Tools of the Trade

Posted on: October 18, 2010

Favorite medical supplies, tools-of-the-trade, or articles of a Registered Nurse and college instructor. (List 1)

By Jane-Alexandra Krehbiel RN

Every RN, MD, pharmacist, and nurse practitioner finds products which they like to use, either in the course of professional life, or at home with family. Today, I thought I would share some of mine.

Once I do, it’s up to you to decide whether you have sufficient need for such a product to justify getting some for your own home medical or home evacuation kit.


This is an old time product that many of our grandmothers used for cuts and scrapes. Lately, a lot of nurses and physicians have been rediscovering it. It is available at some pharmacies and can be specially ordered at others. Apinol is a topical wound treatment which is made from a pine oil derivative. It smells a lot like Pine Sol and apparently creates an environment in which bacteria and viruses have a tough time replicating and therefore growing or producing infection. This is very timely because a number of us are finding that neosporin or other topical antibiotics no longer work consistently in the prevention of superficial wound infections. Apinol can be sprayed to a skin wound area or can be applied with a cotton tipped applicator. I also sprayed it inside some damp smelly shoes recently while I was on vacation in the woods, and it worked well for this also.


Hydrogen peroxide or H202 is remarkable and has an abundance of medical uses, as well as household ones. To be short, peroxide not only cleanses wounds, but mixed half and half with water, can treat dry socket, or when used as a rinse, can improve gum disease markedly. It can also be used for removing bandages which have stuck to wounds by pouring it over the stuck bandage. Be sure to rinse with normal saline solution afterward, which can be made with one teaspoon salt to one pint of boiled water, left to cool before use. Peroxide also has many cleaning uses. It will also remove blood from clothing.


Steri-strips can be purchased from a number of medical supply houses or through the internet. These are sterile hypoallergenic tape with hypoallergenic fibers through the tape. Many times, suturing of a wound can be avoided, and the wound can be kept approximated for healing simply with steri-strips. Steri-strips can be applied leaving slight distances between each other on a wound,allowing for the exit bloody or other drainage. On a horizontal wound, one would clean and dry and apply a series of steri-strips vertically, allowing small spaces between.

Clean non-stapled, non reddened, and non infected, post surgical abdominal wounds can be reinforced by applying a few sterile steri strips in the fashion described above. They help to reinforce and avoid superficial skin pulling which can be uncomfortable during recovery. I prefer steri-strips to the old “butterfly bandages”. They come in a variety of sizes and thicknesses for a variety of purposes.

Needle nosed forceps, otherwise known as tweezers

Stainless steel medical needle nosed forceps make life much easier and faster for us. Many times a small splinter, consisting of wood, fiberglass, metal, or even stainless steel pad can become lodged in a finger,hand or foot in either callous or tender tissue. An excellent pair of needle nosed forceps or fine tweezers are well worth the investment as they allow a less traumatic and faster removal of the foreign body, which you may well be removing from yourself.

Iris scissors

A tiny pair of stainless steel scissors called iris scissors can be invaluable. These were originally created for eye surgery but can be found and used in almost all areas of medicine now. These can be useful, for example, for removing excess torn fingernail or toenail especially when it has been pulled or damaged below the quick. These can be sterilized by boiling or sanitized by soaking in alcohol.

Ice sponges

Although I do keep a few chemical cold packs, mostly for the car, my favorite type of ice packs are ice sponges. I take a number of sponges, put them in small freezer bags. I add water and then compress the sponge to allow them to “drink” the water in the bag. Then I pour out the excess. I then freeze them. Before applying them to skin, I make envelopes of Handi-Wipes for them so that the iced region does not have direct skin contact. These ice sponges are particularly good because they are generally well tolerated. They also are form fitting as they melt, which makes them useful for everything from fractures, soft tissue injuries to the back of necks in nosebleeds. I rotate them for a time and throw them away when soiled.

“Anti Monkey Butt Powder”

Yes, my kids think the name is hysterical, but this is a wonderful product. It consists of calamine powder, talc and mild fragrance. It is formulated to absorb sweat and minimize frictional skin discomfort, but this is a wonderful powder for promoting comfort for almost everything,including the interior of boots and shoes. As with any talc or powdered product, do not inhale it and handle carefully around children who might.

I hope you add these items and products to your supplies and find some new ones yourself also.

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