IFAK Complete guide
An IFAK (individual First Aid Kit) is a compact medical kit that serves a crucial purpose: providing immediate, life-saving medical care during critical situations until professional medical assistance can be reached. It serves as a vital bridge of care, ensuring the best possible chance of survival for the casualty until they can be transferred to a doctor or medical facility.
Originally required for combat soldiers, the concept of IFAKs has expanded beyond the military and is now utilized by law enforcement officers, first responders, and even recommended for keeping one in your car.
Owning an IFAK can potentially save lives, whether it's your own or those around you. However, it's crucial to recognize that merely carrying an IFAK isn't sufficient; you must also possess the knowledge and skills to utilize it effectively. Proper training in medical procedures is essential for safely and efficiently utilizing the contents of the IFAK. Additionally, practicing regularly and regularly updating your kit's contents based on individual requirements and item expiration dates are paramount.
The contents of an IFAK can vary depending on the purpose and individual needs, but typically include essential medical supplies and equipment to address common life-threatening injuries encountered in battlefield situations.
MARCH is a simple acronym for remembering the necessary steps in priority for saving lives in combat. It stands for Massive Hemorrhage, Airway, Respiration, Circulation, Hypothermia/Head injury.
Stop the bleeding
Before the emergence of IFAKs, uncontrolled bleeding was a primary cause of death on the battlefield. Therefore, it is essential to include items in your IFAK that effectively address and mitigate bleeding.
- Tourniquet: Adding tourniquets to your IFAK is highly recommended, as they play a crucial role in controlling severe bleeding. While it's common to have multiple tourniquets readily available, having one integrated into your IFAK pouch ensures easy access and consolidates essential items in one place during time-critical situations.
- Hemostatic agent: Another vital addition to your IFAK is a hemostatic agent. These substances, such as QuikClot or Celox, aid in promoting blood clotting and effectively controlling bleeding. Including gauze impregnated with hemostatic agents allows for direct application to the wound, facilitating clot formation.
- Israeli bandage (pressure dressing): Sterile pressure dressings like the Israeli bandage are invaluable for managing bleeding. Elastic or self-adhesive bandages that wrap tightly around the wound apply direct pressure, helping to staunch bleeding effectively.
- Chest seals are airtight dressings used to cover and seal open chest wounds, such as sucking chest wounds. They prevent the entry of air into the chest cavity, allowing the injured person to breathe more effectively.
- Chest decompression needles, also known as thoracostomy needles, are essential for treating tension pneumothorax, a common but preventable cause of casualties. It's important to note that this procedure requires specialized training and certification. However, having a chest decompression needle in your IFAK allows a certified team member to administer the treatment when necessary. This ensures quick and effective action in life-threatening situations.
Airway management tools
Airway obstruction is a preventable cause of death. To address this, a useful tool to have in your IFAK is a nasopharyngeal airway (NPA). An NPA is a flexible tube inserted through the nose into the nasopharynx, the area behind the nose and above the throat. It helps keep the airway open, allowing for proper airflow and reducing the risk of complications, ultimately saving lives.
Recommended items to keep in your kit:
- Medical gloves: Disposable gloves are important to maintain hygiene and prevent the introduction of bacteria or contaminants into the wound.
- Antiseptic wipes: Antiseptic wipes, such as alcohol wipes or iodine-based wipes, can be used to clean the skin around wounds or prepare surfaces before medical procedures.
- Trauma shears, also known as medical scissors, are indispensable for cutting clothing and exposing wounds during assessment and treatment. These shears are essential in quickly and efficiently gaining access to injuries. It is common practice to keep trauma shears outside of the IFAK pouch for easy and immediate retrieval when needed. Their inclusion ensures that you can promptly and effectively respond to emergency situations by quickly accessing and exposing wounds for proper assessment and treatment.
- Hypothermia blanket: Including it in your IFAK can be beneficial in situations where rapid treatment and prevention of hypothermia are crucial. However, it's essential to remember that hypothermia treatment requires proper medical attention, and the blanket serves as a temporary measure until professional help can be obtained.
- Medical tape: Medical tape can be used to secure dressings and bandages in place, ensuring they stay clean and protected.
- Permanent marker: help keep track of time of the treatment and can be used to record essential information when transferring the wounded person to medical professionals.
When it comes to an IFAK placement some units have their own protocols on where to keep them so everyone in the unit knows exactly where it is and waste no time if they need to help their injured teammate. However, if you are free to choose there are few options:
IFAK Battle Belt Placement
A Battle belt is the most common place to keep your IFAK since it is the first line of gear so it is always on you. Put it on the rear or on the side, just make sure it doesn’t interfere with drawing your gun.
IFAK Plate Carrier Placement
There are a few options to attach IFAK to a plate carrier: you can use specialized IFAK pouches and mount them practically anywhere where you can easily reach it or you can use a general purpose pouch that allows you to organize stuff inside. Don’t forget to mark your pouch so anyone who needs to use it on you can identify it easily (For example, IDF uses X to mark a pouch with pressure bandage and O to mark TQ pouch). Another great option is to use a dangler pouch like Six Pack Hanger Pouch - easily accessible both by you and your doc and can be used as EDC IFAK since you can wear it as a fanny pack.
Check out IDF Combat Medic setup: