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Excluding parking the car in the shade or carrying the kit in person, what are some solutions to handle emergency car kits in the heat?

I am aware medications, ointments, creams, adhesives are the ones to worry about, but I'd like to ask for any experiences and suggestions.

Other details that also came to mind:

  • How often to rotate in these conditions?

  • What is the best material for storage or even as "extra layers"? (e.g., a thick bag, container or cooler)

  • Where is the best place to store? In the car's interiors like the glove compartment or underneath the seats? Or in the trunk? (I've read different opinions about the car trunk being the hottest/coolest area.)

I live in Southern California so the temperatures can get pretty record-breaking, particularly in the summer. I recently started volunteering at my local park and trails so I've been very curious for answers to better educate and prepare myself.

  • Hi Jennifer and welcome to TGO. Nice question. I am undecided whether to ask you to split the questions up in to separate ones: Rotating first aid items stored in high temps and where/how to store them in a car in high temps is clearly related, but still two distinct issues. Maybe someone has expertise on one but not on the other. – imsodin May 9 '18 at 5:15
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  • @imsodin Glad to have a nice welcome. Yeah, I figured too there were a lot asked. Got some informative responses in the end! – Jennifer May 9 '18 at 21:34
  • @CharlieBrumbaugh Awesome. This was an excellent thread and question you asked—very helpful to apply to my question and for future backpacking trips. Thank you! – Jennifer May 9 '18 at 21:38
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    It's also worth considering the purpose of your kit, and deciding whether the medicines, adhesives, ointments, and creams are really what you want in your car. Cohesive bandages can often serve in place of adhesives (though possibly bulky), and many of the ointments and creams can be delayed til you're home. My car kit focuses more on immediate trauma, rather than tiny packets of burn creams and such you find in many pre-made first aid kits. A few simple bandaids are easy to stash in the bottom of a bag or wallet, rather than left in the car. – Matthew Wetmore May 11 '18 at 7:49
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The two main tricks for storing things in a car in hot temperatures are,

  • Try to keep the car as cool as possible,

    • Park in the shade.
    • Use a reflective windshield shade to reflect some of the heat that would otherwise be absorbed and heat up the inside of the car.
  • Keep the things inside of other things and keep them out of direct sunlight.

    • Coolers work well, I have used rubbermaid containers for this in the past.
    • The interior will be cooler than the trunk, at least from the experiments I have seen.

As far as how often to rotate, that will depend on how serious the failure of a particular component is. For instance, it would be far more critical to replace an epi-pen after exposure to really high heat than band-aids.

  • Great tips, I agree. I like the idea of giving those Rubbermaid containers a try. It's reassuring to get feedback on the coolness of trunk interiors, thank you! – Jennifer May 9 '18 at 21:30
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Keeping things against the floor with insulation on top is often the best approach for keeping them cool. This could be under the front seats or in the spare wheel compartment, but many modern cars have compartments under the boot (trunk) floor. The tops of these compartments provide some insulation from the worst of the greenhouse heating, but the kit itself should be insulated. A sealed bottle of water or two can fill the remaining space and reduce the rate of temperature rise; spare water is close to a first aid item in hot places anyway.

I would avoid rotating items out of this location into another place, as you could then end up ruining all your stock. I've found better quality (expensive branded) adhesive dressings (plasters/band-aids and tapes) to survive temperature extremes better than cheap ones.

For temperature-sensitive medication there's not a lot you can do, but this should help with ointments and adhesive dressings. There is of course a trade-off with accessibility.

  • That is a really good point of using spare water bottles to fill up empty spaces—I would not have considered it without your response! I will have to see how much room I have under my trunk floor. Very much appreciated, thank you. – Jennifer May 9 '18 at 21:20
  • You can even freeze the bottles of water, if you can keep a few in rotation. – Martin F May 10 '18 at 19:55
  • @MartinF you certainly can. I've been known to use a wide-necked nalgene bottle filled with ice in similar applications. But even just room-temperature water will help absorb some heat – Chris H May 10 '18 at 20:08
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Consider splitting the kit.

Put dressings, scissors, hemostat, tape ... in one for non perishables. I like using a fishing tackle box. Athletic tape, antiseptic powder, saline solution, and bar soap all hold up in the heat pretty well. In a car accident with major problems you are not worried about ointments. Airway, bleed, stabilize, and get professional medical help.

Ointment and other perishables a small box or even a bag and store under the seat. Or a thermos - like a coffee thermos. Look at Klean Canteen insulated food canister. Rotate out as needed. I would check every 6 - 12 months.

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There are good answers regarding where to put it and how to best protect it. I'll add a few insights to those excellent answers.

  1. Separate the insensitive stuff from the sensitive stuff. Bandaids, compresses, burn-gel, dest. water, antiseptic, some NSAIDs - these things usually withstand heat well. So, epi-pens and other medication (you can ask at the pharmacy for this information) put in a separate bag, store the same place

  2. Get a thermometer that is like this. - preferrably analogue, with min/max readings. Put it inside the bag with the sensitive stuff. This way you can tell what needs replacement when. Maybe you can have a spare bag of stuff that has been exposed to too high temperature. When you really need an epi pen, you are likely not going to do any damage if the alternatives are "no epi pen" or "old and exposed epi pen".

Cave at lector: I am not a medical professional, but this is what the manufacturer says in this specific case (epipen):

Expired adrenaline autoinjectors are not as effective when used for treating allergic reactions and should not be relied upon to treat anaphylaxis. However, the most recently expired adrenaline autoinjector available should be used if no in-date device is available.

This is usually the case for most medicines - they become less effective but not harmful. (again, do check the specifics yourself, if you use a strangers advice in a life or death situation, the liability is on you...)

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