A first aid kit is a little like home insurance. You hope you never have to use it, but if you do, it can make an enormous difference. While many commercial first aid kits are well-stocked, few contain enough material to cover every eventuality, particularly in an emergency or survival situation. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of essential first aid items every home should keep in stock.
Before we start listing kit supplies, however, let’s discuss preparedness. No amount of supplies will help in an emergency if you don’t know how to respond. If you’re serious about first aid, take a first aid and CPR course. Courses won’t teach you how to respond to every eventuality, but you’ll receive a good general education in how to handle common injuries.
For less common injuries, buy a comprehensive, easy-to-read first aid manual. Read it, and then store it with your first aid kit. These two simple preparation tips could save someone’s life.
The Red Cross First Aid List
The American Red Cross lists everything you need to create a basic first aid kit. Their recommendations include:
- 2 5×9-inch absorbent compress dressings
- 25 adhesive bandages in assorted sizes
- 2 adhesive cloth tap roll, 10 yards by 1 inch
- 5 1-gram antibiotic ointment packets
- 5 antiseptic wipes
- 1 packet of aspirin (or other pain medication)
- A blanket
- 1 breathing barrier with a one-way valve
- 1 instant cold compress
- 2 pairs nonlatex gloves
- 2 packets of hydrocortisone ointment
- 1 3-inch wide roller bandage
- 1 4-inch wide roller bandage
- 5 sterile 3×3-inch gauze pads
- 5 sterile 4×4-inch gauze pads
- Oral thermometer
- 2 triangular bandages
The Red Cross list is a good place to start, although in the event of a serious disaster their kit wouldn’t last too long. If you’re stocking for long-term emergencies, you’ll want more of everything on their list. A packet of aspirin, for instance, won’t last long if you have to fend for yourself for a month.
Additional Medical Supplies.
In addition to the basics, you may want to consider items from the following list:
- Antihistamines (include an EpiPen if a family member has severe allergies)
- Burn creams and dressings
- Butterfly sutures (adhesive bandages that hold small cuts closed)
- Calamine lotion
- List of emergency numbers for easy reference
- QuickClot gauze
- Rubbing alcohol
- Safety pins
- Sharp scissors
- Small flashlight and extra batteries (you might be providing medical aid in the dark).
- Sterile eyewash and eye dressings
Be sure to include a small supply of all family members’ prescription medications, regularly replacing them with newer medication.
Many survival sites recommend including a broad-spectrum antibiotic in your first aid kit. As such medicine is only available by prescription, this can be difficult. However, some doctors are willing to write an antibiotic prescription for long camping or hiking trips.