There are numerous forms that a First Aid kit can take. The following ten suggestions give some indications of where you can start with your own.
Home First Aid Kit
This is your most comprehensive collection of emergency medical supplies covering many possible scenarios as well as your family’s particular needs. Below we will discuss many of the considerations that will determine what you will put into this widest possible collection of materials.
Bathroom Cabinet Kit
This is less comprehensive than your Home Kit and would contain over-the-counter and prescription medications and the equipment to deal with minor cuts and abrasions, headaches, indigestion, etc. Here you would probably store band-aid but not bandages (or only one).
Purse / Handbag Compact Kit
This could contain, for example, 4 or 6 pain killing tablets, a small quantity of disinfectant, three antiseptic wipes, one gauze pad, 10 band-aids. These should fit into a small zip-lock bag that is easy to slip into a purse, backpack or diaper bag
Kitchen First Aid Kit
A kit which emphasizes the immediate treatment of burns and cuts that might occur in a kitchen
Home Workshop / Garage Kit
A kit which emphasizes treatment of cuts and abrasions which might occur when using tools and machinery
Car First Aid Kit
To be placed in each of the cars you own. A larger kit containing supplies for a variety of different emergency situations. You will need to plan for the types of trip you are likely to take. Only around urban areas? Deep into the wilderness? With children? Make your car kit easily accessible. In an emergency you do not want to be unloading your trunk to access the kit from the spare wheel recess.
An extension of your regular car kit, containing extra provisions for the type of terrain and activity that your camping trip involves. Are you going to be very cold? Very hot? Mountain climbing? Encountering insects? Will you need to purify water?
The nature of this kit will obviously depend on the type of workplace involved and the number of people being catered for. Here many companies benefit from the advice of professionals in meeting the emergency needs of their workforce.
Sporting Activity Kit
This might be kept in a club house around which you are pursuing your sporting activities but it might also have to be taken along to be handy if you are, for example, surfing or mountain climbing. Its’ contents and size will have to be determined by the nature of the sport and the number of people being catered for.
Special Needs / Allergy Kit
This kit takes into account the specific medical needs of a member of your family that might present an emergency situation, e.g. a serious allergy.
NOTE on Special needs/allergy kit
- Your doctor can advise you on what to have in this kit. Antihistamines (such as Benadryl, Prednisone and/or epi-pens are the most likely inclusions. An auto-injector of epinephrine could be included if prescribed by the doctor. Include a couple of doses of any other frequently required medications, in case there is a delay in reaching medical help.
- Pack the kit into a small, durable, water-resistant container, clearly marked with the person’s name and, for example, “ALLERGY EMERGENCY KIT”. This kit might have to be used by someone who is not familiar with the sufferer’s particular medical condition. Therefore:
- On a durable card or laminated paper, clearly write/print out all instructions for how and when to use the medications.
- Include your doctor’s phone number and any important patient information (any additional allergies, for instance).
Emergency Information for Your First Aid Kit
All your First Aid kits should contain:
- Emergency phone numbers, including contact information for your family doctor/pediatrician, local emergency services, emergency road service providers and the poison help line (in the US – 800-222-1222)
- Contact numbers for next-of-kin or close friends
- Medical consent forms for each member of the family
- Medical history summary for each member of the family, including allergies, etc.
First Aid Kit Packing & Storage Strategies
It is vital that your First Aid supplies are stored safely, in an organized system and regularly checked. When you are in an emergency you do not want to be scrabbling frantically amongst unsorted and out-of-date material. Careful preparation could save a life.
Containers For Your First Aid Kit(s)
The container needed for a kit will vary depending on the size and purpose of the particular kit.
- Size – The purse/handbag kit will fit into something like a Ziploc bag but most other kits will need something bigger (and it would be a pity to leave out materials that could be called for because your container is not big enough). Maybe you need to assemble the materials you think are desirable for a specific kit and then look around for the suitable-sized container.
- Type – Most First Aid kits call for a water-resistant, rigid or flexible plastic container with either a zipper closure or a latch-top lid. Lunchboxes are a good option for a smaller kit. For a larger kit, a backpack or small duffel bag could be adequate.
