For all of us looking to prepare ourselves best for any emergency situation, a first aid kit bag is the first thing to have in your home.
A first aid kit is a collection of medical items you may need in the event of an emergency. A basic first aid kit for your household will be optimized for treating minor to serious traumas, including blisters.
While it’s standard practice to have in the workplace or public building, 44% of Americans do not have a first aid kit in their homes. It’s important to keep one on hand for emergencies, traumas, injuries and other situations that may arise. Not only for simple items like band-aids or sterilizing wipes, but emergency supplies in first aid kits can provide that essential tool for you to use while waiting for emergency services.
What’s In a First Aid Kit?
A first aid kit should include these essentials:
- Emergency phone numbers
- Bandages, in various sizes
- Sterile gauze pads in various sizes
- Gauze roll
- Eye patches
- Adhesive tape
- Scissors, tweezers & safety pins
- Instant ice packs
- Disposable non-latex gloves
- Flashlight, with extra batteries in a separate bag
- Antiseptic wipes
- Emergency blanket
- Face masks
- First aid manual
- Plastic bags
Additional items, if applicable to you, can include:
- Aspirin or other pain killer
- Topical antibiotic ointment
- Personal prescription medication
- Blood pressure cuff
- Allergy medication
- Face/surgical masks
- Hand sanitizer
- Needle and thread
- Cotton swabs
- Emergency money
- CPR mask
Ideally these should all be stored together in a bag, like a pouch, fanny pack, medical bag, or in a plastic container..
Looking to add more basic first aid supplies or make your own kit? Follow the list above or check out the Red Cross website for a list of essentials to make a DIY first aid kit.
How to Use Items In Your First Aid Kit
Let’s break down how to use the basics. Most kits will include medical supplies, basic first aid supplies, and act as a basic trauma first aid kit.
Emergency phone numbers
Have these numbers handy on an easy-to-read piece of paper in your kit: 9-1-1, your personal doctor, your emergency contacts, local poison control, and local animal control. It’s also advised to keep a paper and pen handy in the kit as well.
This is often in the main compartment of any medical kit to make it easy to reach for. Make sure to have adhesive bandages in a wide range of sizes, from small finger injuries to cuts, scrapes and burns. Triangular bandages can work to cover hard-to-reach places.
Cleaning wounds with an antiseptic wipe will help prevent infection. Finish with a topical antibiotic ointment before applying the bandage for quick healing.
Sterile gauze pads
Gauze pads are used to treat cuts, scrapes and burns, as well as other wounds that a bandage can’t cover. Wounds that have a minimal amount of bleeding can be left uncovered.
Treat the wound by cleaning the area with an antiseptic wipe and a topical antibiotic ointment. Petroleum jelly can work as well to prevent the pad sticking to skin.
Place the gauze pad on the wound, and apply adhesive tape on the edges to hold it in place.
A gauze roll is used to wrap around the injured area. Once you’ve applied a gauze pad and taped down the wound, wrap the area using the gauze roll and cut off excess roll, and tape in place.
Change the gauze frequently to ensure quick healing. Be careful not to take gauze off too quickly to irritate the wound. Check the wound for any signs of infection.
Similar to a gauze roll, an eye patch can hold a gauze pad in place. One the eye has been treated with a gauze pad, tape down the area and cover with the eyepatch for added protection.
The best adhesive tape to look for should be water resistant and ideally, easy to tear. You want something quick to access while applying bandages and won’t wear down during the day.
Scissors, tweezers & safety pins
These are all best if they’re nickel-plated to prevent infection.
Scissors are multi-use, and not just for cutting gauze. Some people keep a multi-tool in their first aid kit in place of scissors, but keep in mind to keep any sharp objects away from children.
Tweezers can be used for removing splinters or debris from a wound before treating it.
Safety pins act as a quick fix for rips and tears in fabric, holding fabric together. If you’re out of adhesive tape, you can hold your gauze roll together with a safety pin as well.
Most importantly, make sure to clean these tools with an antiseptic before placing back into your kit.
Instant ice packs
While most people have ice packs in their freezer, keeping instant ice packs handy in a kit can be useful for emergencies. A pack can help treat swelling and ease sore muscles.
Ideally non-latex in case of allergies. If you’re unable to reach a sink to wash your hands, use gloves and be sure to dispose of them afterwards.
In the event of a power outage, or if a light is not readily accessible to you, a flashlight is essential for providing light in most emergency situations. Keep extra batteries in a separate bag to prevent corrosion.
These can be used to clean wounds and traumas as a first step to treating the affected area. Treating trauma with an antiseptic wipe will kill most germs on the area and sanitize skin, preventing infection.
Often called a space blanket, an emergency blanket is very thin and lightweight, and is made of heat-reflective plastic and reduces heat loss in a person’s body.
While it’s most likely you’ll have one in your home already, keeping a spare in an emergency first aid kit will help in a pinch when treating illness.
