Many individuals will throw a few pills from a larger container into a small plastic bag for easy transport. Yes, this is very convenient, but it can have some severe consequences.
First of all, you or others may forget or not know what the medication is if it’s not labeled. And even if it is marked with the drug name, the drug dose and other important information like the instructions for use, side effects, warnings, and expiration date are missing.
Repackaging from a bulk container also means the medication has been exposed to the outside environment. Harsh environmental extremes like humidity and hot or cold temperatures can compromise many medications and promote drug breakdown. A simple plastic bag may not offer enough protection.
We suggest carrying individually packaged medications. All the information is available on the packet, it protects the medication from the environment, prevents confusion with other pills, and it’s less bulky. Individually packaged medications are widely available in supermarkets and drugstores.
The effectiveness of a medication is greatly reduced after its expiration date. Be sure to regularly exchange expired medications in your first aid kit. If a drug is discolored or has an off smell before the expiration date, err on the side of replacing it. Again, environmental extremes may have caused the drug to breakdown making it no longer effective.
Every medication has side effects and risk associated with their use. You do not have to be a pharmacist, but you should be familiar with the uses, side effects, and how to use a particular medication. For instance, aspirin is a widely used drug for aches and pains. However, since it thins the blood, it is not the recommended choice to help reduce the pain of physical injuries in the wilderness as it can cause further bleeding. The same is true for Ibuprofen. Aspirin should also never be given to children under the age of 18. And like other Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, aspirin can have nasty side effects if used in excess or over a long period at certain doses.
Yes, this is our motto here at Base Medical, and for a good reason. The more you know, the safer you are. Increasing your wilderness medicine knowledge, even at the first aid level will go a long way in the backcountry when you are far from help. Be it a minor pain or a life-threatening injury, your brain will be the best tool in such situations. If you have no prior experience in wilderness medicine, we suggest starting with our online Outdoor Safety Awareness course.