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More and more people have an IFAK. When a threatening emergency happens, this little pouch can make a difference between life and death.
But, what exactly is IFAK, and why is it different from a regular first aid kit?
We live in a hectic world that is changing right in front of our eyes. While new technologies allow us to control almost everything by simply pushing the buttons or touching the screen, they come with many downsides as well.
A false sense of security is one of them.
No matter how sophisticated our technology gets, we can’t control Mother Nature. Or human nature as a matter of fact.
That’s why we still face many dangers such as earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, and so on. I could write a book about the myriads of possible ways we can get injured in this modern world.
IFAK Basic Facts
IFAK stands for “Individual First Aid Kit”.
However, it is more of a trauma kit than a first aid kit. First aid kits are meant to deal with mostly superficial cuts and scrapes.
Common first aid kits don’t require medical training, so anyone can use them. Trauma kits, on the other hand, are intended to help with major, even life-threatening injuries and keep you alive until professional medical care is available. Trauma kits require some (but not extensive) medical knowledge and training.
Of course, there are different kinds of either first aid or trauma kits and their contents may overlap.
Long before IFAK became a common name, these kits were designed for military use.
Regular first aid kits were pretty bulky and packed with stuff that wouldn’t help in life-threatening situations. So, new light kits were introduced containing only necessary items to save lives in dangerous situations.
Basically, an IFAK is an improved, customized first aid kit, designed to save your life in the case of an emergency.
Why You Need IFAK
When we talk about safety, everyone has its own opinion. So, I won’t get smart with you and tell you what you must own or not.
It depends a lot on your lifestyle as well. However, there are more perils around us than we normally care to admit.
Anyway, if you work in law enforcement, or you like to hike and camp in remote locations having an IFAK is a good idea.
Also, if you like hunting, or shooting sports, or if you work with heavy or hazardous equipment, IFAK can be a life-saver. You can easily expand this list as there are some risks whatever you do, but it’s up to you.
Whatever precautions you take, you can never be 100% safe. Therefore, you need to use your common sense and make an objective assessment.
How to Customize Your IFAK and Why
There are many great first aid or trauma kits you can buy.
However, it is a good idea to consider making one. Why?
For one, it’s simple. So simple that you can buy the whole batch within minutes if you shop online.
Secondly, you can customize it to suit your particular needs. There’s no such thing as perfect IFAK. There’s only a perfect IFAK for you.
The whole idea of IFAK is to carry a small, lightweight pouch with necessary items to help you in case of need. Most kits you can buy are either missing some supplies or having too many unnecessary items or too expensive.
The best IFAK you can have is the one that fits your lifestyle and perils that come with it. There’s a reason why it is called “individual”. So, the best kit for you usually isn’t the best kit for the next person and vice versa. Nevertheless, there are some guidelines to help you make good choices.
More is not always better. Whatever you do, you can’t really walk around with a pile of medical stuff. There are two crucial words to customize your IFAK: minimum and necessary.
Traditional first aid kits used ABC (airway, breathing, circulation) algorithm, while modern IFAK usually follows MAR or MARCH – massive hemorrhage (bleeding), airway, respiration, circulation, and head injury/hypothermia. This is a division of potential injuries that need different immediate treatment.
You should assess your risks for each type and choose supplies accordingly. Just make sure that you know how to use it.
Proper training is necessary to use some of these supplies effectively. Regular practice is needed to reaffirm and assert your medical skills.
So, without further ado, here’s the list of items to choose from.
1. Compact Gauze
This is a must for every medical kit – IFAK as well.
It’s cheap and small, yet you can use it for multiple purposes. Compact gauze can help with any injury, but it is essential when you’re dealing with massive bleeding.
This is especially true for torso, neck or head injuries when you can’t use tourniquets. You can also use it as a backing for hemostatic dressing or wound bandaging. I recommend H & H Flat Compressed Gauze or NAR Compressed Gauze.
2. Combat Gauze
A combat gauze is more expensive, but it works better.
This gauze contains an agent that speeds up blood clothing dramatically. As a result, you can stop moderate venal bleeding in a matter of seconds.
As for arterial bleeding or massive venal bleeding, it depends on how massive it is. Anyway, it causes blood-clothing 4,5 times faster than blood on its own.
A tourniquet is a device that restricts and limits blood flow by applying pressure. It is used for severe injuries when bandage and gauze can’t stop the bleeding.
A tourniquet should be applied on limbs, proximal to the site of injury. Proximal means ‘closer’ to your body.
Note, however, that the use of tourniquets comes with some risks as too much pressure can cause some complications.
So, you need medical training to learn how to use it. Avoid cheap imitations and choose renowned manufacturers for your IFAK!
4. Nasopharyngeal Airway
This is the simplest tool to keep airways open. It works well and is relatively easy to master. For more sophisticated IFAK supplies, you would need extensive medical training.
You only need a little bit of training and sufficient lubrication to apply this device through the nostril.
5. Chest Seal
A chest seal is dressing for sucking chest wounds.
It closes the wound to prevent air from entering the chest through the wound. That way, it prevents collapsed lungs and a life-threatening condition called a tension pneumothorax.
There are non-vented and vented chest seals. Non-vented seals just seal the wound while non-vented ones allow air to get out of the chest. Non-vented seals are okay for your IFAK, but obviously vented ones are better as they prevent some possible complications.
6. Chest Decompression Needle
Using this needle or tension pneumothorax kit requires serious medical training.
These supplies are used for the same thing as the chest seal but in different situations. You probably won’t choose this for your IFAK because you can’t have everything.
However, in case you are a medical professional, you should definitely consider it!
7. Nitrile Gloves
Stretchable, non-allergenic gloves are necessary for your IFAK kit to avoid contamination and transfer.
Since they are latex-free and powder-free, they will increase resistance to various contaminants. That’s exactly what makes them miles better than your average pair of latex gloves.
8. Space Blanket
You probably don’t need it if you’re only involved in shooting sports or work in a dangerous environment.
But, if you like to hike, climb or hunt in remote locations a space blanket can keep you warm and prevent hypothermia and shock. Check out this comprehensive list of best space blankets with reviews!
Over-the-counter meds won’t directly save your life in emergencies.
However, if you get injured you’ll need to preserve strength and energy as much as possible. That’s where the pills come into your IFAK.
Keeping the wound as clean as possible is an important measure to prevent infections.
Cleaning your hands after the intervention is desirable as well.
Undressing your friend or yourself to reach the wound can be difficult and painful. There’s also a risk of further contamination of the wound.
Shears can help you avoid these unnecessary hindrances, especially when every minute or second counts.
A marker doesn’t seem to be a necessity in threatening situations, but it does have a role.
Writing down the time of injury, application of tourniquet or any other significant symptom can help medical professionals to properly assist unconscious or disoriented patients.
This is a basic list of supplies for your small, life-saving IFAK kit. As I have said before, you don’t need to carry each and every item. It depends on your environment and potential threats. It also depends on the level of your medical training and knowledge. So, keep practicing and be ready!