First aid manual
The Red Cross offers a First Aid/CPR/AED free guide online as a printable PDF (keep in mind if you’re Red Cross-certified in First Aid). There’s also a First Aid app that’s free to download.
In Canada, the Red Cross offers a printable pocket guide and free app on mobile phones. Printing out the guide and putting it in your kit will provide whoever uses the kit to have necessary information used to treat various emergencies.
The Red Cross recommends biohazard waste bags, but if it’s not available to you, a few plastic bags will be useful for throwing out any used bandages and gauze, needles, medications, broken glass, and other waste.
What to Look For When Buying a First Aid Kit
Government websites have a lot of information on buying a first aid kit. The Red Cross outlines how to be prepared for most emergencies, such as first aid, fire, earthquakes, and others. While not applicable to everyone, anyone can access this information for free and base the info on their location.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also advises to keep a checklist visible in your bag to ensure you have all the essentials in an emergency kit. While the basics are outlined here, it’s best to keep in mind other things you may need based on your household’s needs.
To be prepared, let’s break down where to get the best first aid kit bags on the market.
In the US:
The American Red Cross has an online website with certified first aid kit supplies. If you’re looking for a full kit, this Deluxe Kit covers all the basics for $25.99.
Amazon has a huge selection of emergency first aid kits, but make sure you’re buying from trusted brands. This First Aid Kit by Swiss Safe prices at $39.99 and comes in a sturdy case with built-in compartments.
For a kit on a budget, Johnson & Johnson Basic First Aid Kit is $11.97 and can help for simple cuts, burns, bites, rashes, and pain relief.
If you’re looking for a survival kit in the event of earthquakes or other disasters, Amazon offers 72-hour emergency preparedness kits.
There’s also this adventure medical kit for those on the go who need a travel first aid kit.
Red Cross Canada keeps a wide array of kits. This Basic First Aid Kit runs for $31.49 CAD, and this Deluxe First Aid Kit is $52.49 CAD.
U-Line, typically seen in workplaces but can also work in the home, offers standard first aid kits for six different provinces, as well as refills for individual items.
First Aid Canada has a big selection of products for most types of emergencies ranging in prices.
Amazon Canada also offers a lot of emergency preparedness kits, like this basic kit from Nexcare for $27.41 CAD, or a 72-hour emergency preparedness kit for $89.99 CAD.
All of these products are made by trusted brands. In terms of medical supplies, even something as simple as bandages or gauze pads, the best quality product should be CDC-approved. Look for first aid kits made by brands you’re familiar with, such as Johnson & Johnson, whose main business is making bathroom and medical supplies.
A good place to purchase a first aid kit is from the Red Cross or another government-approved website, since this will ensure you’re getting safe medical-grade supplies.
If you’re purchasing a kit or making your own by purchasing items online, check the online reviews to make sure you’re getting a good quality product. Trusted websites like Amazon have a big online review community and most items are of good quality if they have four stars or higher.
What Not To Get
Avoid buying non-essentials or overbuying. Often, a pre-packaged kit is the best way to start an emergency preparedness kit. Once you use those supplies, buy the amount needed to refill what’s missing from your kit.
Over-buying or putting too much in your kit will make it more difficult to find essentials in your kit in an emergency. Since everything needs to be accessible in an emergency, you want everything to be visible and easy to access to avoid panic.
What to do when you don’t have a first aid kit
If you don’t have a first aid kit, not to fret – you may be able to make one with the supplies in your house. Look around your home for any supplies that match what’s normally included in an emergency kit.
Things you may not consider as supplies may work in a pinch: a bandana could be a substitute as a gauze roll or a face mask; hydrogen peroxide and cotton pads can replace antiseptic wipes; and a multi-tool can work in place of scissors and tweezers.
Also consider your own personal needs to include in an emergency first aid kit, like having antihistamines or a prescribed Epi-Pen for allergic reactions; or preparing a trauma first aid bag for treating cuts, burns and other traumas in your environment. If you or someone in your household is CPR certified, consider purchasing supplies for a CPR responder kit, like a CPR mask.
Although it may not have all the tools required, it may be able to get the job done in an emergency. Keep them in one cupboard, drawer or box in your house and treat it as a first aid kit. It’s important to keep these supplies together so anyone in your household is able to quickly access them.
Where to Store
It’s best to store your kit in a dry area, such as a linen closet or cupboard. The storage location of the kit is vital in order to have quick and easy access. In an injury or emergency, consider where would be the most likely location in your home to reach for first aid.
The Red Cross suggests keeping multiple first aid kits where you need them most: in the home, in the car, and with you when travelling. At work, learn the location of emergency kits and supplies as well.
A first aid kit can serve as a treatment for simple injuries, or be that useful aid for emergencies at home before seeking medical services. Consider what you need in your home to be prepared for emergencies.