Living in urban areas where medical help is only a phone call away makes it easy to take immediate first aid care for granted. The unfortunate reality is that when things go bad, these lifesaving services can be interrupted. Whether your medical need is for something as minor as a scraped knee or something as substantial as a broken arm, do you know what to do and have the supplies needed if professional help is not available?

You never know when a medical emergency is going to happen. For this reason, everyone should have at least basic knowledge of first aid and a first aid kit available at a moment’s notice. Stick one in your home, workplace, car, and wherever else you frequent. In places with limited storage space such as a daily carried bag, having a travel-sized kit on hand is better than nothing. In the car, a small basic kit would work, and at home or work, a more substantial kit is ideal.

Having a kit is only half of it. Have you ever opened a first aid kit and realized other than the Band-Aids and aspirin, you really had no idea what was going on in there? If you’re not a medical professional, you know what we mean. Bandages, gauze, compresses, and funny-shaped scissors, how are we supposed to use this stuff? Knowledge of how to use the kit properly is just as important as having it.

Basic First Aid Kit

Let’s take a look at a basic kit and break down what each item is used for. Because there are so many kits on the market, nailing down a “basic” kit can be a task unto itself. We’ll go with what The Red Cross recommends for inclusion in a first aid kit.

There are plenty of first aid kits on the market that cover the basic needs in the above list and much more. Remember that the overall size of the kit also limits how many people it can treat and its duration of use, as well. Now that we know what we need, let’s take a look at what each item is and what it is used for.

basic-guide-to-first-aid-kits

Inventory & Expiration Dates

Mark your kits with the date that they were manufactured or put together, and remember to update expired items regularly. We recommend checking your kits once a year to make sure everything is accounted for. It’s easy to forget that you may have grabbed a Band-Aid or a pack of aspirin from it. It’s important to remember to replace any missing items before you forget.

Customize Your Kit

When looking for a store-bought kit or choosing what goes into a kit you build yourself, it is important to take into account any particular needs that you and your family may need. If anyone may be allergic to certain medications such as aspirin, be sure to substitute or add other meds such as ibuprofen, instead. But, don’t play the guessing game; consult your doctor to see what works for you and your family member’s particular medical condition and go with that.

Customize your first aid kit to include any prescription drugs that you and your family may need. Include any other personalized items, such as asthma, diabetes, and allergy meds that you will need in an emergency.

absorbant-compress-dressings

01 Absorbent Compress Dressings:
Compress dressings help promote blood clotting to stop bleeding. Use them by pressing the dressing against a wound to help stop blood loss.

adhesive-bandages

02 Adhesive Bandages:
Adhesive bandages, also known as Band-Aids, are useful to help cover minor cuts and scrapes. They come in different shapes and sizes for general and specific applications. Their adhesive qualities mean that they can be self-applied.

adhesive-cloth-tape

03 Adhesive Cloth Tape:
Adhesive cloth tape has many uses, including being applied to non-adhesive bandages to adhere them in place, being taped over a bandage to create pressure over a wound, and being used for making a splint.

antibiotic-ointment

04 Antibiotic Ointment:
An antibiotic ointment, like Neosporin, protects wounds against infections and bacteria, and it promotes faster healing. Apply as directed.

antiseptic-wipe-packets

05 Antiseptic Wipe Packets:
Use antiseptic wipes to clean cuts and other wounds prior to dressing them.

aspirin

06 Aspirin:
Aside from pain relief, aspirin is also good to have on hand for those suffering a heart attack. If you do use it for a heart attack, be sure that it is chewed instead of it being swallowed whole.

space-blanket

07 Space Blanket:
Space blankets have many uses that include keeping one’s body warm, minimizing the loss of moisture, and creating makeshift shelters, since they are usually windproof and waterproof.

breathing-barrier

08 Breathing Barrier:
A breathing barrier prevents the direct contact of a patient’s mouth and nose during mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

instant-cold-compress

09 Instant Cold Compress:
To ease swelling, fever, and treat injuries to soft tissue such as sprains, strains, and bruises, apply a cold compress. Instant cold compresses are activated by simply squeezing and shaking them.