- If the kit is going to have to be carried any distance, e.g. a Sports First Aid Kit, it would be good if the container has carrying handles.
- The kit needs to be clearly labeled on the outside as containing First Aid materials – a big, obvious red cross would be good but you could also write “FIRST AID” with a permanent marker in multiple locations on the container
Sorting Within Your Kit
You want to be able to separate items into a few general categories within the kit so you can find them easily. There are a number of ways you might do this but one effective example is to separate the contents into:
- Prescription medication
- Over the counter medication
- Personal supplies.
If you are putting together a big kit you might adapt the categorization used in the Comprehensive List below into a list such as:
- Dressings and bandages
- Pain relief
- Stomach upset
Various containers can serve to separate your categories:
- You might have existing compartments in your container (like in a medic backpack or utility box) to separate your categories.
- Labeled zip-lock bags fit well into a non-rigid container (but you need to be sure that delicate items are not going to be crushed).
- For a lunchbox or other rigid container, look for smaller, clear plastic containers like those available for crafting supplies, Tupperware or even disposable food storage containers with snap-on lids. Empty pill bottles are also useful for storing Band-Aids and other small components
- Trauma supplies are typically required in more urgent scenarios so make sure they are stored in the most easily accessible part of your kit.
Create A Checklist To Include In The Kit
You want anyone who uses the kit to know immediately what the kit includes and does not include so that they do not waste time looking for something that is not there. As you stock your first aid kit record every item on paper/card that you will keep in the kit.
- Record what is in the kit in large, clear print
- Record amounts (e.g. 10 small bandages)
- Record expiration dates for medications or ointments. (We talk about keeping your kit current below.)
- When the kit has been used you need to make sure that the checklist (and contents) have been updated.
Keep Your Kit Easily Accessible
In an emergency, you want to be able to lay your hands on your First Aid kit without hesitation. How this is achieved depends on the context in which the kit is being used.
For your home kit, establish a consistent storage place, for example, on an accessible linen closet shelf, and inform everyone in your home of its location.
(Let small children know where the kit is located so that they could show a visitor, relative or babysitter where it is if necessary but put it where they cannot access it themselves – you don’t want to find they were playing “hospitals” with it while you were out.)
Teach Your Family About First Aid And Using The Kit
- Ideally, older children and adults should take First Aid courses every 2 or 3 years (so as to refresh their ability to deal with a medical emergency)
- At the very least make sure that the members of your family can make sensible use of the contents of your First Aid kit;
- As a family, discuss First Aid situations that might arise, watch relevant You-Tube videos together and practice using the equipment.
- Have a First Aid instruction booklet available in your kit;
Keep Your Kit Updated
You have done your homework, acquired and organized the contents of your First Aid kit(s) and chosen and packed the ideal container. Now you are prepared to deal with a medical emergency to the best of your ability.
BUT the work does not stop there. Like a pet or a plant, your First Aid supplies need regular attention.
Medicines expire. Occasionally, container seals fail and leakage occurs. A member of the family might have raided the box for bandages or Band-Aids. Something might draw your attention to a new item you should have included.
About every three months unpack and repack your First Aid kit, keeping a close eye on prescription medication expiration dates. You will then be ensuring that your First Aid kit is completely ready to serve you and those around you in an emergency.
A Comprehensive First Aid Items List
Note: You are very unlikely to want to include everything from the list below in a single kit. (Often the lists include options for achieving the same end). See the Types of First Aid Kits listed above to start your thinking about the different types of kit you are going to put together. Your choices will be determined by your budget, your level of medical skill, the specific purpose of the kit you are creating, etc. Use the list below to make sure you have not forgotten anything relevant to your specific purposes.
This list is divided into the following sections – this should help you to decide which areas you are going to focus on for the specific kit you are creating, e.g. you will not need to include indigestion and stomach upset medication in your Home Workshop kit.
