Street Medic’s are constantly adding supplies to their first-aid kits. In fact, over time we can accrue so much equipment, accessories, back-up supplies, rare & exotic devices and unnecessary medical baggage that our packs become a manual handling risk in themselves!Oversized kit

So, to go against the current of all those other blog posts indulging us to stuff our first-aid kits with all manner of sexy equipment, I have decided to write one about removing stuff from that over-sized, pregnant kit of yours!

1: LATEX SUCKS: About 1% of the population experiences hypersensitivity to latex. 1% might not sound much, but in Australia that equates to roughly 240,000 people with a latex allergy. Reactions to latex can range from minor skin irritation to hay-fever like symptoms … to full blown anaphylactic shock potentially resulting in death!

Street Medics always obtain consent before assisting a casualty, but in the heat of a direct action it is generally not possible to gain a full & concise medical history. Therefore it becomes us to limit the probability of exposing our comrades to potential harm … thus it is best practice when packing a first-aid kit  to assume everyone has a Latex Allergy.

Only use vinyl or Nitrile gloves and check all your bandages, band-aids and plasters for a Latex-Free stamp. If in doubt about a piece of kit … ditch it.

2: STAINY BETADINE: Betadine and other iodine-containing topical treatments can be very irritating to the skin, and in some cases can cause tissue damage – in particular to people with a shellfish allergy. Another problem with Betadine is that it stains, which can make skin assessment later on particularly challenging.

So throw out all those old Betadine lotions in your first-aid kit and replace them with Chlorhexidine – or better yet good old fashioned Saline! In the field it is probably best to liberally irrigate wounds with normal saline and leave the antiseptic washes to later.

3: IMPROVISED BURN GELS: Stuff like petroleum jelly, toothpaste and even butter may have a certain DIY appeal when it comes to treating burns, but they really have no place in a Street Medics’ first-aid kit. Extensive burns are a medical emergency and need to be referred to a hospital as quickly as possible. In the Emergency Department they will have to take a brush to your improvised burn treatment in order to assess the wound beneath it. Ouchie!

So, out on an action – and if safe to do so – gently cool minor burns under running water. Severe burns that need hospital treatment will require dressing in clean, sterile non-stick gauze.

4: POINTY THINGS: Protests and civil disobedience really are not places where you want to be caught carrying 10 inch Acupuncture needles! The same could be said about suture sets. It’s great that you’re skilled in suturing wounds, but then again – even if you know what is the right kind of suture to use – is an urban demonstration the ideal locale to be sewing shut a gaping wound when there is a ambulance parked a few blocks away?

It is even advisable to think twice about the kind of bandage scissors you pack. Small blunt tip scissors are ideal  and practical.



In Melbourne we are rarely blessed with terrifically hot weather but, on occasion, we find ourselves sweltering in the heat of a 40°C+ day. Such hot weather poses a risk to protesters due to the possibility of dehydration or heat stress, and this can be compounded by particular methods of protest. Activists engaged in lock-ons or pickets may be unwilling or unable to leave the site, meaning they may be exposed to direct sun and wind for long periods of time and have difficulties getting water, food or relieving themselves. In order to ensure that they can engage in effective political action as long as possible, activists must come prepared with the right supplies and attitude to last the day.

Essential supplies:

  • Bottle of water (600mL – 1L);
  • A small snack, such as a museli bar or packet of lollies;
  • A hat;
  • Sunscreen, SPF30 or above;
  • Light, loose-fitting clothing that covers as much skin as possible.

Essential attitudes:

  • Rest Well, Rest Often. Get as much rest as possible before and after actions. Recharging your batteries helps to prevent burn-out and will lessen stress during actions.
  • Know your limits. By the time you’re feeling nauseous from the heat or feeling the burn from sunburn you have pushed yourself too far. Talk with your fellow activists about what you feel comfortable doing, how you’re feeling and about rotating out to ensure that everyone can stay healthy and happy. You may notice that in hot weather, police commanders will rotate their officers out either in teams, couples or individually to allow them to drink water, have a snack and sit out of the sun for a while: this enables them to maintain their presence all day, and similar actions should be taken by protesters where possible.
  • Sunscreen or Fry, Water or Die. In Australia, the risk of sunburn is very high, even on cloudy days. On 35°C+ days, the likelihood of getting sunburned after an hour in the sun is almost guaranteed and burns will take several days to recover from, even with care. Dehydration, as well as making you feel irritable, nauseous and dry-lipped, can lead to cramps, fainting and further medical problems. The body needs to take in at least 30 – 60mL of water an hour to produce the necessary urine for basic kidney function and this should be kept in mind during prolonged actions.

Street medics will often bring supplies of water and sunscreen to actions, but this is intended as a measure of last resort or treatment. Carting bulk supplies of water to and around actions comes with a physical and financial cost that many of us are unable to bear for very long. If long term actions or actions during extreme heat are planned, we encourage activists to prepare themselves accordingly and perhaps come together to organise a separate water affinity group who can make it a priority to ensure that activists are adequately hydrated and sun-screened.

For more information, check out Pro-Tips 12 (Dehydration) and 20 (Keeping Cool in the Heat) and the Victorian Government’s Better Health resources on Heat Stress and Heat Illnesses.