Maybe it's because I'm in the medical field, but I like to feel ready for anything. It's why I always keep first aid necessities ready to go whenever I need them. Putting a first aid kit together for me is pretty easy, but a lot of my patients confide that putting together a kit of their own can leave them feeling underprepared and a bit overwhelmed.
I can understand why; there are tons of innovative products that claim to be helpful, and when you're worried about being prepared, it's easy to get that "need-it-all" feeling. So here are a few helpful tips for creating a first aid kit for any situation.
There are a few first aid necessities that belong in every kit. These should be included no matter where you plan to use the kit—be it in the home, in the car, for camping, or for another purpose.
- Adhesive bandages of various sizes
- One or two aluminum finger splints
- An elastic ACE bandage
- Sterile gauze pads
- Eye bandages
- Triangular bandage for wrapping injuries or creating a sling
- Latex or non-latex gloves for handling bodily fluids
- Antibiotic ointment
- Cotton swabs
- Antiseptic towelettes for cleaning minor wounds
- Imodium tablets to relieve diarrhea
Building a Kit
Once you have your basics, the rest really comes down to where and how the kit is going to be used, and for what purpose. Some possible scenarios include:
Home First Aid Kit
The benefit of a first aid kit for your home is that you have relatively unlimited amounts of space to build your kit. It also means you have more stuff to add to the kit, since it'll be used on a regular basis.
Ideas for a home first aid kit include:
- a baby bulb suction device
- a few instant ice bags
- hand sanitizers
- sterile cotton swabs and balls
- a thermometer: rectal for babies, oral for adults
- a Save-A-Tooth storage device in case a tooth is broken or knocked out
- Medicine syringe or cup
- Rubbing alcohol
- First aid booklet
Travel First Aid Kit
If you're packing a To-Go Travel kit, you'll want something light and portable (see here for First Aid packing tips for summer vacation). If you'll be near local amenities like a hospital or urgent care, then you'll only really need supplies to deal with minor scrapes and discomforts. Get a small container or use a handy overnight makeup bag that easily fits in a suitcase or purse. Besides the basics, you'll want to include:
- Travel-sized containers of antihistamines, over-the-counter painkillers such as Ibuprofen or Aspirin, Pepto Bismol, etc.
- Anti-diarrheal medication
- Motion sickness medication
- Moleskin for preventing blisters
Outdoor First Aid Kit
For the safety-minded adventurer, lightweight is still the best option. Still, a DIY outdoor first aid kit may be more extensive, as you’ll only have what you pack—there’ll be no quick run to the pharmacy. Adding to the basics, you'll want to include:
- Tweezers for tick removal
- Antiseptic spray and wipes
- Cream to soothe the skin, like calamine and hydrocortisone lotion
- Aloe to soothe sunburn
- 4-inch closure strips for large wounds
- Scissors for cutting away clothing from a wound or injury; trauma scissors have blunted points for added safety
- Irrigation syringe (35 cc) for cleaning wounds
- Safety pins to remove splinters or make an impromptu sling
- Moleskin to prevent blisters
- Oral rehydration salts
- Space bag or blanket
- Hydrocortisone cream
I tell my patients that the most important part of any first aid kit is YOU. Having CPR certification and knowing first aid and basic life saving techniques make you more valuable than any tool you can put in a box. Not only does knowledge of basic life saving techniques give you the ability to know how to handle a first aid situation, the extra prep will definitely ease your anxiety and enable you to know what to do in a clutch situation.
I highly recommend taking first aid classes, BLS classes, and getting CPR certification to everyone, because a little safety knowledge is a powerful thing and should be one of your go-to resources for crafting the best first aid kit no matter where you are.