As the name implies, a first aid kit is your first line of defense against common minor injuries, typically:
- Cuts and scrapes
- Sprains and strains
- Insect bites or stings
And while we hope you never have to deal with a broken bone or heart attack, you’ll also want your first aid kit to pull its weight in these more serious situations until paramedics arrive or you can get the injured person further help.
The last thing you want is to be caught in an emergency unprepared. At least twice a year, you want to take inventory of your home’s first aid kit to make sure you have everything you need.
What Should Be In My First Aid Kit?
A first aid kit for your home should contain as many items as possible from each of the following categories.
Cleansing & Disinfecting
- Cleansing wipes — both antiseptic (containing alcohol) and alcohol-free (to minimize stinging)
- Sterile distilled water or saline (e.g. contact lens solution) for cleaning wounds
- Hydrogen peroxide or other antiseptic solution to sterilize unbroken skin or tools. (It is no longer recommended for cleansing wounds as it harms healthy skin cells and inhibits wound healing.)
- Eye wash and eye bath
- Cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs (Q-tips)
- Disposable nitrile gloves (non-latex gloves in case of a latex allergy)
- Adhesive bandages (Band-Aids) in different sizes, including butterfly bandages used to hold two sides of a wound together.
- Elastic crepe rolled bandages (ACE bandage) in different widths for wrapping sprained/strained ankles and wrists.
- Sterile gauze pads in different sizes
- Non-adhesive pads (Telfa) for covering wounds and burns without sticking to them
- Sterile eye pads
- Large triangular bandages to use for arm slings
- Adhesive tape
Medications and Treatments
- Aloe vera gel for burns
- Anesthetic spray (Bactine) for cuts, scratches, insect bites, itching rashes — works by numbing the skin
- Hydrocortisone cream for itching rashes — works by reducing inflammation
- Antiseptic cream (Betadine, Savlon) to slow the growth of bacteria and protect against infection from other types of microorganisms
- Antibiotic cream or ointment (Bacitracin, Polysporin) to kill bacteria
- Antihistamine cream and/or tablets (Benadryl) for allergic reactions and itching rashes
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for pain relief
- Aspirin for heart attacks / sudden chest pain. It should never be given to children.
- Disposable instant hot and cold packs
Tools & Equipment
- Safety pins (large and small) for splinter removal and for securing bandages
- Scissors with blunt tips (sharp points can accidentally cause further injury during aid)
- Tweezers for removing splinters, ticks, insect stingers
- Digital thermometer
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Turkey baster or syringes for cleaning wounds
- Plastic bags in various sizes for disposing of contaminated items
- A CPR mask for sanitary mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
You’ll also want to personalize your first aid kit for your family’s needs and health conditions. Some examples include:
- Medications that your family members regularly take
- An EpiPen if any family members have serious allergies
- A backup pair of eyeglasses or contacts
- If young children are in the household, children’s versions of medications and supplies (children’s pain relievers and syringes for administering them, smaller sized bandages, etc)
You’ll also want to include a list of each family member’s relevant medical history, medications, doctors, insurance, and emergency contacts.
Other Items You May Want to Consider
Once you have the basics, there are other or alternative items you can consider, depending on your lifestyle. These may come in handy during extended car travel or nature outings (e.g. hiking, camping).
- Emergency space blanket(s)
- Multi-tool pocket knife (Swiss army knife)
- Tongue depressors (can be used to fashion a makeshift finger splint)
- Waterproof matches
- Super glue or liquid bandage
- Calamine lotion
- Spray bottle of water and tea tree oil for a natural DIY antiseptic spray
- Insect repellant
- Duct tape
- A prepaid emergency mobile phone
- Non-scented tampons and sanitary pads. No, not for its intended use; and yes, you read that correctly. Since they are designed to have a high absorbency level, these items are ideal for controlling heavy bleeds — whether a severe laceration or a gushing nosebleed. In a pinch, you can effectively use these items instead of sterile gauze.
How Many First Aid Kits Do I Need?
You never know where you’ll be when you need to tend to an injury or accident. So, you’ll want to have first aid available nearby.
- At minimum, keep a kit in your home and car. If you have a vacation home or boat, include first aid kits there as well. If your home is very large, you may want to keep a basic kit on an additional floor or section of the house.
- If you have more than one structure on your property that people occupy or use frequently — a boathouse, guesthouse, garage, shed, barn, etc — keep at least basic first aid supplies within a short distance.
- Consider carrying basic first aid items (wipes, tweezers, band aids, and an antibiotic ointment) with you in your purse or back pocket.
Tips for Your First Aid Kits
- Include a basic first aid manual or instruction booklet with your first aid kit.
- Keep kits out of reach of young children; as soon as they are old enough, teach them what to do in case of an emergency.
- Once you use an item, don’t forget to replace it as soon as you can.
- Check medications regularly to make sure they are not nearing expiration.
Next Step — Urgent Care
After your first line of defense, you may need further medical treatment. If the injury does not threaten life, limb, or eyesight — in which case you should go to the emergency room — an urgent care clinic will make sure the injured person is treated appropriately.
For immediate medical attention after an accident or injury, In and Out Express Care has four urgent care locations in Hampton Roads. Many of our doctors have extensive emergency room experience and are adept at handling minor emergencies such as broken bones and lacerations. So, after you’ve done all you can do to administer first aid, don’t worry — we’ll take it from there!