Customize Your First-Aid Kit

By Josh Benjamin

Whether the result of a jellyfish sting or a dropped tank, any injury in or on the water can be dangerous — even life-threatening — without a first-aid kit. Have one with you every time you dive. Just as your dive gear needs care and maintenance to function properly, be vigilant about ensuring your first-aid kit is complete and up-to-date. Whether you need to deal with minor annoyances or major incidents, a first-aid kit stocked with the right components can help make annoyances vanish and incidents manageable.

A basic first-aid kit for diving is comparable to a standard one you can pick up at your local pharmacy, which should contain most of the items in the checklist in the sidebar. This list is a great start, but adding a few specific things can be extra helpful for divers.

While trying to stick an adhesive bandage to wet skin is always entertaining, there are options that can make it much easier to cover that cut, scratch or blister. Liquid or waterproof bandages are a good addition to divers' first-aid kits. DAN® medical information specialist Marty McCafferty also recommends tincture of benzoin, which helps bandages stick firmly to the skin, especially in a damp environment.

Other additions can be useful, depending on the details of your dive. "I highly recommend insect repellent," said Peter Buzzacott, DAN director of injury prevention. "Prevention is always better than treatment." That is true for sun protection as well, so pack some extra reef-safe sunscreen to avoid a painful burn. A flashlight is useful in dim conditions or when examining small wounds such as those caused by splinters, tiny spines or remnants of jellyfish tentacles. Also consider if you will need to bring oxygen to ensure some is available.

"Include several extra pairs of nonlatex gloves," said Patty Seery, DAN director of training. "They get torn, so having extra pairs available keeps care moving."

Vinegar is not just for cooking and cleaning — it can be used to neutralize jellyfish stings, so having some available is useful.

One of the most indispensable tools is not inherently medical at all: a writing implement. When dealing with a situation that will involve treatment beyond first aid, any notes you can provide about the care you have already administered will be beneficial to medical personnel.

Standard wound dressings are useful even when you aren't diving, as cuts, scrapes, bruises, sprains and strains are among the most common boating injuries. The ability to quickly and effectively bandage a wound can minimize the risk of infection, and having the right medication or a cold pack available to deal with other minor illnesses or injuries on board might save your dive.

Although you may try to cover every possibility with the contents of your first-aid kit, Seery underscored the value of creativity: "Flexible thinking can help you use the materials at hand when what is needed is not actually available in the kit."

For most DAN staff, diving is not just a job, it's a passion. A few colleagues shared their recommendations about divers' first-aid needs from their personal experiences.
Tips from DAN Staff
"Make sure you replenish your kit after each use — it doesn't take long for your supplies to dwindle." — Patti Suggs

"Always have some tongue depressors. They can be used as finger splints, cream applicators and more; the only limit is your imagination." — Marty McCafferty

"Having the right equipment instills confidence to provide good care." — Patty Seery

And finally, it's hard to say it any better than this: "Always, always, always carry a first-aid kit. List it on your scuba gear packing checklist; it's just a matter of time before you need it." — Shelli Wright
Recommended Contents for First-Aid Kits
Basic needs
nitrile (hypoallergenic) gloves
CPR barrier device (oronasal mask or shield)
safety pins
antiseptic solution (isopropyl alcohol) or wipes
first-aid guide

Dressings and bandages
adhesive bandages
gauze pads and rolls
triangular bandages
elastic bandages (ACE® bandages)
medical tape

Accessory items
sterile saline solution
irrigation syringe
hot and cold packs

acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®)
diphenhydramine (Benadryl®)
hydrocortisone cream
antibiotic ointment
dimenhydrinate (Dramamine®)
loperamide (Imodium®)
antacid (Tums®)

