30 First Aid Kit Essentials

At any given time, you could be put in a dangerous situation. You never know when an accident will occur, and you and your family need… Trista - August 5, 2019

At any given time, you could be put in a dangerous situation. You never know when an accident will occur, and you and your family need medical assistance. One thing that can help you in an emergency is a first aid kit. Having a set of supplies on hand is essential for handling scrapes and headaches as well as more serious matters like anaphylactic shock.

If you travel a lot, it’s wise to have a small first aid kit packed into your suitcase. For families with kids, have a first aid kit equipped with supplies to treat babies and toddlers in a diaper bag or in your vehicle to help keep your family safe. Even a basic first aid kit can help in an emergency. Having tools to help someone with a medical issue can help stop a bad problem from getting worse. In some cases, a first aid kit can even help prevent a fatality. In addition to having a first aid kit on hand, it’s not a bad idea to take some basic first aid training. You can contact the American Red Cross for more information on first aid courses. Keep reading to see what essential items you should have in your first aid kit!


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1. First Aid Manual

The first great item to have in your first aid kit is a manual. This will provide guidelines for using the equipment in your package as well as how to contact help in an emergency. Most first aid manuals are OSHA, ANSI & ISEA certified for safety. The goal of these manuals is to provide a series of easy-to-understand techniques that can potentially save lives.

First aid manuals give detailed instructions for performing CPR, dealing with seizures, assisting with anaphylaxis, and other medical emergencies. You can find a wealth of information online for your first aid kit. There are basic manuals available as well as those for treating infants and even cats and dogs!

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2. Antibiotic Ointment

One of the first items people go to a first aid kit for is an antibiotic ointment. For cuts and scrapes, antibiotic ointment is applied to prevent the spread of infection. It can also help soothe painful burns and scratches.

Antibiotic ointment is designed for healing abrasions quickly. You can find this ointment in tubes or small one-use packets which are convenient for a first aid kit because they don’t take up too much room. Little packets of antibiotic ointment are also great because you don’t have to worry about contaminating an entire tube. For those that camp or frequently spend a lot of time outdoors, antibiotic ointment is a must-have.

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3. Adhesive Tape

Also known as surgical tape, adhesive tape is mostly used for holding a dressing or bandage on a wound. The adhesive adheres well to the skin and bandages but will not cause pain or damage the skin when it’s removed. This tape is typically white because it is made with zinc oxide to prevent infections.

All surgical tape is made with hypoallergenic adhesive. There are two types to choose from fragile tape and tear-resistant tape. Fragile adhesive tape is made with paper and tears easily. Made with plastic or fabric, most rolls of tear-resistant tape are water-resistant, making them ideal for athletes. The tear-resistant tape is also more flexible than its more fragile counterpart.

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4. Bandages

No first aid kit would be complete without bandages. Most people have first aid kits to store their bandages and other materials for covering wounds. From butterfly bandages to finger bandages to heavy woven bandages, it’s smart to have a variety of options in your first aid kit. You never know what type of wound you’ll need to cover!

On the market, there are so many different types of bandages to choose from. You’ve got regular plastic Band-Aids for minor scrapes, woven bandages for large wounds that need a stronger hold, and even waterproof bandages. There’s also a spray bandage to help with healing and sterilizing wounds.

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5. Rubber Tourniquet

Tourniquets are tight rubber bands that are used to control bleeding. They are applied tightly to stop the flow of blood to an open wound completely. The design of a tourniquet makes it only possible to use on arms and legs.

When they were first invented, tourniquets were mainly used to stop a patient from bleeding and developing shock. If direct pressure and elevation cannot stop the flow of blood, a tourniquet must be used. Additionally, if you’re unable to maintain direct pressure, use a tourniquet instead. Make sure not to put a tourniquet too loosely. It should feel so tight that it’s slightly uncomfortable.

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6. Roller Gauze

For areas that are hard to bandage, a roller gauze is a great option. It’s great for applying pressure to a wound to stop the bleeding. Roller gauze also makes covering wounds in hard to reach areas easy. This tool is essential for taking care of minor scrapes and bruises.