non-latex-gloves

10 Non-Latex Gloves:
Gloves add a layer of protection for the person giving first aid care by protecting them from blood pathogens that a patient might carry. The Red Cross recommends a large-size glove, so that they will easily fit on anyone who needs to use them.

hyrdrocortisone

11 Hydrocortisone Ointment:
For skin irritation that is caused by bug bites, poison ivy, and rashes, apply some hydrocortisone ointment for relief.

bandage-scissors

12 Bandage Scissors:
Special curved blade bandage scissors allow you to safely cut bandages, gauze, and cloth tape without cutting your patient.

roller-bandages

13 Roller Bandages:
A roller bandage can be employed to help cover a greater surface area than a smaller adhesive bandage can. Used alongside sterile gauze and cloth tape, this type of bandage can be applied as a pressure dressing to help slow or stop blood flow from a larger wound.

sterile-gauze-pads

14 Sterile Gauze Pads:
Sterile gauze has very little lint and is used to treat minor wounds. They absorb excess blood and other fluids and can be used to clean wounds.

oral-thermometer

15 Oral Thermometer:
It’s best not to guess what temperature someone is running. Have a thermometer on hand.

triangular-bandages

16 Triangular Bandages:
The three-cornered bandage can be used as an arm sling or as a large bandage.

tweezers

17 Tweezers:
Tweezers are a general-use tool for jobs such as taking out splinters and cleaning out debris from wounds.

first-aid-instruction-booklet

18 First Aid Instruction Booklet:
Since most of us aren’t trained medical professionals, a first aid guide is good to have on hand for instructions on how to handle first aid emergencies.

First Aid Knowledge

It is a good idea to get some training on how to properly administer first aid and CPR. The American Red Cross offers classes in various disciplines of first aid, including First Aid Basics, Emergency Medical Response, First Responder in the Workplace, and even Dog and Cat First Aid. To find a class in your area, visit http://www.redcross.org/take-a-class.

Pre-Built First Aid Kit Buyer’s Guide

All prices listed are deemed accurate at the time of writing. Each kit featured may include different items than shown, please check the contents of the kits prior to making your purchase.

A Basic Guide to First Aid Kits

  • adventure-medical-kits-family-first-aid

    Adventure Medical Kits Family First Aid

    Make & Model - Adventure Medical Kits Family First Aid
    Approximate Dimensions - 8 x 6.5 x 3 in
    Weight - 1 lb
    Features - If you need to look out for the little ones in your life, take a look at the Family First Aid kit. It includes the booklet, Caring for Children in the Outdoors, a comprehensive guide to first-aid for children, covering topics such as how to treat sprains, fractures, and dislocations, plus handy guides on how to administer medications and how to dress more serious wounds. It's suitable for a family of four for one to four days.
    MSRP - $30
    URL - http://www.adventuremedicalkits.com
    Supply List - Bandage Materials
    16 Bandages, Adhesive, Fabric, 1 x 3 in
    1 Bandage, Adhesive, Fabric, 2 x 4-1/2 in
    4 Bandages, Adhesive, Fabric, Knuckle
    12 Bandages, Adhesive, Plastic, 3/8 x 1-1/2 in
    4 Bandages, Butterfly Closure
    4 Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 4 x 4 in, Pkg./2
    2 Dressing, Non-Adherent, Sterile, 2 x 3 in
    Bleeding
    1 Gloves, Nitrile (Pair), Hand Wipe Blister / Burn
    1 Moleskin, Pre-Cut & Shaped (11 pieces)
    Fracture / Sprain
    1 Bandage, Elastic with Clips, 2 in
    1 Cold Pack
    Instrument
    2 Safety Pins
    1 Scissors, Bandage with Blunt Tip
    1 Splinter Picker/Tick Remover Forceps
    2 Thermometers, Disposable
    Medical Information
    1 Caring for Children in the Outdoors manual
    Medication
    3 Acetaminophen (500 mg), Pkg./2
    3 Antihistamine (Diphenhydramine 25 mg)
    3 Ibuprofen (200 mg), Pkg./2
    Other
    1 After Bite Kids, Tube
    2 Natrapel 8 Hour Tick & Insect Repellent Wipe Wound Care
    12 After Cuts & Scrapes Antiseptic Wipes
    1 Cotton Tip Applicator, Pkg./2
    1 Tape, 1/2 in x 10 yd
    4 Triple Antibiotic Ointment, Single Use


    If you need to look out for the little ones in your life, take a look at the Family First Aid kit. It includes the booklet, Caring for Children in the Outdoors, a comprehensive guide to first-aid for children.