© Alert Diver — Q2 Spring 2018


After anaesthesia Air Quality Air exchange centre Air hose failure Altitude changes Altitude sickness Ama divers Anaerobic Metabolism Annual renewal Apnea Apnoea Arterial gas embolism Arthroscopic surgery Aurel hygiene BCD Badages Bag valve mask Bandaids Barbell back squat Bench press Blood flow Bouyancy compensators Boyle's Law Boyle\'s Law Bradycardia Brain Breast Cancer Breath Hold Diving Breath hold Breath-hold Breathing Gas Breathing Bruising Buoyancy Burnshield CGASA CMAS CO2 Cabin pressure Camera settings Cancer Remission Cancer treatments Cancer Cannabis and diving Cannabis Cape Town Dive Festival Carbon dioxide Cardio health Cardiomyopathy Chamber Safety Charles' Law Charles\' Law Charles\\\' Law Charles\\\\\\\' Law Charles\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\' Law Chemotherapy Cleaning products Coastalexcursion Cold Water Cold care Cold Compressed gas Conservation Contaminants Contaminated air Corals Courtactions Crohns disease Crystal build up Crystallizing hoses Cutaneous decompression DAN Courses DAN Profile DAN Researchers DAN medics DAN report DCI DCS Decompressions sickness DCS DM training DReams Dalton's Law Dalton\'s Law Dalton\\\'s Law Dalton\\\\\\\'s Law Dalton\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s Law Deco dives Decompression Illness Decompression Sickness Decompression illsnes Decompression treatment Decompression Diaphragms Diseases Dive Chamber Dive Industry Dive Instruction Dive Instructor Dive Pros Dive Research Dive Training Dive accidents Dive buddies Dive computers Dive gear Dive health Dive medicines Dive medicine Dive safety Dive staff Diveleader training Diveleaders Diver Profile Divers Alert Diving Kids Diving career Diving emergencies Diving guidelines Diving injuries Diving suspended Diving Domestic Donation Dr Rob Schneider Drysuit diving Drysuit valves Drysuits EAPs EAP Ear pressure Ear wax Ears injuries Education Emergency action planning Emergency decompression Emergency plans Emergency underwater Oxygen Recompression Emergency Enviromental Protection Environmental factors Environmental impact Environmental managment Equipment care Evacuation Exercise Extended divetime Extinguisher Extreme treatments Eye injuries FAQ Failures Fatigue Faulty equipment Fire Coral Fire Safety Firefighting First Aid Equipment First Aid Training First Aid kits Fish Fitness Flying Francois Burman Free diving Free flow Freedive Training Freediver Freediving performance Gas Density Gas laws Gas mixes GasPerformance Gases Gastric bypass Gear Servicing Gordon Hiles HELP HIRA Haemorhoid treatment Hazard Description Hazardous Marine life Health practitioner Heart Health Heart Helium High temperatures Hot Humans Hydrate Hydrogen Hydroids Hydrostatic pressure Hyperbaric Chamber Hyperbaric research Hypothermia Immine systems In Water Recompression Indemnity form Indian Ocean Inert gas Infections Instinct Instructors Insurance Integrated Physiology International travel International Irritation Kidneys Kids scubadiver Labour laws Legal advice Legislation Leukemis Liability Risks Liability releases Liability Life expectancy Lifestyle Low blood pressure Low pressure deterioration Low volume masks Lung function Lung injuries Lung MOD Maintenance Mammalian Dive Response Mammalian effect Master scuba diver Maximum operating depth Medical Q Medical questionaire Medical statement Middle ear pressure Mike Bartick Military front press Mixed Gas Mono Fins Mooring lines More pressure Muscle pain Mycobacterium marinum Nautilus Nitrogen build up Nitrox No-decompression Non-rebreather Mask Normal Air Nosebleeds O2 providers O2 servicing OOxygen maintenance Ocean pollution Orbital implants Oronasal mask Oxygen Cylinder Oxygen Units Oxygen deficit Oxygen deicit Oxygen ears Oxygen equipment Oxygen masks Oxygen supply Oxygen therapy Oxygen P J Prinsloo PFI PJP Tech Part 3 Photography Pistons Planning Plastic Pneumothorax Pollution Pool Diving Preparation Prepared diver Press Release Professional rights Provider course Pulmanologist Pulmonary Bleb Purge RAID South Africa RCAP Radio communications Rashes Recompression chamber Recompression Recycle Regulator failure Regulators Regulator Remote areas Renewable Report incidents Rescue training Resume diving Risk Assessments Risk assesments Risk elements Risk management SABS 019 Safety Stop Safety Saturation Diving Save our seas Science Scuba Air Quality Scuba Injury Scuba children Scuba dive Scuba health Scubalearners Sealife Skin Bends Skin outbreak Skin rash Snorkeling Snorkels Sodwana Bay Splits Squeezes Standars Supplemental oxygen Surgeries Surgery Tattoes Technical Diving The Bends The truth Thermal Notions Tides Tips and trick Transplants Travel tips Travel Tweezers Unconsciousness Underwater photographer Underwater pho Vaccines Vagus nerve Valsalva manoeuvers Vape Vaping Vasvagal Syncope Venting Volatile fuels Washout treatments Wastewater Water Weakness Wetsuit fitting White balance Winter Woman in diving Work of Breathing Wound dressings Wreck dive Wreckdiving Youth diver abrasion air-cushioned alert diver altitude anemia antibiotics antiseptics bandages bent-over barbell rows body art breathing air calories burn cardiovascular checklist chemo port child clearances closed circuit scuba currents cuts dead lift decompression algorithms decongestants dehydration dive injuries dive medicing dive ready child dive reflex dive tribe diver rescue diver training dive diving attraction doctors domestic travel dri-suits dry mucous membranes dry suits dry e-cigarettes ear spaces elearning electrolyte imbalance electroytes emergency action plans emergency assessment equalizing exposure injuries eyes fEMAL DIVERS fire rescue flexible tubing frediving gas bubble health hospital humidity immersion pulmonary edema (IPE join DAN knee longevity lower stress marine pathogens medical issues medical procedures medical risk assesment mental challenge minor illness mucous membranes nasal steroids nasal nematocysts newdivers nitrogen bubbles off-gassed operating theatre operations orthopeadic outgas pain perforation phillippines physical challenges pinched nerves plasters polyester-TPU polyether-TPU post dive preserve prevention rebreather mask rebreathers retinal detachment risk areas safety stops saturation scissors scuba equipment scuba single use sinus infections smoking snorkeling. spearfishing stings strength sub-aquatic swimmers ears tattoo care tecnical diver thermal protection training trimix unified standards vision impaired warmers water quality