First-aid kits: Stock supplies that can save lives

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First aid: First-aid kits: Stock supplies that can save lives

A well-stocked first-aid kit can help you respond effectively to common injuries and emergencies. Keep at least one first-aid kit in your home and one in your car. Store your kits in easy-to-retrieve locations that are out of the reach of young children. Children old enough to understand the purpose of the kits should know where they are stored.

You can purchase first-aid kits at many drugstores or assemble your own. Contents of a first-aid kit should include:

Basic supplies

  • Adhesive tape
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic solution or towelettes
  • Bandages, including a roll of elastic wrap (Ace, Coban, others) and bandage strips (Band-Aid, Curad, others) in assorted sizes
  • Instant cold packs
  • Cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs
  • Disposable latex or synthetic gloves, at least two pairs
  • Duct tape
  • Gauze pads and roller gauze in assorted sizes
  • Eye goggles
  • First-aid manual
  • Petroleum jelly or other lubricant
  • Plastic bags for the disposal of contaminated materials
  • Safety pins in assorted sizes
  • Tooth preservation kit consisting of salt solution and a sealable travel case
  • Scissors, tweezers and a needle
  • Soap or instant hand sanitizer
  • Sterile eyewash, such as a saline solution
  • Thermometer
  • Triangular bandage
  • Turkey baster or other bulb suction device for flushing out wounds

Medications

  • Activated charcoal (use only if instructed by your poison control center)
  • Aloe vera gel
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Over-the-counter oral antihistamine (Benadryl, others)
  • Aspirin and nonaspirin pain relievers (never give aspirin to children)
  • Calamine lotion
  • Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream
  • Personal medications that don't need refrigeration
  • If prescribed by your doctor, drugs to treat an allergic attack, such as an auto-injector of epinephrine (EpiPen)
  • Syringe, medicine cup or spoon

Emergency items

  • Cell phone and recharger that uses the accessory plug in your car dash
  • Emergency phone numbers, including contact information for your family doctor and pediatrician, local emergency services, emergency road service providers and the regional poison control center
  • Medical consent forms for each family member
  • Medical history forms for each family member
  • Small, waterproof flashlight and extra batteries
  • Candles and matches for cold climates
  • Sunscreen
  • Mylar emergency blanket
  • First-aid instruction manual

Give your kit a checkup
Check your first-aid kits regularly, at least every three months, to be sure the flashlight batteries work and to replace supplies that have expired.

In addition, take a first-aid course to prepare for a possible medical emergency. Be sure the course covers cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and how to use an automatic external defibrillator (AED). Renew your CPR certification at least every two years.

Prepare children for medical emergencies in age-appropriate ways. The American Red Cross offers a number of helpful resources, including classes designed to help children understand and use first-aid techniques.

Last Updated: 2011-05-24
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