Like many people, I do a good clean-out, reorganization after the holidays. In fact I already started and I found something that surprised me. I did a huge medical stock up several years ago. I went to a close-out store and bought a lot of things in large quantity that never go bad. Things like band-aids and aspirin, salves and ointments and thermometers and ace bandages aren’t expensive and have long shelf lives. Over the years, whenever the bathroom supply ran low, I would just go to the storage area and pull out another box or bottle. Imagine my shock when I went looking for a box of band-aids and found nary a one. It turns out that I was not the only one grabbing supplies and somehow, I just didn’t realize just how many we went through. I actually had to go to a pharmacy and purchase a box to get me over the hump until I find a cheap place to stock up.

Running out of basics is expensive, not just in terms of money but in terms of time and inconvenience. I live a good 1/2 hour from a shopping center. Our little grocery carries a good deal but the prices are sky-high and I don’t want to pay a premium for things where quality is not paramount. My milk matters. Whether my band-aid is name brand or not really doesn’t. In fact, the name band-aid has gone into common usage when it’s actually a brand name. I believe the proper term is self-adhesive bandage. Anyway, I can’t afford this kind of oversight.

The first step in getting a good kit together is to pull out what you have and do an inventory. When I did that I found that there were any number of things I would have sworn I had that were just not there. I get the occasional cold sore and I’ve found that Abreva, used for just a few days puts a stop to them. Guess what I’m out of. The Bacitracin is down to one tube but big bandages are in good supply. We seldom need big bandages so they last a long time. I have lots of tape and gauze, plenty of adult pain reliever and lots of stomach remedies but our pediatric supply is depleted, in part because I have given a lot away to people who found themselves with a sick kid and no children’s fever reducer. I have a good supply of oral rehydration therapy but my stash of heavy-duty pain pills is getting mighty slim. Again, this is not because we’ve used them but because we have shared with folks who found themselves short at a time they couldn’t get to town. So, while the rest of the world is out redeeming gift cards and exchanging gifts, I’ll be hunting the aisles of big pharmacies looking for BOGO deals on band-aids and aspirin.

The next step in putting together a kit is figuring out what you tend to go through and what you would really hate to be without. Hardware like tweezers and a stethoscope last forever. Do you have them and can you lay your hands on them? What about a magnifying glass for finding slivers? You can’t buy mercury thermometers any more. The digital ones are pretty cheap and they work well but you know how I feel about things that rely on tech to work. I do have one mercury thermometer left that I guard with my life. I shudder to remember that we used to play with the balls of mercury when we broke a thermometer. Most gardeners know that cuts must be kept clean and bandaged to avoid infection. A squeeze bottle for irrigating wounds is important and so is an antibiotic ointment. I use an aloe plant for most things and find it works quite well. A eye cup for rinsing foreign objects from your eye should be on your shelf.

I was looking over my first aid book and realized it was pretty old. While a lot of the information was good, some of it, like the burn section and the CPR stuff was out-of-date. I also realized that I was out-of-date too. I haven’t taken a first-aid course in a few years. I put that on my to-do list for January.

I have an up-draft machine from my years when Phoebe suffered from asthma. The machine works well but the hoses are pretty yellow. I need to replace them and ask for a new prescription for the medication as that is now expired. Every neighborhood should have one of these. Asthma can kill and kill fast.

My Epi pen needs to be tossed. Because we raise bees and have a kid with a shellfish allergy, I keep a pen on hand. I would sure hate to have to decide to use one. I have plenty of gloves, hot and cold packs and more pressure bandages than I’ll ever need.

The best first-aid is good health and common sense. Keep you hands clean, eat right and get enough sleep and enough exercise and you’ll likely keep well. I’m planning to take aback class in january. My health center gives a class in the proper way to lift and carry and will demonstrate the exercises that support the muscles that cause pain. As I age, back care becomes more important.

I’m sure you all have your favorite medications and health tips. Feel free to share. There is much to learn and a lot of information out there.