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Runners’ First Aid Kit: The Must Have Items!

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As most runners will tell you, accidents happen. To be prepared, you may wish to put together a runner’s first aid kit.

In addition, we have some useful tips to help you determine how to proceed in case of an emergency.

11 Things to Add to Your Runner’s First Aid Kit

No runner expects to carry an entire first aid kit on every run. However, a couple of things are true.

First, you should have a first aid kit in your vehicle or at your home in case you end up with an injury.

Also, trail runners should carry at least some essential first aid items in their pack. 

If you are going for a long trail run or hiking deep into the woods or mountains, these are the bare-bones things you want to carry:

  1. Ibuprofen: In the event of some type of injury, ibuprofen can really come in handy. 
  2. Bandaids or adhesive bandages: You never know when you might scrape or cut yourself or when a blister might get unbearable.
  3. Wipes (baby or hand wipes): If you take a spill in the dirt, you will want to clean it up. 
  4. Antiseptic/antibiotic ointment: Putting ointment on a wound before bandaging it can help prevent infection. 
  5. Hydrocortisone cream: You can get hydrocortisone cream in individual packs, which can be helpful if you are stung by an insect or get into something. 
  6. Eye drops: Ever swipe a bug out of your eye? Eye drops can come in handy if this happens. 
  7. Hand sanitizer: Clean those hands before cleaning out a wound!
  8. Bug spray: Deep in the woods, you never want to be caught without bug spray. 
  9. Sunscreen: Even if you sunscreen up before you head out to run, you will want to have at least a little bit in your pack in case of emergencies. 
  10. Water: First, you may need it to wash out a wound. Second, you will need more water and food than you anticipate if you get lost. 
  11. Bandana: A bandana can be used to wash out a wound, as a sweatband, or as a tourniquet. Keep one in your bag. 

Home First Aid Kit for Runners

Understanding that you cannot carry all of these things with you on every run, there are some other items you would want to keep in your medicine cabinet at home. First, get yourself some Epsom salts. Having an Epsom salt soak in a hot bath can help you relieve aching muscles. 

An elastic wrap such as an ace bandage is useful if you twist an ankle or have another swollen or sore body part.

Body Glide is an excellent lubricant that can help prevent chafing, and there are other options. 

Running many miles can also cause difficulty for runners as they experience debilitating calf cramps. You can get rid of these by taking a salt tablet. I would never be caught without these in my medicine cabinet. 

There are excellent products made for blisters such as Compeed

What Do You Need for an Ultra Marathoners Survival Kit?

  1. In addition to the trail runners’ medical kit discussed above, there are items an ultramarathoner should have on hand. 
  2. Phone: Carry a phone—no further discussion. 
  3. Whistle: A whistle can signal for help if something happens to you or to scare away animals. 
  4. Jacket: No matter how warm it is when you head out to run, you should have a running jacket that can be folded up compactly. It should be windproof and waterproof. 
  5. Hat: Keeping your head warm if the weather changes is important. 
  6. Emergency Blanket: An emergency foil blanket is crucial to helping you keep your heat in if you fall, are injured, and cannot get back to safety. 
  7. Compass: A compass is necessary, especially if you are in an isolated area with unmarked trails. 
  8. Water Bottle: The bottle should be full when you leave and carry more than you think you need. 
  9. Water Purification Tablets: Again, just in case. You never know when you might get lost or hurt. 
  10. Food: Always carry extra food with you when you are on a long run. 
  11. Pepper Spray: You never know when you might encounter a stranger or wild animal. 

Playing it Safe

Running with a group or at least a partner ensures that you will have some level of help if the need arises. Of course, this is not always possible.

Carrying a cell phone with you is the best way to enlist assistance if you need it. In the event of a serious injury, you can easily call someone or 911 for help.

There are some very comfortable ways to wear your phone these days since carrying it in your hand can be unwieldy. Armbands and waist belts are two such options and are available in various sizes, styles, and price points.

If you are running where there is spotty or no cell service, or you don’t like to carry a phone, leaving a map of your route and the estimated time of your return will at least provide an idea of where you might be located if you don’t arrive home in a reasonable length of time.

Runners with allergies to bees, wasps, or other insects should carry an epi-pen to prevent anaphylactic shock if bitten or stung. You can carry an epi-pen in a waist pouch, belt, or bag of some sort. 

In Case of Strains, Sprains, Twist, and Breaks

Sometimes sprains and fractures can be difficult to differentiate without an X-ray. If the injury is to a leg or foot, check to see if you can bear weight on it. If you can bear weight, you will probably be okay to hobble home.

If you can’t bear weight on it, the most important thing is to immobilize the potential fracture with a make-shift splint. Something sturdy like two sticks can be placed on either side of the limb with an athletic tape, sock or shirt tied around it.

Getting back home shouldn’t be too much of a problem if the injury is to the arm or hand.

A leg or foot injury is a bit more problematic. You may be able to limp back, even using a large stick for extra support, but if the pain is too great and you can’t put any weight on it, here is where running with a buddy comes in handy as he/she can support you on the way back.

Be Prepared, Not Sorry

If you mostly run on the road and in populated areas, you can probably get away with not carrying much for medical supplies or any type of first aid kit.

While it is good to have those types of items available at home in case of injury, you don’t necessarily need them on your person at all times. 

However, if you run long distances in isolated areas or on trails, you will want to carry at least some supplies with you. After all, better prepared than left in a difficult position. 

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