Along with antibiotic ointment, roller gauze can be used to treat open wounds. The bandage adheres to itself, so you don’t have to worry about securing your wrap. It also absorbs very well, so it can be used to cover and protect leaking wounds. You can use a sterile pad to cover an injury and then wrap the pad with roller gauze for extra protection.


7. Eye Shield

A relatively new addition to first aid kits, eye shields are handy. They are great for covering an eye that has been injured and preventing the injury from getting worse. Initially, the method used to protect eyes was by wrapping a bandage over the affected eye and applying pressure, but eye shields are much more effective.

The military commonly uses eye shields for soldiers in combat. Research shows that eye shields can prevent severe eye damage from occurring. They work to keep unwanted debris and bacteria from infecting the eye any further. These eye shields come slightly ventilated so the person wearing them can still see out of both their eyes.

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8. Instant Cold Packs

Instant cold packs are another great addition to any first aid kit. They are used for icing injuries such as sprained ankles, nerve pain, headaches, and bruises. Because they don’t need to be frozen, instant cold packs can be stored anywhere.

All you need to do to activate the cooling aspect of instant cold packs is to squeeze and shake the contents. It will release the cooling material inside, leasing to a chilled, soothing ice pack ready in seconds! These can help keep an injury from swelling too much before you can seek medical attention. Instant cold packs are worthy investments for athletes, hunters, and campers.

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9. Cotton Balls and Pads

Cotton balls and pads have many purposes in a first aid kit. They can be used to stop a wound from bleeding. Cotton pads are typically used to cover a wound and prevent infection. You can use cotton balls to apply bactine or hydrogen peroxide to a wound.

Even though cotton is in their name, cotton balls and pads aren’t made from the material. These items are actually made with bleached synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester. Cotton balls have been used to apply antiseptic and other things since the early 19th century. Cotton balls are ideal for first aid kits because they stay intact after becoming saturated.

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10. Safety Pins

Safety pins are small and lightweight, making them a good fit for a first aid kit. They are useful for holding bandages in place as well as securing clothing. In a pinch, they can even hold a wound together.

You can use safety pins to fashion a makeshift arm sling out of a shirt sleeve. If you need to, take a bandana and wrap it tightly around a wound to stop bleeding, then secure with a safety pin. These pins can even be used to remove splinters! All first aid kits should have at least five to ten safety pins.

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11. Medical Shears

Medical shears are a first aid kit must-have. These sturdy scissors can cut through just about anything. Fabric, leather, plastic, and sheet metal are all no match for medical-grade shears. There’s a reason why all paramedics and EMTs carry medical shears.

Shears like these are designed to be able to cut through bandages and clothing fast in an emergency. They have a curved blade which keeps the scissors from cutting through a patient’s skin. Medical shears are compact, so they shouldn’t take up too much space in your first aid kit. Also, these shears are made with stainless steel, making them easy to sterilize.


12. Tweezers

Since you never know when you’re going to need to remove bandages or foreign material, it’s imperative to have one or two sets of tweezers in your first aid kit. From removing splinters to getting rocks out of wounds, tweezers can do so many things. They can even help with applying bandages.

Tweezers come in a variety of materials including plastic and stainless steel. You can find pointed or slanted tweezers. Slanted tweezers are ideal for removing splinters. If you go camping a lot and are in an area with ticks, tweezers are a must! They are the best way to remove a tick that has bitten you.

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13. Aspirin

Aspirin is great for treating headaches and pain associated with an injury. You can get aspirin in bottles or in single-use packets which are great because they take up minimal space. Having aspirin with you in your first aid kit can help alleviate cramps, muscle aches, arthritis, and pain associated with the common cold.

Another reason to have aspirin with you is in the event of a heart attack. If someone close to you has a heart attack, give them an aspirin. Chewing an aspirin when you’re suspected of having a heart attack can help thin your blood and help oxygen get to your heart better. This method can keep you relatively stable until you get to a hospital.

