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Your home's first responder: Stocking a first aid kit

| Safety | Healthy You

Young woman gives first aid to another woman sitting next to bicycle

It’s never too early to prepare. Restock your first aid kit before you need it.

Accidents happen. So do cuts, burns and insect stings.

For your peace of mind, prepare for the unexpected — whether it’s a mishap at home, an accident on the road or something more serious.

One way to do that is by having a fully stocked first aid kit.

Having supplies ready — and all in one place — when you need them means you can help people feel better faster when they’re hurt or sick.

What to stock in a first aid kit 

Here are some essentials, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians:

Medications and topical aids

  • Acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin. For pain and fever relief. If you have child(ren), have a pain reliever that’s suited to their needs.
  • Antacid. For upset stomach.
  • Antibiotic ointment. To disinfect and protect wounds from infection.
  • Antidiarrheal. For diarrhea.
  • Allergy medicine. To counteract allergic reactions. This may be antihistamine liquid, cream or self-injectable epinephrine (Epi-Pen), as directed by your healthcare provider. 
  • Antibiotic ointment. For minor wounds.
  • Aloe vera gel. To relieve skin concerns, including burns, itching and dryness.
  • Calamine lotion. To relieve itch from insect bites and stings and poison ivy.
  • Cough and cold medications. Follow the directions on the label. Ask your provider if you have any questions about the use of these medications for you or your child(ren).
  • Decongestant tablets. Consult the label and/or your provider for condition- or age-appropriate dosages.
  • Hydrocortisone cream. To relieve irritation from rashes. Note that this cream comes in different strengths, so please talk with your provider about the proper dosage for you.
  • Opioid overdose medication. Having a rescue kit on hand could save the life of someone who accidentally takes too much of an opioid medication. Ask your pharmacist about behind-the-counter kits.
  • Petroleum jelly. To lubricate a thermometer or to soften skin.

Tools and supplies

  • Adhesive tape. To keep gauze in place.
  • Alcohol or antiseptic wipes. To disinfect wounds or clean hands.
  • Bandages of different sizes. To cover minor cuts and scrapes.
  • Butterfly bandages. To tape edges of minor cuts together.
  • Elastic wraps. To wrap wrist, ankle, knee and elbow injuries.
  • Gauze in rolls or pads. To dress larger cuts and scrapes. 
  • Instant-activating cold packs. For treating injuries and burns.
  • Latex-free gloves. To reduce the risk of infection when treating open wounds.
  • Moleskin. To prevent or treat blisters.
  • Safety pins (large and small). To fasten splints and bandages.
  • Sharp scissors with rounded tips. To cut tape, gauze or clothes.
  • Syringe or dropper. To give oral medications. 
  • Thermometer. To identify a fever.
  • Triangular bandage. To wrap injuries and make an arm sling.
  • Tweezers. For removing small splinters, foreign objects, bee stingers and ticks.
  • Wipes. To disinfect hands or clean wounds.

How to pack and store

Store your first aid kit in a container that is sturdy. Just make sure it’s roomy enough to keep everything together. 

The kit should be easy to take with you in a disaster.

Here are a few more tips for making your kit as useful as possible:

  • Have enough supplies for everyone in your group or household.
  • Package items in zippered or vacuum-sealed bags to keep them dry and clearly visible.
  • Clearly label and date medications or other items that expire. Learn where and how the FDA recommends disposing of your unused meds.
  • Keep a paper or laminated print of emergency contact phone numbers and addresses.
  • Print a copy of each family member’s medical history including current medications and allergies.
  • Carry a first aid manual or tip card.

What to know

If you or others in your household have unique needs, include those items in your kit or plan to have extras on hand all the time.

As you restock or build your first aid kit, refresh your knowledge and skills. If it’s been more than a few years, consider signing up for a first aid class.  Or watch online videos to get familiar with common first aid techniques.

You can also teach your children about how to use some items in the kit. Updating your kit is a great opportunity for the whole family to talk about where you keep these supplies and how often to replenish them.

If you’ll be away from home, you might need to add a few items to your kit for travel. And if you’re planning a trip into the great outdoors, check out these wilderness health tips.

Being prepared with fresh supplies and know-how can relieve some of the stress that comes with the uncertainties in life.