  • adventure-medical-kits-mountain-series-medical-kit-weekender

    Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Series Medical Kit Weekender

    Make & Model - Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Series Medical Kit Weekender
    Approximate Dimensions - 9 x 7 x 3.5 in
    Weight - 1 lb, 7.8 oz
    Features - More comprehensive than the other kits in this guide, the Weekender covers one to six people for seven days. The case is organized and packed full of supplies such as four different kinds of medicines and a comprehensive travel medicine guide. It is recommended by Adventure Medical Kits for three-day emergency kits.
    MSRP - $60
    URL - http://www.adventuremedicalkits.com
    Supply List - Bandage Materials
    5 Bandages, Adhesive, Fabric, 1 x 3 in
    5 Bandages, Adhesive, Fabric, Knuckle
    2 Bandages, Conforming Gauze, 3 in
    2 Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 2 x 2 in, Pkg./2
    2 Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 4 x 4 in, Pkg./2
    2 Dressing, Non-Adherent, Sterile, 3 x 4 in
    Bleeding
    1 Gloves, Nitrile (Pair), Hand Wipe
    1 Instructions, Easy Care Bleeding
    1 Trauma Pad, 5 x 9 in
    Blister / Burn
    1 GlacierGel (Large Oval)
    11 Moleskin, Pre-Cut & Shaped (11 pieces)
    CPR
    1 CPR Face Shield, Laerdal
    Duct Tape
    1 Duct Tape, 2 in x 5 yd
    Fracture / Sprain
    1 Bandage, Elastic with Velcro, 3 in
    1 Bandage, Triangular
    1 Instructions, Easy Care Fracture & Sprain
    Instrument
    1 EMT Shears, 4 in
    1 Pencil
    3 Safety Pins
    1 Splinter Picker/Tick Remover Forceps
    3 Thermometer, Disposable
    Medical Information
    1 Comp. Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicine
    1 Patient Assessment Form
    Medication
    2 Acetaminophen (500 mg), Pkg./2
    2 Antihistamine (Diphenhydramine 25 mg)
    1 Aspirin (325 mg), Pkg./2
    2 Ibuprofen (200 mg), Pkg./2
    1 Instructions, Easy Care Medications
    Wound Care
    6 After Cuts & Scrapes Antiseptic Wipes
    1 Cotton Tip Applicator, Pkg./2
    1 Instructions, Easy Care Wound
    1 Povidone Iodine, 3/4 oz
    1 Syringe, Irrigation, 20 cc, 18-Gauge Tip
    1 Tape, 1 in x 10 yd
    2 Tincture of Benzoin Topical Adhesive
    1 Wound Closure Strips, 1/4 x 4 in, Pkg./10


    More comprehensive than the other kits, the Weekender covers one to six people for seven days. The case is organized and packed full of supplies such as four different kinds of medicines and a comprehensive travel medicine guide.

  • adventure-medical-kits-travel-medic

    Adventure Medical Kits Travel Medic

    Make & Model - Adventure Medical Kits Travel Medic
    Approximate Dimensions - 5.5 x 4.5 x 1.75 in
    Weight - 2.7 oz
    Features - Very light weight and compact, this tiny kit has everything to treat pain, fever, upset stomach, minor injuries, and even blisters. It's perfect to keep in a backpack or a purse.
    MSRP - $10
    URL - http://www.adventuremedicalkits.com
    Supply List - Bandage Materials
    4 Bandages, Adhesive, Fabric, 1 x 3 in
    1 Bandage, Adhesive, Fabric, Knuckle
    2 Bandages, Butterfly Closure
    Blister / Burn
    1 GlacierGel (Large Oval)
    11 Moleskin, Pre-Cut & Shaped (11 pieces)
    Instrument
    2 Safety Pins
    Wound Care
    3 After Cuts & Scrapes Antiseptic Wipes
    3 Alcohol Swabs
    1 Triple Antibiotic Ointment, Single Use
    Medication
    2 Acetaminophen (500 mg), Pkg./2
    2 Antacid, Pkg./2
    2 Antihistamine (Diphenhydramine 25 mg)
    2 Diamode (Loperamide HCI 2 mg), Pkg./1
    2 Diotame (Bismuth Subsalicylate), Pkg./2
    2 Ibuprofen (200 mg), Pkg./2
    Other
    2 Wash-Up Towelettes