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14. Antiseptic Solution

For cleaning and sterilizing wounds, you’ll need an antiseptic solution. Antiseptics work to prevent bacterial contamination. They also keep an injury and the skin around it clean. This solution is essential for preventing infection in cuts, burns, and scrapes. Always have an antiseptic solution in your first aid kit to heal wounds faster.

If you don’t want to have a full bottle in your kit, you can get antiseptic towelettes which take up a lot less room. Some companies offer antiseptic towelettes that are alcohol-free and don’t sting, which can make you and your family more comfortable. To clean your skin when soap and water aren’t readily available, use antiseptic solutions.

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15. Thermometer

One of the human body’s vital signs is temperature. A significant change in a person’s temperature can indicate an illness or serious medical problem. The best way to monitor someone’s temperature is with a thermometer.

Having the right thermometer is vital for any first aid kit. There are many types to choose from, including mercury, infrared, and digital thermometers. There are even disposable thermometers available. For thermometers that don’t go into the mouth, you can find ear or temporal artery types that are easy to use. Another example is temperature stripes that stick to your forehead to gauge your body temperature. Be advised that temperature strips can be affected by environmental temperature.

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16. Eye Wash Solution

In an emergency where chemicals or other foreign matter enter the eyes, an eyewash solution is necessary. When an unwanted material like dust comes in your eyes, you’ll need to flush them as soon as possible. Having an emergency eyewash solution in your first aid kit is a wise choice.

Most eyewash solutions come in single-use bottles. After getting something in your eye, use an entire bottle to cleanse your eye. When you’re done, use an eye shield or bandage to wrap up your eye and keep it protected. These bottles can also be used to hydrate the skin if you have a wound that needs to be cleaned.

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17. Hand Sanitizer

When you aren’t near any soap and water and need to cleanse your hands, hand sanitizer is your best option. These liquid cleansers are designed to eliminate bacteria and protect against the spread of germs. Most hand sanitizers kill 99.9% of germs.

You can find hand sanitizer in bottles, single-use packs, and in wipes. Before tending to anyone’s medical needs, thoroughly cleanse your hands with hand sanitizer and allow them to dry. Most and sanitizers are made with mostly alcohol, so be advised that they can dry out your skin. You may be able to find hand sanitizer with aloe vera which can help moisturize your skin.

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18. Mouth to Mouth Microshield

To prevent the spread of germs when administering CPR, you can use a mouth to mouth micro shield. These single-use items make giving CPR a bit less intimidating and a lot more sanitary. Some places have reusable masks that are made of durable plastic. You can find them on most first aid websites for purchase.

You wear a mouth to mouth micro shield like a mask. It has a one-way valve in the mouth area designed to prevent air from blowing back up. If you can grab your mouth to mouth micro shield within 30 seconds of needing to start CPR, you should be useful, but don’t take more than a minute before beginning chest compressions and resuscitation.

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19. Turkey Baster

You may think it’s weird to have a turkey baster in your first aid kit. This kitchen tool that’s most often used for Thanksgiving is also useful in an emergency. Its main purpose is for irrigation.

When a wound needs to be flushed, a turkey baster can help. It can hold a generous amount of water, making it easy to clean out a wound in seconds. It can also be used to flush out eyes that have been infected with debris. A regular turkey baster may be quite large for a first aid kit, but it’s a worthwhile addition.

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20. Elastic Wrap Bandages

Elastic wrap bandages are essential for stabilizing injuries and holding splints in place. These stretchy bandages also provide localized pressure when necessary. You can get the normal type of elastic wrap bandage that comes with metal closures or the newer type which is self-adhering. Elastic wrap bandages either come in blue or brown colors.

Bandages like this are mostly used for wrapping sprained ankles, wrists, or knees. They can also be used to hold ice packs or cold compresses on the body. Additionally, you can use elastic wrap bandages to keep wound dressings in place. When looking for stretchy wrap bandages to put in your first aid kit, aim to purchase ones with sterile clips.

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21. Sterile Saline

Sterile saline solution has several purposes. It’s great for cleaning out wounds and sterilizing medical tools. Another use is to clean fresh cuts and scrapes. This solution can be used to flush out eyes if an eyewash solution is unavailable.