- Tools, Instruments and Equipment
- Disinfecting/Sanitizing & Preventing Infection
- Treating Open Wounds
- Treating Broken Bones, Sprains & Muscle Pain
- Treating Pain
- Treating Skin Conditions, including Burns & Blisters
- Treating Indigestion, Constipation & Stomach Upsets
- Treating Eyes
- Treating Symptoms of Colds, Coughs & Flu
- Treating Allergies
Tools, Instruments and Equipment
- First Aid instruction book
- Bach flower Rescue Remedy
- Cottonwool balls and cotton-tipped applicators/swabs
- CPR mouthpiece/breathing barrier (with one-way valve) from your local Red Cross
- Emergency blanket
- Eye bath/egg cup
- Gloves, large, non-latex (nitrile) gloves x 4+ pairs
- Oral thermometer (non-mercury/non-glass)
- Petroleum jelly or other lubricant
- Respirator N95 (Specialized respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles – blocks at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) particles. In most cases you only need surgical masks.)
- Scalpel with blades
- Scissors, sharp
- Surgical/Face masks or breathing barrier (to exclude dust particles and to catch bacteria shed in liquid droplets from the wearer’s mouth and nose – NOT designed to protect the wearer from inhaling airborne bacteria or virus particles)
- Syringe, medicine cup or spoon (for measuring liquid medication
- Zip-close plastic bags (to dispose of medical waste)
Disinfecting/Sanitizing & Preventing infection
- Alcohol prep pads/ wipes, 15+
- Hand sanitizer
- Cleansing wipes (for external cleaning only)
- Liquid antiseptic e.g. hydrogen peroxide
- Antibiotic ointment e.g. Bacitracin with zinc (used to prevent minor skin infections caused by small cuts, scrapes, or burns) – 5 packets (approximately 1 gram) or (my personal favorite alternative product – PAV).
- Anti-Bacterial bar soap (for wound cleaning
Treating Open Wounds
See a doctor as soon as possible if you cannot control bleeding from a cut or puncture wound or the wound is deep enough to see into and might need stitches. The sooner the wound is stitched (preferably within 6 hours) the lower the risk of infection.
Control of Bleeding
- Suture kit (You might not feel confident about using this yourself but someone could be present at an accident who could make good use of this item)
- Tourniquet, rubber
- Wound powder ( non-prescription topical powder, quickly forms a strong scab that completely covers the wound and stops the bleeding.)
- QuikClot Gauze (gauze containing kaolin, a mineral that speeds up your body’s natural clotting.)
- BleedCease (contains a coagulant that rapidly accelerates the blood clotting process in wounds and nosebleeds)
- Blood Stopper Compress (non-adherent sterile pad with attached roll gauze made for quick application, super absorbent and helps stop blood flow fast while promoting clotting. Can also be used as an arm sling)
- Israeli bandage (specialized/heavy-duty, used in pre-hospital emergency situations to stop bleeding from hemorrhagic wounds caused by traumatic injuries.
- Syringe, turkey baster or bulb suction device for flushing wounds
- Appropriate disinfectants from the Disinfecting/ Sanitizing/Preventing infection list above
Dressings (for covering wounds but also relevant to the next section, Treating broken bones, sprains and muscle pain)
Probably the most common First Aid actions will be an immediate covering of a wound to protect it from infection or strapping up an injury which will be worsened by movement. For these you will need an array of bandages to choose from
The quantities suggested below are for a Family First Aid kit at home and obviously need to be adapted to the purposes of your kit.
Place all your bandages in a clear, zip-close bag clearly labeled in permanent marker.
- Sterile gauze pads 2”x2” (50mm x 50mm) x 8
- Sterile gauze pads 4”x4” (100mm x 100mm) x 4
- Sterile trauma pad 5” x 9” (127mm x 228mm) x 4
- Triangular bandages/bandanas/”slings”, 40”x40”x 56” (100mm X 100mm x 140mm) with sheet of diagrams for their multiple use as dressings/ bandages) x 10
- Adhesive bandages ¾”x 3”(19mm x 76mm) x 2
- Adhesive bandages 3/8” x 1 ½” (10mm x 38mm) x 2
- Gauze bandage, 2” (50mm) x 3 rolls
- Crepe bandages (elasticated cotton bandage, the mainstay of first aid kit for years, now superseded by elastic adhesive bandages, stretchable/”Ace” bandages, zinc oxide tape and cohesive bandages – adhering to itself but not other surfaces – but crepe bandages in various sizes are still a very useful in a First Aid kit to create localized pressure used to treat muscle sprains and strains)
- Tegaderm film dressing x2 (to cover and protect wounds, to maintain a moist environment for healing and to secure devices to the skin)
- Liquid bandage (treatment for minor cuts and sores creating a “plastic” layer which binds to the skin, keeping in moisture and protecting the wound from infection.
