EMS Tips Guest Blogger

Some Out of the Ordinary EMS Equipment

Carrying a specific set of items has become part of my paramedic routine. Steve Whitehead had a great post sampling readers about what they carry in their pockets while on-duty. Everyday EMS Tips contributor, Chris Matthews, will be the first to admit he adds a lot of things to the on-board equipment that many of us have never considered. Chris has been a paramedic and EMS educator for more than 15 years. Read what he describes as “Not your usual rig stock.” Editor’s note: remember to check with your service director and/or medical director before using unconventional treatments.

In fifteen years in EMS, I have picked up a couple tools that are useful in day-to-day patient care. I carry a small pouch, about the size of a small IV start kit, with me that I leave on the patient care compartment bench while I’m on shift. Here’s what I keep around:
– “Doc the Ambulance” book with a push-button siren sound
– Bubba Teeth
– Groucho glasses
– Matchbox ambulances
– Squeezy toys
– Kiddie Band-Aids
– Stickers
– Laser pointer
– Wong-Baker pain scale chart for pediatric/non-English-speaking patients.
– A set of disposable, padded nose clamps for epistaxis patients (or me when assaulted with offensive odors).
– ALS Field Guide/Pocket Protocols
(Note: you can find the above items at many dollar stores and Wal-Mart 88 cent aisles.)

You probably have some of the other items, but I have never seen anyone else carry these things:
– A small packet of baking soda: Mix with a little water or saline into a paste. Apply over site of bee/wasp stings. It neutralizes the venom and reduces pain.
– Travel-sized bottle of regular Listerine mouthwash: Apply to Fire-Ant bites to neutralize venom, and reduce pain and itching.
– Can of Arrid XX anti-perspirant: Spray the chests of diaphoretic patients before 12-lead EKG’s. Simply wipe the chest with a clean towel, spray the Arrid XX over the chest (if the patient is well-endowed with chest hair – shave them afterward so it won’t burn) and leave it for 15-30 seconds, then wipe off the chest again and apply the electrodes and/or defib patches. The spray lingers in the air for a moment, so warn the patient to close their eyes and not take deep breaths. I can usually make it through a 20 minute transport without losing the electrodes contact with the skin or replacing electrodes with wet adhesive. I find this to be far more effective than Benzoin, which can leave adhesive residue that interferes with clean EKG signals. I learned this from an ICU nurse about 10 years ago who was orienting me to the crash cart. It was standard to have the anti-perspirant spray stocked on the cart.

Even more bizarre (and the brunt of many jokes), I carry a can of FDS spray. All joking aside, I use it on my “urban outdoorsmen” who haven’t recently practiced good hygiene. It makes transport time more tolerable, and “thank you’s” from the receiving nurses and docs far outweigh the jokes from my colleagues. I keep it around for the rare call where the patient encountered a skunk, and I’ve been told it works better than any old wives remedy like tomato juice baths. Besides, there are plenty of patients who are a little too ripe to tolerate on a hot day in a slow cooker oven (a.k.a. patient compartment) or a cramped ER room.

By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.