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First Aid kit, Paris, France, 1800-1945

First Aid kit, Paris, France, 1800-1945

Credits: Science Museum

Each of the eight coloured glass tubes corresponds to a different drug, making it easy to identify in an emergency. Some of the liquids are familiar to us, although their uses might not be. The blue glass contains caffeine, which was believed to help relieve pain as well as acting as a stimulant. The white glass contains ether, a popular anaesthetic, to numb the patient and stop them feeling any pain from their injuries. Among the more unusual liquids is the ‘ergotine’ in the brown glass tube. This was a medicine used to control heavy bleeding. In the brown red tube is novocaine - another pain reliever. All the liquids were to be given by injection. The kit is shown here with a similar example (A629765).

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    Techniques and Technologies:


    Glossary: first aid kit

    A kit designed to give help to an injured person until proper medical treatment is available

    Glossary: first aid

    Treatment that is rendered initially for the care of an emergent condition. It is usually performed by a lay person to a sick or injured patient until definitive medical treatment can be accessed

    Glossary: ampoule

    A sealed glass or plastic capsule containing one dose of a drug in the form of a sterile solution for injection.

    Glossary: caffeine

    A mild stimulant that is found in tea and coffee. It is often included, in small doses, in pain relief preparations, and is claimed to increase its effects.

    Glossary: anaesthetic

    An agent that causes insensitivity to pain. Applied to either the whole body (general anaesthetic) or a particular area or region (local anaesthetic).

    Glossary: strychnine

    A naturally occurring drug derived from trees. In small doses strychnine functions as a central nervous system stimulant, but in higher doses it is extremely poisonous.

    Glossary: ether

    A volatile liquid (resulting from the action of sulphuric acid upon alcohol) formerly used as an anaesthetic. Ether was usually inhaled.

    Glossary: adrenaline

    A hormone secreted from the adrenal gland in preparation for ‘fright, flight or fight’. The effects include increased heart and breathing rate, improved muscle contraction and delayed muscular fatigue.