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How to put a medical kit together

A medical kit for marine use could well contain several hundred items, and finding the right piece of equipment shouldn’t become like the proverbial pin and haystack. Organisation of the kit in to sections is the key. How the kit is so planned is really up to the skipper and medic, but there some tried and tested ways of going about this.

A good systematic way of designing a comprehensive kit is to go though each body system (e.g. head, heart, gut, skin), thinking about the common problems that happen on-board, and making sure that appropriate drugs, dressings and hardware are included in the kit. All the medicines, hardware, needles etc. for each body system should then be arranged in to transparent sealable bags or boxes, each with a laminated contents list.

In addition, there should be separate bags, which really don’t fit in to the ‘body system’ scheme, containing:

  • Emergency/resuscitation drugs
  • Hardware
  • Intravenous/intramuscular drugs, needles, syringes
  • Intravenous fluid (if carried)

This arrangement is illustrated opposite, with the suggestions for the contents of each section.

All this equipment generally can’t fit in to one bag or box, especially for the ‘offshore’ and ‘ocean’ kits. A convenient way to arrange the overall kit is to use the following arrangement, loosely based on how often the bits of kit may be required:

First aid kit (to be kept in the saloon, and to be used by any of the crew)

  • Simple pain killers (e.g. paracetamol, ibuprofen))
  • Plasters
  • Sore throat lozenges
  • Sun block cream
  • Seasickness medications

Grab bag (to be taken to the life raft if abandoning ship; may also double as

emergency treatment bag):

  • Emergency analgesics (oral and intramuscular)
  • Sea-sickness medications (a large stock)
  • Antibiotics
  • Re-hydration salts
  • Suturing kit
  • SAM splints, strapping, bandages

Medium sized bag (Frequently used items)

  • Body system bags or boxes
  • Emergency boxes
  • First aid books, medical reference manuals

Large store bag (containing large, heavy equipment, not used often)

  • Large splints
  • Intravenous fluid
  • Stiff neck collars
  • Stores of medicines for replenishment

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MSOS – Medical Support OffShore