    Very light weight and compact, the Adventure Medical Kits Travel Medic kit has everything to treat pain, fever, upset stomach, minor injuries, and even blisters. It's perfect to keep in a backpack or a purse.

  • adventure-medical-kits-ultralight-watertifght-medical-kit-5

    Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight / Watertight Medical Kit .5

    Make & Model - Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight / Watertight Medical Kit .5
    Approximate Dimensions - 5 x 6.5 x 1.5 in
    Weight - 4.4 oz
    Features - This extremely light weight kit is enclosed in a watertight pouch. Intended for the outdoors adventurer, this kit is perfect for those who live in wet-weather areas. Light and small enough to fit just about anywhere, this kit is outfitted to treat common injuries.
    MSRP - $17
    URL - http://www.adventuremedicalkits.com
    Supply List - Bandage Materials
    4 Bandages, Adhesive, Fabric, 1 x 3 in
    2 Bandages, Adhesive, Fabric, Knuckle
    2 Bandages, Butterfly Closure
    1 Bandage, Conforming Gauze, 2 in
    2 Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 2 x 2 in, Pkg./2
    2 Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 3 x 3 in, Pkg./2
    1 Dressing, Non-Adherent, Sterile, 3 x 4 in
    Blister / Burn
    1 Moleskin, Pre-Cut & Shaped (11 pieces)
    Instrument
    2 Safety Pins
    1 Splinter Picker/Tick Remover Forceps
    Medication
    2 After Bite Wipes
    2 Antihistamine (Diphenhydramine 25 mg)
    1 Aspirin (325 mg), Pkg./2
    2 Ibuprofen (200 mg), Pkg./2
    Wound Care
    3 After Cuts & Scrapes Antiseptic Wipes
    3 Alcohol Swab 1 Tape, 1/2 in x 10 yd
    1 Tincture of Benzoin Topical Adhesive
    2 Triple Antibiotic Ointment, Single Use


    The Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight Medical Kit is an extremely light weight kit enclosed in a watertight pouch. Intended for the outdoors adventurer, this kit is perfect for those who live in wet-weather areas.

  • adventure-medical-kits-ultralight-watertight-medical-kit-9

    Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight / Watertight Medical Kit .9

    Make & Model - Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight / Watertight Medical Kit .9
    Approximate Dimensions - 9 x 5.5 x 2.5 in
    Weight - 8.9 oz
    Features - This kit is designed to withstand exposure from the elements. With two individual Dryflex bags inside an outer seam-sealed siliconized nylon bag with water-resistant zipper, this kit is made to be waterproof. Inside, you'll find enough first aid gear for one to four people on trips as long as four days. This kit includes everything from wound-closure strips to duct tape in a flexible, compact package.
    MSRP - $36
    URL - http://www.adventuremedicalkits.com
    Supply List - Bandage Materials
    5 Bandage, Adhesive, Fabric, 1 x 3 in
    3 Bandage, Adhesive, Fabric, Knuckle
    1 Bandage, Conforming Gauze, 3 in
    2 Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 2 x 2 in, Pkg./2
    3 Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 3 x 3 in, Pkg./2
    2 Dressing, Non-Adherent, Sterile, 3 x 4 in
    Bleeding
    1 Gloves, Nitrile (Pair), Hand Wipe
    1 Trauma Pad, 5 x 9 in
    Blister / Burn
    2 Moleskin, Pre-Cut & Shaped (11 pieces)
    Duct Tape
    1 Duct Tape, 2 x 50 in
    Fracture / Sprain
    1 Bandage, Elastic with Velcro, 2 in
    Instrument
    3 Safety Pins
    1 Splinter Picker/Tick Remover Forceps
    Medication
    2 After Bite Wipes
    3 Antihistamine (Diphenhydramine 25 mg)
    1 Aspirin (325 mg), Pkg./2
    4 Diamode (Loperamide HCI 2 mg), Pkg./1
    4 Ibuprofen (200 mg), Pkg./2
    Wound Care
    6 After Cuts & Scrapes Antiseptic Wipes
    3 Alcohol Swabs
    1 Cotton Tip Applicator, Pkg./2
    1 Syringe, Irrigation, 10 cc, 18 Gauge Tip
    1 Tape, 1 in x 10 yd
    1 Tincture of Benzoin Topical Adhesive
    4 Triple Antibiotic Ointment, Single Use
    1 Wound Closure Strips, 1/4 x 4 in, Pkg./10