You can find a sterile saline solution in small one-use pods or more substantial bottles. You can also find saline in the form of pre-moistened towelettes. These towelettes can be used to gently clean a newborn baby’s eyes or cleanse a tender postoperative wound. Pre-moistened saline towelettes are great because they eliminate cross-contamination and take up less space than bottled saline solution.

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22. Hydrogen Peroxide

Another solution that has a variety of uses is hydrogen peroxide. This inexpensive liquid is excellent for disinfecting wounds and sterilizing medical tools. It’s antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties make it a must-have in your first aid kit.

Hydrogen peroxide expertly cleans and disinfects wounds. If you pour hydrogen peroxide on a wound and it turns white and starts to bubble, that means it’s working! This indicates that the solution is killing all bacteria present on your skin. It also works excellent to subdue allergic reactions. If you accidentally touch poison ivy or another poisonous plant, put hydrogen peroxide on the areas of your skin that felt it to prevent the rash from spreading.

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23. Surgical Mask

A surgical mask helps to prevent the wearer from breathing in any unwanted particles. These lightweight masks ensure that you can breathe easily while protecting your airways from becoming compromised. They also help to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Additionally, surgical masks can help keep someone with the cold or flu from spreading germs around. If you’re feeling sick, be courteous to those around you, and wear a mask. These are great for those living in an area with high air pollution because they filter out particles. Since surgical masks are relatively cheap, stock several in your first aid kit, so your whole family has one in case of emergency.

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24. Antacids

For heartburn and other digestion issues, antacids are a must. You never know when indigestion or an upset stomach will hit and antacids can provide relief. These little pills contain aluminum-free calcium that stops stomach acid from causing you pain.

You can get antacids in a bottle or single-use packets. Most antacids come in a variety of flavors and are sugar-free. The most common taste is mint. Each antacid tablet also contains calcium, which helps to quell stomach acid and upset. When your stomach isn’t feeling well, chew one or two tablets of antacid to get rid of your pain.

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25. Hydrocortisone Cream

For relief from itching, irritation, and other skin problems, you need hydrocortisone cream. Hydrocortisone cream is a topical cream that is known as a corticosteroid. Its purpose is to treat redness, swelling, itching, and other discomforts on the skin.

You can find hydrocortisone cream in tubes and single-use packets. This cream is essential for campers and hikers because it’s useful in treating poison ivy and other annoying rashes. It’s also great for keeping bug bites from getting too itchy. To use hydrocortisone cream, clean the affected area with soap and water. Dry the skin thoroughly and apply a small amount of cream to the wound. Repeat three or four times a day until the lesion goes away.

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26. Cough and Cold Medications

Especially in the colder months, having cold and cough medicine on hand is a wise choice. Colds and the flu can come on fast, so it’s always good to have medication for them to prevent them from getting worse. These medicines help to treat coughs, congestion, aches, and fever.

You can find cold and flu medicine in pill or liquid form. Tablets are easier to store in your first aid kit and will last longer. You can find single-serve packs that make doling out medicine extremely easy. Keep in mind that many types of cough and cold medication containing ibuprofen or acetaminophen, so avoid taking any other pain reliever along with them.

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27. EpiPen

Even if no one in your family is allergic to anything, you should have an EpiPen in your first aid kit. You never know if someone you’re around will have a sudden allergic reaction. Additionally, you or your loved ones may have an allergy that comes on suddenly.

For someone going into anaphylactic shock, using an EpiPen is a matter of life and death. Within seconds of consuming an allergen, someone can have a reaction. The EpiPen injects epinephrine into the bloodstream, which opens a person’s airways. That gives you enough time to call 911 and get some medical attention. Taking training to learn how to administer an EpiPen properly is also a great idea.

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28. Pain Relievers

Carrying pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen in your first aid kit is essential! These pills can provide relief from injuries like ankle sprains, bruises, headaches, and more. The quicker you can help an injured person find solace, the less anxious they’ll feel.