Closing/fastening (for wounds or bandages)
- Wound closure strips x 40 or butterfly closures or steri-strip
- Adhesive paper tape, 1” x 5 yds (25mm x 5 metres), 1 roll
- Safety pins
Treating Broken Bones, Sprains & Muscle Pain
Apart from supportive and padding pads and bandages listed above you might need:
- Finger splint (usually aluminum)
- Multi-purpose splint(s) suitable for arms/legs
- Pain-relieving muscle cream/gel for applying topically
- Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB)
- Aspirin – 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each) (Note: New/unexplained chest pain &/or possible heart attack, call for emergency medical help immediately and if advised, chew a regular-strength aspirin.
Warning, not to be taken by children or if you:
- Are allergic to aspirin
- Have bleeding problems
- Take another blood-thinning medication
- Have been advised not to by your doctor.
Treating Skin Conditions including Burns & Blisters
- Hydrocortisone cream/sachets (for treating skin conditions e.g., insect bites, poison oak/ivy reactions, eczema, dermatitis, allergies, rashes)
- Aloe vera gel (easing inflamed skin, soothing psoriasis flare-ups, fighting infection in, for example, acne and cold sores, burn treatment)
- Calamine lotion (to treat itching and skin irritation caused by measles/ chickenpox, insect bites or stings, eczema, sunburn, poison ivy and other minor skin conditions)
- Anti-fungal cream/liquid/spray (e.g. Miconazole 2% Cream to treat minor fungal skin conditions e.g. athlete’s foot and ringworm, stops itching, scaling, burning.)
- Burn cream &/or spray (non-prescription for a simple burn is Polysporin or Neosporin ointment covered with a non-stick dressing. The ointment does not need to have antibiotics in it.)
- Lavender essential oil (as burn treatment)
- Petroleum jelly/vaseline (for treatment of skin scrapes and burns, to prevent diaper rash, as a moisturizer, to prevent friction damage)(and guess what – it is a multi-tool – it is a fire-starter too!)
- Manuka honey for choice or ordinary honey if that is what is available
- Molefoam (Extra soft cotton/foam padding cushions for protecting calluses, bunions and sensitive heels from shoe pressure & friction)
- Moleskin (to create a “doughnut” to protect a blister, especially an open blister, from further abrasion)
- Spenco® 2nd Skin® blister pads (gel pad bordered by a thin film designed to keep blisters from drying out and protect them from further abrasion)
Treating Indigestion, Constipation & Stomach Upsets
- Antacid tablets
- Anti-diarrheal medication, e.g. Immodium/Loperamide x10
- Oral rehydration tablets/salt sachets x3
- Stool softener and/or laxative x15
- Dramamine (antihistamine treating nausea, vomiting, dizziness, motion sickness) x10
- Pink Bismuth tablets or liquid/Pepto-Bismal (used to treat diarrhea, nausea, heartburn, indigestion, gas)
Treatment of eyes
- Shields or pads for eyes
- Eye bath (or egg cup)
- Saline solution (in a small squeeze bottle)
- Lubricant eye drops
- Eye ointment (to treat mild infection)
Treating Symptoms of Colds, Coughs & Flu
- Throat lozenges 10+
- Sudafed or an equivalent x10 (for temporary relief of nasal congestion)
- Expectorant cough mixture (It is desirable to promote the coughing reflex to rid the system of mucus rather than suppressing a cough and allowing mucus to settle into the lungs, which can lead to serious complications.)
See section on Special needs/allergy kit above
- Anti-histamine, such as diphenhydramine, x 10
It is absolutely possible to buy a ready-made First Aid kit for various scenarios. However you might not know what you have in a ready-made kit or how to use it. Creating your own kit will help fine-tune your response to emergency situations.