We never know when an accident might strike. We always hope that nothing bad will happen to us, but it’s definitely useful to prepare yourself for some basic injuries, such as paper cuts, splinters, and sprained ankles. Having a proper first aid kit assembled and on hand can make life’s little emergencies a lot less stressful.
The following list will help you put together a basic first aid kit. There are plenty of other resources out there for comprehensive, “ready-for-anything” kits, but these essentials will serve you well and come in handy in the event of an accident. If you have kids, pets, or a roommate with specific medical needs, you can add more specialized items to this kit, too!
One of the most useful things to include in a home first aid kit is a list of names and numbers you may not be able to easily access, especially if the emergency at hand involves a loss of power or a missing/dead cell phone. It’s worth writing the following information down on an old-fashioned piece of paper:
- Names and phone numbers of your primary care providers
- Contact information for your local fire and emergency services
- Poison control phone number, which for US residents is 1-800-222-1222
- Name and phone number of your insurance provider, as well as your policy number
- A current list of medications you and your family members or roommates take
- Any medical information that could be important in an emergency, such as past surgeries, a history of serious disease, or chronic conditions.
I’m not a huge fan of taking pills when I don’t absolutely have to, but there are some meds that I always have on hand in the event that I come down with a fever, twist my ankle on a run, or have a minor allergic reaction to a bee sting. These are my top recommendations, but be sure to add anything else that you use regularly into your first aid kit:
- Diphenhydramine, also known as Benadryl. This is great to have handy if you find your foot swelling up after stepping on a bee, or your nose and eyes start itching when your friend brings his dog over to play.
- Acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol. This acts as a pain reliever and fever reducer.
- Ibuprofen, also known as Advil. Taking the dosage printed on the bottle can help relieve pain and reduce swelling on that twisted ankle or jammed finger.
- Anti-Diarrheal medicaton. Though it’s sometimes better to let these things run their course, it’s nice to have this when you need it.
- Hydrocortizone cream. Put this on bug bites or other itchy patches of skin.
- EpiPen. If prescribed by your doctor, it’s definitely good to have one of these in an easily-accessible and reliable place, ready to use.
- Daily Medications. If you need any medication every day, it’s a great idea to keep a few spare doses in your first aid kit, as long as they don’t require refrigeration.
For life’s bumps and bruises, it’s good to pack some basic items into your first aid kit.
- First Aid Manual. Even if you’re highly-trained, it’s easy to forget what to do when faced with blood or stress.
- Bandages. Get a variety of sizes to accommodate finger, knee, and elbow scrapes.
- Nail Clippers and Tweezers. Nail clippers can cut through most anything if need be, and tweezers are great for removing pesky splinters.
- Sterile Gauze. A simple and effective dressing for small wounds.
- Tape. I keep athletic tape to stabilize bruised toes and hold bandages in place, and I keep duct tape for, well, anything!
- Antibiotic Ointment for minor cuts and scrapes.
- Hot/Cold Pack. Many stores sell plastic pouches with colorful beads inside of them. These pouches can be put in the freezer to be turned into an ice pack or in the microwave or warm water to be turned into a hot pack. Always place a cloth between your skin and the hot or cold pack to protect yourself from burns or freezing.
- Ziplocks are handy for so many things. Keep a few in your kit.
- Soap and Hand Sanitizer. Soap is better on wounds, but hand sanitizer can be great for the times when you don’t have any water on hand.
Staying Safe While Helping Others
Sometimes, an emergency will befall someone else. If you are trained or able to help, it’s a good idea to keep a few tools handy to help you stay safe while assisting other people.
- Breathing Barrier. Sometimes called a CPR mask, these devices tend to look like fancy bits of plastic cling wrap. Some sturdier breathing barriers have balloon-like, plastic rims and breathing valves. A proper breathing mask acts as a powerful line of defense between you and the saliva of the person you’re helping.
- Non-Latex Gloves. Whenever you’re dealing with another person’s blood or bodily fluids, it’s a good idea to cover your hands to prevent the transfer of disease. Keep a few pairs of gloves ready to go in a ziplock bag inside your first aid kit.
A Few Helpful Extras
Though these aren’t really medical necessities, they can be a real relief to have on hand just in case.
- A Small Waterproof Light. I love my battery-powered headlamp because it gives me light without occupying my hands, but in many emergency situations, a hand-crank-powered light will prove the most useful.
- Waterproof Strike-Anywhere Matches, just in case.
- Pen. Because you can never find something to write with when you need it. You may need to write down instructions, track vital signs, or just communicate without speaking.
- Safety Pins and/or Small Sewing Kit. These are useful in so many situations and are always hard to find when you need them.
Lastly, you’ll need to find a practical, well-sealing container. Plastic bins with locking lids can work well, or you can opt for a multi-compartment zippered bag. Try to make your kit a bright color so it’s easy for anyone to spot, and keep it somewhere anyone could access it when needed.
What else would you keep in your first aid kit?