First Aid Kits

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Important in the home, car, workplace, and on holiday, a first aid kit on-hand can ensure youíre prepared for most situations. We talk to paramedics, doctors, pharmacists and naturopaths to find out more about first aid kit essentials.


The Basics

  • Our experts say the most important items to have in your first aid kit are:

    • At least 40 or 50 gauze pads, the bigger the better.

    • A large roll of 1-inch adhesive tape to hold the pads in place.

    • Cuts are the most common home injury so every kit should include at least a dozen bandages.

    • Latex gloves.

    • A good pair of scissors. In the car, consider carrying ones strong enough to cut through a seat belt.

  • All pre-made kits are full of extras like creams, lotions, and an assortment of cotton swabs, none of which are really integral to first aid and sometimes they can be detrimental to a wound.

  • For specific travel and hiking kit essentials, be sure to consult a certified guide book that covers the area you’ll be travelling, especially if there are poisonous plants, snakes or insects to deal with.

    • Additional items including chlorine and waterproof matches are also often recommended.

  • For the home, include emergency service numbers (if 911 isn’t available in your area). Also include numbers of your family doctor, paediatrician, and your local poison control centre, as well as nearby family members who can help.

  • Include any essential medicines for your family members (e.g. asthma inhalers, etc.), as well as these standards:

    • Acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin tablets (aspirin should not be used to relieve flu symptoms or be taken by young children).

    • Cough suppressant.

    • Antihistamine.

    • Decongestant tablets.

    • Oral medicine syringe (for children).

    • Activated Charcoal and Syrup of Ipecac (use only on the advice of a Poison Control Center physician or emergency department).

    • May need other allergy specific medication, such as auto-injectable epinephrine.

  • Bandages and care supplies to include:

    • Bandages of assorted sizes and shapes; some designed for elbows, knuckles, knees, etc. (good to keep separate in plastic bags for quick and easy identification)

    • Butterfly Bandages to tape the edges of minor cuts together

    • Eye pads and bandage closures as well as safety pins to fasten splints and bandages

    • Triangular bandage to wrap injuries and make an arm sling

    • Elastic wraps to wrap wrist, ankle, and knee and elbow injuries

    • Gauze in rolls and pads; to dress larger cuts and scrapes

    • Adhesive tapes to keep gauze in place

    • Scissors with rounded tips; for cutting bandages and clothes

    • Antiseptic wipes to disinfect wounds or clean hands

    • Antiseptic solution, such as hydrogen peroxide, to disinfect and clean wounds

    • Disposable, instant-activating cold packs for icing injuries and burns

    • Tweezers for removing small splinters, foreign objects, bee stingers, and ticks

    • Disposable gloves (2 pairs) to protect hands and reduce risk of infection when treating open wounds

  • Other supplies to consider, depending on the location and situation of your kit:

    • Mouth piece for administering CPR

    • Calamine lotion to relieve itching and irritation from insect bites and stings and poison ivy. Also include hydrocortisone to relieve irritation from rashes

    • Burn ointment

    • Thermometer

    • A flashlight with extra batteries

    • Pencil and paper to record details and observations during treatment or write down instructions from emergency operators

    • Plastic bags

    • Also consider adding some natural items to your kit. Aloe cream for burns and scratches is always a good addition

  • There are also some everyday items that can be used in emergency:

    • Disposable or regular diapers, sanitary napkins, towels, sheets or linens can be used as a compress to control bleeding, for bandages, as padding for splints, or in emergency childbirth.

    • Magazines, newspapers, umbrellas, or pillows can be used as splints for broken bones.

    • A table leaf or old door can be used as stretcher.

    • A large scarf or handkerchief can be used as eye bandage or sling.

  • Prepackaged vs. Self-assembled kits: which is better?

    • Pre-assembled kits are generally more expensive than putting a kit together yourself, but they can be good for supplying a number of basic items.

    • Usually, however, no one commercial product has all the items you need for your personalized family kit.

    • Experts suggest that you may want to start with a pre-packaged kit and then add extra items you require that were not included.

  • For a car first aid kit (every car should have one), additional items to include are:

    • Anti-motion tablets

    • Non-perishable food and water

    • Emergency foil/ regular blankets and whistles

    • Change for pay phones is a good idea. Even if you have cell phone you may be out of range to call for help.

    • Something that can act as an SOS sign to attract attention from above, or ask someone to call for help or contact emergency services.

    • Flares are safe, easy to use and always a good addition to the car kit. Store them in the trunk away from other passengers in the car.

  • When travelling, don’t assume you can buy bandages or other supplies where you’re going.

  • Emergencies can arise any time, and often you can reduce trouble and pain just by being prepared with the proper supplies.

    • You should take along a kit similar to the home kit only in smaller quantities, depending on the length of your trip.

    • Take along enough prescription medications to last the duration of your trip. Make sure medications are properly labelled, especially if you are passing through customs inspections.

  • For hiking/backpacking

    • Pre-assembled kits are convenient for beginner backpackers. Most pre-assembled kits are compact water-resistant pouches that can be refilled and reused.

    • Always carry basic supplies on trips of any length; adapt the kit for more demanding trips.

    • Consider the number of people on the trip, the length of the trip, the strenuousness and potential dangers of the route, and the distance you must travel to reach medical assistance. This will help you to determine the necessary supplies.

Other Considerations

  • You can also be prepared for an emergency by having some basic first aid training so you know how to best use the contents of your kit.


top of page | | back to posts |
  • Subscribe to the A&K Newsletter