Should Paracetamol Be in First Aid Kits?

a worker with a bandaged arm is handed paracetemol

As you stock your first aid kit, you come across paracetamol (acetaminophen) at the chemist. Tossing in a packet seems sensible – headaches and other aches are common minor injuries after all! But should you actually pack paracetemol or other pain relief meds into kits? The short answer is no. We’ll unpack why its recommended to leave out oral medications.

The Purpose of First Aid Kits

First and foremost, review what constitutes “first aid”. These represent immediate treatments delivered to victims of injury or sudden illness before professional care in order to preserve life, prevent worsening conditions and promote recovery. Kits focus on supplies like bandages, wound care, tools for immobilization or and PPE.

Medications treat medical conditions internally rather than directly intervene for injuries. While anti-inflammatories like paracetamol relieve symptoms, they don’t technically provide acute “first aid”. And as over the counter drugs, it can be risky to use it in the wrong way.

Official First Aid Code of Practice Guideline For Paracetemol

Australia’s National First Aid Code of Practice specifically advises against stocking medications:

“Medication including analgesics such as paracetamol and aspirin should not be included in first aid kits because of their potential to cause adverse health effects in some people including pregnant women and people with medical conditions like asthma. The supply of these medications may also be controlled by drugs and poisons laws.”

What are the risks?

Why not include paracetemol? After all it only seems logical.

Here are a few reasons: Medication can mask symptoms, a person may be in need of the help of emergency services, but the pain reducing effects could make their symptoms seem milder. Also, a person in need of further care might delay seeking the urgent treatment they need, waiting for painkillers to “kick in”. Excluding oral medication also helps avoids risks from allergic reactions or risk of giving the wrong medication.

That said, some parts of first aid kits help with symptom relief:

  • Sterile saline eye wash stations bring relief to eye irritants.
  • Cold Packs and Crepe bandages help with bruising or swelling from sprains and strains

First Aid Kit Essentials

If a staff member frequently gets headaches or migraines, it’s better to get them to bring their own headaches. While handy for headaches, keeping paracetamol stocked in first aid kits falls outside recommendations. Simple wound care, bandages, safety tools and PPE make up well equipped kits already positioned to preserve life until professional care. Ultimately remember first aid’s definition and purpose when considering bending rules!

Keen to know more about first aid for your business? Check out our epic guide to the first aid code of practice.

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