The Emergency Kit: How to survive unexpected (and long) trips to the ER

It didn’t take long last year for me to start making a list of things to bring with me EVERYWHERE and to remember to bring to the ER. My little ’emergency kit’ serves me really well for other reasons too, though, so I thought I’d share! The list isn’t long, but I’ll explain the items afterwards in case you want to know why…

On me: Medication Card, Epipen, Ventolin, Benadryl.

In my ’emergency kit’, my little red zip bag:

  1. Medication Card
  2. Regular Daily Meds
  3. Cell Phone, Brick & Charger cable
  4. Earplugs
  5. Microphone/headphones for phone
  6. Benadryl
  7. Bandaids
  8. Hair Elastics

On the checklist of things to be sure I have when I travel in an ambulance:

  • Wallet (health card!!! and fare for a taxi)
  • Dry Socks
  • Pillow/blanket?

1) The medication card

You know when you meet a new medical professional, and they give you an intake form to fill out, with the tiniest section ever to list allergies and medications? If you’re like me, you aren’t a fan.

Many years ago, though, I came up with my solution: a Medication card. It came about after I’d taken a number of first aid courses, and they mentioned how your secondary first aid (once patient is stable) includes getting medication information ready. I remember once calling an ambulance for my mom, and the paramedics had us hunting down all her medication bottles, to bring to the ER, because of course WE didn’t know her meds… and she was not well enough to know them either.

So I started using the little ‘medication summary sheet’ that pharmacies give you with ever prescription refill. I’d cross off the non-regular meds like antibiotics, and write in why I was taking the others in the space I could find. Then I put packing tape over the whole thing.

Now I’ve typed it into a handy chart. I have one column for the reasons I take medications- in order of importance. Allergies, Asthma, Chronic Back Pain, Etc… then the next column lists medications (both brand and generic names), and dosage. Next column is when I take it, and then I added a column for the prescription number or DIN so that it’s easy for me to refill my prescriptions even if I’m out of the house.

The other side of the paper has my picture, my name, the important medical conditions listed again, emergency contacts, and contacts for my doctors. I laminate two copies, keeping one in my wallet and the other in my epipen belt.

2) Daily meds:

One of the most frustrating things about allergies is that most of my medications now have to be specially compounded. So if I’m in the ER when I’m supposed to take my morning or evening meds… it’s not always possible that the ER will be able to easily have them on hand. Plus, it’s not ideal to have to get the nurse to hunt around for meds that aren’t immediately related to keeping me alive. So I always keep a mini ziplock with my morning meds, and one with my evening meds, in my emergency kit. I *ALWAYS* check with the nurse/doc before I take them, so that they are aware of what I’m taking and can avoid any drug interactions.

To be honest, though, I use these most when I’m at work and realize I forgot to take my morning meds.

3) Cellphone Charger, Brick (& Cell Phone)

It’s hard for me to imagine a time when I’d be less happy to be out of touch with my family & friends… than in an emergency. I have, however, learned not to text while a blood pressure cuff is inflating (OW- don’t even hold it then!!!). I don’t often have any company for the 3-6 hr mandatory “let’s see if this reaction returns” wait, so keeping at least my sister up-to-date is important. My phone has downloaded movies, music, books, games… not to mention the ERs in my city all have free wifi… but of course all of that is USELESS without a charger.

I found a retractable charger online, and a small brick. It’s neat, tidy, and is also the thing I pull out most frequently when I’m not in an ER. Be sure to get something as long as possible, since it’s really nice to be able to keep it plugged in while you hold it.

4) Earplugs

ERs are LOUD when you’re trying to sleep off an allergic reaction. Beeping monitors, the occasional patient next door moaning or screaming… so a few pairs of these are really helpful for overall sanity.

5) Headphones/microphone 

ERs are LOUD… and you don’t want to be contributing. Or bugging your neighbour while chatting on the phone (I do that very, very rarely) or watching a movie or listening to calming music. I’d like to find a pair that retracted or some way to cool them more neatly, though.

6) Benadryl 

If you have allergies, talk to your allergist about what emergency procedure you should be following. Because I have chronic hives AND anaphylaxis, I have been instructed not to use my epi at the first symptom, and thus I carry Benadryl (for the hives). Usually, though, if you have a history of severe reactions, and you start exhibiting symptoms… Call 911. Take the epi. Go to the ER by ambulance. As with many things in my life… I am an exception to what is normal.
The things I keep on me at all times are for really good reasons: without an epipen where I could reach it, I’ve had difficulty breathing… thankfully my brother-in-law intervened that time when he heard me coughing. Without ventolin on me, I’ve had to send colleagues running to get it from my locker as it felt like my lungs were on fire during an asthma attack… These are things I have learned to keep within reach, period. Usually in a belt around my waist, or a special pair of pants. Even when I sleep I can reach an epi. If I swim, I let the guard team know who I am & what the belt is at the side of the pool… When I have massage therapy or chiro appointments, they know where my belt is. It’s key.

7) Bandaids

I have first aid knowledge, but the most handy thing to have with me at all times? Bandaids. I keep cool “Planes” bandaids because they make me (and the patient) laugh.

8) Hair Elastics

If you have long hair like me… this one can really be helpful. In the ER you’re already tangled up in wires and cords, and getting your hair tangled too? Not cool. I usually keep two because i prefer to braid my hair into two braids when i’m not feeling well. Keeps my hair out of the way, but also doesn’t make a big bump on the back of my head when i’m trying to sleep.

The Other Stuff:

The last few items on the list are really just for comfort; my socks always manage to get wet somehow… probably from the paramedics tracking in snow and me walking beside them. And the pillow/blanket came from that one time the ER was out of pillows and heated blankets. It was not a fun night, but it’s pretty rare so sometimes I skip that option.

Hopefully you’ll never need to use these items, but… as I learned in girl guides many years ago, it’s always good to #beprepared!


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