During the “lockdown” phase in the early days of the pandemic, I made recommendations to parents for treating many conditions that we would normally evaluate in the office. I’d like to share my recommended “items” that parents can use to treat or monitor a variety of illnesses/conditions at home – without having to visit a doctor’s office or emergency department. In many circumstances, a “pandemic first aid kit” can help parents deal with non-emergencies even during non-pandemic times, and help pediatricians improve guidance on virtual visits.
Smartphones and a great app for medical advice
First and foremost, any smartphone can be used to take videos or photos of children with skin rashes, sore throats, eye fluids, movement disorders, or abnormal behavior. By viewing the videos or photos sent by parents, providers can often replace virtual visits with office visits.
I always recommend that parents install PediatricSymptomMD1 on their smartphone. This is an excellent application derived from Dr. Barton Schmitt’s Telephone Triage Protocols. Its use can significantly reduce the need for unnecessary medical visits. The application provides guidelines for countless symptoms that can confuse and disturb parents. Parents are instructed on how to treat minor illnesses and, most importantly, are given advice on which conditions can be monitored at home and which symptoms warrant a call to their doctor or an emergency room visit. Dosages of medications are provided, as is advice for first aid for injuries, including performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It also includes a section on COVID-19 that is regularly updated to reflect current guidelines regarding symptoms and prevention strategies.
For new parents
Pediatricians often see newborns during the first weeks of life because of feeding problems. To reduce the number of office visits for newborns, I advised parents to purchase an inexpensive baby scale. Often these are available for $50 or less on Amazon, and many can be delivered the next day. I have found the “Redmon Weight and Grow”2 battery-operated baby and toddler scale to work well. By correlating baby scale measurements with the weight recorded by your office scale, you can see babies for a virtual “weight check” visit and make dietary recommendations based on weight trends. I also recommend that parents have a digital thermometer that they use to take rectal temperatures if a baby is hot or fussy. In my experience, forehead or ear thermometers often produce misleading temperatures that often lead to unnecessary visits to the emergency room.
We often see patients with minor cuts in the office to suture or close with a cyanoacrylate adhesive. In previous articles, I have recommended pediatricians to use Clozex3 wound closures to painlessly close minor cuts. clear instructions for use. There is even an instructional video on YouTube available at https://youtu.be/eSqU4xmsK-E.
I recently discovered that Amazon also sells a cyanoacrylate wound closure adhesive called SkinStitch.4 It’s inexpensive, costs $23 dollars, and the website has an excellent tutorial video. In all cases, physicians should advise caution in cleaning the wound prior to closure to ensure tetanus immunization status is current and that the closed laceration is protected with an appropriate sterile dressing. Parents should be instructed to watch for signs of infection and to call if they are concerned.
If the tick bites…
During the spring, summer, and fall, while practicing in New Hampshire, I often see children with embedded ticks that need to be removed. When parents equip their pandemic first aid kit with the Ticked Off or TickCheck, Tick Remover Spoon, purchased from Amazon, they can use both devices to quickly and easily remove most ticks without leaving embedded mouthparts. There are several tutorial videos available on YouTube, such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZ14TP7FSQk.
Parents often bring their children to the office for wart treatment, which we often treat with liquid nitrogen spray or by administering cantharidin. Most dermatologists I refer to now recommend that parents use the WartStick5 first, which contains 40% salicylic acid in a waxy base. With regular use and following the directions on the website, most warts will disappear within 6 to 12 weeks.
Is it an ear infection, laryngitis or COVID-19?
It is even possible to equip a “Pandemic First Aid Kit” with inexpensive items that will help you diagnose middle ear infection, strep throat or COVID-19 during virtual visits. For $35 on Amazon, parents can purchase a ScopeAround Ear Camera6 that captures high-resolution images of the ear canal and eardrum and displays them via a smartphone application. These images can easily be sent to providers for review. In addition, one can buy rapid strep kits from Amazon for about $40 per box of 25 tests, so with little supervision through a virtual visit, you can diagnose a strep test as easily as possible on an office visit. If you suspect that COVID-19 parents can purchase the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Test7, it sells for $20 for a 2 test kit. It uses anterior nostrils and results are available in 15 minutes. Don’t believe the negative antigen test? Parents can be prepared by purchasing the extraordinarily accurate $55.8 Lucira Check It Home COVID-19 Test that uses polymerase chain reaction technology to produce results in under 30 minutes!
Most parents keep a supply of plasters, disinfectants, a thermometer, as well as ibuprofen and diphenhydramine on hand in a first aid kit, in anticipation of the need. With a little more effort and an Amazon membership, parents can prepare for a multifaceted “pandemic”. First Aid Kit” that will facilitate virtual visits with their pediatrician and avoid unnecessary trips to emergency care clinics and emergency rooms.
Customize our symptom checker. Published in 2021. Accessed July 30, 2021. https://www.selfcare.infoRedmon Weight and Growth Scale. Published 2021. Accessed July 31, 2021. http://redmonusa.com/_images/baby_7450_spec.pdfSurgical Skin Closures. Published 2021. Accessed July 30, 2021. https://clozex.comSkinStitch: Topical Skin Adhesive. Published in 2021. Accessed July 30, 2021. https://www.skinstitch.comWartStick. Published in 2021. Accessed July 31, 2021. http://wartstick.comScopeAround. Published in 2021. Accessed July 31, 2021. https://scopearound.comBinaxNow: What you need to know. COVID-19 test. Published in 2021. Accessed July 31, 2021. https://www.abbott.com/corpnewsroom/diagnostics-testing/BinaxNOW-what-you-need-to-knowLucira Check It COVID-19 test. Published in 2021. Accessed July 31, 2021. https://checkit.lucirahealth.com