A small, battery-operated fan can also help cool you, and they’re worth including in your summer kit.”
When the heat gets to be too much and leads to a heat-related injury, remember that heat stroke is a medical emergency, and its symptoms include:
- Hot, dry skin with no sweating
- Headache, nausea, confusion and fainting
- A body temperature of 104 degrees F
Call 911 and being first aid to cool the person while awaiting help. Use all means available to lower their temperature.
“Some severe cases of heat stroke can lead to long-term neurological damage and lifelong health effects,” said Rockwell. “It’s always better to call or go in than risk it by hoping for the best.”