First Aid Kit Essentials


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Why do I need a first aid kit?

Falls, bee stings, burns, allergic reactions -- all of these are common accidents that can happen in any home or on any outing. That’s when a first aid kit comes in handy. When you have a well-stocked first aid kit, you have the supplies you need to be ready for most minor emergencies.

Putting a kit together is as simple as placing some basic items in a small container, such as a plastic tub, tool kit or tote bag. Keep one in your medicine cabinet at home, making sure it’s out of young children’s reach.

What do I need in a first aid kit?

Here’s a breakdown of some supplies every first aid kit needs.

Dressings and bandages:

  • 25 adhesive bandages of various sizes (brand names: Band-Aid, Curad, others)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 3 inches)
  • Gauze roll
  • Eye shield or pad
  • Roll of adhesive tape
  • Elastic bandage (brand names: ACE, Coban, others) for wrapping wrist, elbow, ankle and knee injuries (3 to 4 inches wide)
  • 2 triangular bandages for wrapping injuries and making arm slings
  • Sterile cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs

Equipment and other supplies:

  • 2 pair latex or non-latex gloves (These should be worn any time you may be at risk of contact with blood or body fluid of any type.)
  • Instant cold pack
  • 5 safety pins to easily fasten splints and bandages
  • Turkey baster or other suction device to flush out wounds
  • Aluminum finger splint
  • Syringe and medicine spoon for giving specific doses of medicine
  • Thermometer
  • Tweezers to remove ticks, insect stingers and small splinters
  • Scissors for cutting gauze
  • Breathing barrier for giving CPR
  • Blanket
  • Hand sanitizer (liquid and/or wipes)
  • First aid manual
  • List of emergency numbers

Medicine for cuts and injuries:

  • Antiseptic solution or wipes, such as hydrogen peroxide, povidone-iodine (one brand name: Betadine) or chlorhexidine (one brand name: Betasept)
  • Antibiotic ointment (brand names: Neosporin, Bactroban) that contain ingredients such as bacitracin or mupirocin
  • Sterile eyewash or saline, such as contact lens saline solution
  • Calamine lotion for stings or poison ivy
  • Hydrocortisone cream, ointment or lotion for itching

Other medicines:

  • Pain and fever medicines, such as aspirin, acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol) or ibuprofen (brand names: Advil, Motrin). (Note: Do not give children and teenagers aspirin, because it has been related to a potentially serious disease called Reye's syndrome in children younger than 18 years of age.)
  • Antihistamine (one brand name: Benadryl) to treat allergies and swelling
  • Decongestants to treat nasal congestion
  • Anti-nausea medicine to treat motion sickness and other types of nausea
  • Anti-diarrhea medicine
  • Antacid to treat upset stomach
  • Laxative to treat constipation

Think about any special needs in your family, such as those of a child or elderly person, as well as allergies or diseases. Add supplies as needed for these conditions. Also, be sure to refill your kit with any supplies you have used or that may have expired.

Can I purchase a first aid kit?

Yes. The American Red Cross and many drugstores sell first aid kits with the necessary items. Remember, for the kit to be useful, you need to know how to use it. You may want to take a Red Cross first aid course or at least purchase a first aid manual to learn first aid basics.

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Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/11
Created: 07/09

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