Pain relievers not only work to diminish pain, but they can also ease swelling. Grab a bottle of pain medicine and add it to your first aid kit! You can also find single-serve packs of Tylenol, Advil, and other forms of pain relief. These pills not only relieve pain, but they can work to reduce fever and other symptoms of the common cold.

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29. Emergency Phone Numbers

In case of emergency, it’s essential to have a list of significant phone numbers so you or your loved ones can be reached in a crisis. While most of us put important phone numbers into our phones, in a medical emergency, you don’t know if you’ll be able to access them. Having your emergency contact numbers written down is the best way to ensure you get the help you need.

In addition to having your emergency contact information in your phone, you’ll need to write it down as well. Type up all of your relevant phone numbers and print them out. Include insurance information, your doctor’s name, and even medical conditions like allergies or diabetes. That can help paramedics treat you more efficiently.

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30. Waterproof Flashlight and Batteries

When an emergency happens at night, it can be hard to find an adequate light source. Make sure you’re never entirely in the dark by including a waterproof flashlight. Be sure to include plenty of batteries, so you never run out of juice!

Getting a super bright LED emergency flashlight can help you stay prepared in an emergency. Even the American Red Cross recommends all families have a shining flashlight in their first aid kit. A flashlight can help you see what you’re doing while tending to someone’s wounds or helping them wrap up an injury. You can help guide someone in the dark by using a flashlight. If your car breaks down, a flashlight can help you flag down someone for help.

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31. Sunscreen

Sunscreen is an essential item that everyone should carry with them. If you’re going outside at all, you need to wear sunscreen. It keeps you from getting sunburnt and prevents harmful UV rays from damaging your skin.

Find a sunscreen that works for your whole family. Whether you prefer the spray-on sunscreen or the lotion type, as long as it provides adequate coverage, you should be in good shape. Even if you’re spending time outside in the winter, you’ll need SPF protection. In addition to applying sunscreen, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Pack some aloe vera in your first aid kit to soothe any sunburns.

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32. Insect Repellent

Stay protected from pesky bugs by having insect repellant in your first aid kit. When you travel to humid areas or outdoor places with a lot of food, you can suddenly find yourself surrounded by bugs. Look for safe bug sprays that can keep mosquitoes, bees, flies, and other annoying critters away from you and your family.

Most bug sprays include DEET, which is the most common insect repellant. It doesn’t kill bugs but instead repels them. Protecting yourself from pests doesn’t just help you avoid bites. You can prevent the transmission of West Nile Virus, Lyme disease, and Dengue Fever.

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33. Gloves

Because so many diseases can be transmitted through small cracks in the skin, you’re better off protecting yourself. Wearing gloves when taking care of someone in a medical emergency can help keep you and that person safe. Bloodborne diseases can especially infect you if you have a small scratch or cut on your hand.

The best type of gloves to have in your first aid kit are nitrile or vinyl. Avoid putting latex gloves in your bag because many people are allergic to latex. Purple nitrile gloves are the kind of gloves used by medical professionals. If you find yourself needing gloves but do not have any nitrile gloves available, you can use dish gloves, leather gloves, or plastic bags.

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34. Cell Phone

In an emergency, it’s imperative to have a phone to call for help. When a dangerous situation arises, a phone is necessary to call 911 and have medical professionals by your side within minutes. You don’t need a fancy smartphone to keep your family safe.

If you want to have additional insurance, you can get an inexpensive phone to keep in your first aid kit. A phone that operates by purchasing minutes can stay in the package and be ready to use when you need it. When you call 911 from a cell phone, disclose your location immediately, and describe your surroundings. Stay calm and speak clearly as you tell them the nature of your emergency.

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35. Solar Charger

Most cell phones have individual batteries or batteries that cannot be removed. If you choose to keep a cell phone in your first aid kit, you need to have a charger too. A solar-powered charger can keep your phone or other electronics running in an emergency.

By using a solar-powered charger, you eliminate the need to carry extra batteries. These types of chargers quickly get power from the sun, and you can boost them while you charge your phone. Be sure to keep an extra charging cable that works with your phone in the first aid kit. Look for models that are 8000mAh or higher for more efficient charging power.