Your Comprehensive Guide to Individual First Aid Kits (IFAKs)
An IFAK, short for Individual First Aid Kit, is a critical tool with military origins that has found its way into the world of law enforcement, the military, and beyond. In the military, the IFAK, equipped with essential medical supplies, has saved countless lives. However, its importance extends far beyond the battlefield. Even if you're not in a high-risk profession, having an IFAK can prove invaluable during everyday emergencies like car accidents, violent attacks, or other situations involving severe bleeding, respiratory problems, broken bones, and more. Understanding IFAKs and knowing how to use them can make the difference between life and death.
Below, you’ll find a guide to individual first aid kits and some advice on avoiding rookie mistakes.
Let's get started!
What's Inside an Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK Contents)?
M – Massive Hemorrhage
Bleeding was one of the most common battlefield deaths, in general, you should keep as much blood in your body as possible.
Tourniquet, is the single most critical piece of life-saving equipment in the event of penetrating trauma to an extremity, and probably the best investment in emergency medical gear for any trauma kit. It is highly recommended you become familiar with the tourniquet, practicing on others and yourself before you need it.
Pressure Dressing and Bandages/ISRAELI EMERGENCY BANDAGE, wraps around the wound and applies pressure over it to help further restrict blood flow from a penetrating wound by holding the gauze in place and adding more compression. One example of a pressure dressing is an Israeli emergency bandage, which has an elastic bandage with a built-in pad and a clip.
A – Airway
NPA(Nasopharyngeal airway), a flexible tube that is inserted through the nose into the pharynx (the back of the throat), easy to store & carry in an IFAK. It can help maintain an open airway in semi-conscious patients who have intact gag reflexes. When choosing it, please check the corresponding thickness and length to ensure that it is suitable for you. If contains lubricant, it will make the operation process more comfortable.
Cric-key, is an innovative open cricothyrotomy operation that allows you to quickly, easily and effectively establish an artificial airway in an emergency. It can perform a cricothyrotomy and establish a stable artificial airway in 30 seconds. It consists of two parts, Cric-Key and Cric-Knife, which only qualified personnel can operate.
R – Respiration
Sucking chest wounds are another common and preventable killer. It is often caused by gunshot wounds, stab wounds, or other penetrating trauma, but you can help prevent damage and save a life by preparing the corresponding supplies.
Chest seal, it's smart to carry it in any IFAK. If you're struck by gunfire to the torso, then a chest seal is one of the primary ways to treat that wound, to keep the air from getting in and hopefully let the air out. If you don’t have a chest seal, you can improvise one with plastic wrap or other occlusive material.
Needle for decompression, a needle for decompression is used to relieve pressure from a tension pneumothorax by inserting it into the second intercostal space (the space between the second and third ribs) on the same side as the injury. This allows air to escape from the pleural cavity and restores normal breathing. However, don't use it if you're not trained and authorized.
C – Circulation
Double-check your Care Under Fire (CUF, the medical treatment of casualties in a hostile environment) interventions, wherein your primary concern was stopping any life-threatening external hemorrhage, and make sure they’re still holding firmly(like TQ).
Gloves, if your clean-handed sweep yields blood on your fingers or palms, then you must pinpoint the wound site, expose and evaluate it, and take appropriate actions.
Splint, at this stage, if you discover broken bones, then they should be stabilized with a splint.
H – Hypothermia
In penetrating trauma, what you cannot see occurring is the lethal triad of hypothermia, acidosis, and coagulopathy. The trauma triad of death is recognized as a significant cause of death in patients with traumatic injuries.
Emergency blankets, hypothermia or hyperthermia can kill you within several hours. You can use an emergency blanket to shield you from the sun, protect you from the cold, or construct a makeshift shelter.
Spray with antiseptic, another way to control germs and infection, small and easily stored if needed.
Sharpie, a black Sharpie is perfect for writing the time a tourniquet was applied, as well as vital information on the patient.
Light source, you can quickly assess a wound if needed. It's hard to treat what you can't see!
MOLLE compatible, a rip-away pouch you can alter to meet the needs of your tactical setup.
Attention: This is not an exhaustive list. Depending on your situation, you may alter your kit such as painkillers.
Rookie Mistakes To Avoid:
Wrong gear for the occasion. You need the right gear for the right situation. You should choose an IFAK that matches your needs and preferences based on factors such as size, weight, contents, durability and compatibility with other gear.
The IFAK is disorganized. You don't want gauze falling everywhere when you open it up. You should arrange your items in a logical order based on priority and frequency of use and label each item clearly so you know what it is and how to use it.
Keeping the IFAK out of reach. You should be able to reach your IFAK with both hands. If you must keep it with a backpack, try to attach it to the outside. Alternatively, you can wear it on your belt, vest or chest rig where it’s close to your body and easy to detach if needed.
It's not labeled. This is especially important for tactical environments where you may have multiple people with different types of kits or where someone else may need to use yours in case of emergency. You should label your IFAK clearly so others can identify it quickly and avoid confusion.
Final Word on Individual First Aid Kits
IFAK has become affordable, easy to find, and is coming from a variety of reputable manufacturers. You should know you have had a responsibility for your safety. Besides, take some time to evaluate your medical needs, enroll in a local first aid class to get some hands-on experience to grab the living chance when face the emergency.