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What are Some Different Types of Medical Supplies?

By Ken Black
Updated May 17, 2024
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Medical supplies run the gambit from the ordinary self-adhesive bandage to the most complex pieces of medical equipment. Some pieces may cost less than a penny per unit, whereas others may cost millions of dollars. Still, for the common person, most needed medical supplies can be obtained relatively inexpensively. In some cases, insurance may even cover some of the basics.

Medical supplies could be broken down into a number of different categories. However, they break down very neatly into a just a few major categories — first aid, pharmaceuticals and hospital equipment. There may be a case where a medical supply will not fit easily into any one of these categories. Others may fit in more than one.

First aid supplies include things like bandages and gauze, as well as some antiseptic treatments, burn relief and perhaps some medications for pain and other minor problems. The main objective of medical supplies in this category is to treat the immediate problem until further help, if needed, can arrive. In some cases, it may be the medical supplies in the first-aid kit will adequately handle the situation, if it is minor.

If it is not minor, a trip to the hospital may be necessary. Hospital supplies include more specialized products not only used for treating injuries, but a wide variety of medical conditions including infections, disease and other ailments. They run the gambit from catheters, to surgical supplies, to water bottles. Even hospital beds can be considered a medical supply. It should be noted that hospital beds can also be purchased by private individuals who may need such a bed in their home.

Without question, medical supplies for a hospital can be extremely expensive. Things like CAT scans and other sophisticated electronics can run into the millions of dollars. It also takes specialized training to run one and read the results. Therefore, while some medical supplies may be able to be widely used, others may not be so user friendly. Even with medical supplies used at home, it is important to understand what is to be done with the product and how it should be used. In some cases, using a product inappropriately can further irritate the problem. This is especially true with the next category.

Pharmaceuticals are those medical supplies that are taken internally or topically and use chemicals or, in some cases, live organisms, to treat or prevent an infection, mitigate pain or deal with other symptoms or causes of illness. Many times, they are available without a prescription. However, depending on the type of pharmaceutical, a prescription may be necessary. This category also includes supplies that sometimes are necessary to administer pharmaceuticals, such as syringes.

While it is common to use a pharmaceutical product inappropriately on accident, it is also common to intentionally misuse a product. Some people do so simply for the pleasant sensations the side effects of some medications may cause. It should be noted using a medication in this way is illegal in many jurisdictions around the world. It is also very dangerous to the user and could lead to situations such as overdose, which can be lethal in the worst-case scenarios.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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