    This Adventure Medical kit is designed to withstand exposure from the elements. With two individual Dryflex bags inside an outer seam-sealed siliconized nylon bag with water-resistant zipper, this kit is made to be waterproof.

  • johnson-and-johnson-all-purpose-first-aid-kit

    Johnson & Johnson All Purpose First Aid Kit

    Make & Model - Johnson & Johnson All Purpose First Aid Kit
    Approximate Dimensions - 10 x 7 x 3 in
    Weight - 1 lb
    Features - Featuring an organizational hard case, this kit's focus is on cuts and scrapes and is packed full of Band-Aids and bandages. The spacious case leaves room for you to customize the kit by adding other supplies such as tools and medications.
    MSRP - $9.99
    URL - http://www.target.com
    Supply List - 1 First Aid Guide
    3 Cleansing Wipes 5 x 7-3/4 in
    2 Non-Sterile Disposable Gloves (1 pair)
    14 Band-Aid Brand Adhesive Bandages Sheer Strip, 7/8 x 7/8 in
    34 Band-Aid Brand Adhesive Bandages Sheer Strip, 5/8 x 2-1/4 in
    30 Band-Aid Brand Adhesive Bandages Sheer Strip, 3/4 x 3 in
    2 Band-Aid Brand Adhesive Bandages Sheer Strip, 2-1/4 x 3 in
    15 Band-Aid Brand Fabric Adhesive Bandages, 5/8 x 2-1/4 in
    10 Band-Aid Brand Fabric Adhesive Bandages, 3/4 x 3 in
    5 Band-Aid Brand Fabric Adhesive Bandages, 1 x 3 in
    8 Johnson & Johnson RED CROSS Gauze Pads, 2 x 2 in
    10 Band-Aid Brand Adhesive Bandages Butterfly Closures, 1-3/4 x 3/8 in
    1 Coach Instant Cold Pack
    2 Neosporin Ointment (1/32 oz.)
    1 Johnson & Johnson Red Cross Brand Tape


    The spacious case of the Johnson & and Johsnon All Purpose First Aid Kit leaves room for you to customize the kit by adding other supplies such as tools and medications.

  • johnson-and-johnson-safe-travels-first-aid-kit

    Johnson & Johnson Safe Travels First Aid Kit

    Make & Model - Johnson & Johnson Safe Travels First Aid Kit
    Approximate Dimensions - 6 x 5.5 x 1.75 in
    Weight - 6.7 oz
    Features - Targeted more for cuts and scrapes, this first aid kit is encased in a protective hard case and is a little more basic than other kits.
    MSRP - $9.99
    URL - http://www.drugstore.com
    Supply List - Clean
    6 Johnson & Johnson Cleansing Wipes
    Treat
    4 Neosporin First Aid Antibiotic Ointment, 0.03 oz.
    Protect
    8 Johnson & Johnson Gauze Pads, (Four 2-packs), 2 x 2 in
    5 Band-Aid Brand Flexible Fabric Adhesive Bandages, 1 x 3 in
    10 Band-Aid Brand Flexible Fabric Adhesive Bandages, 3/4 x 3 in
    15 Band-Aid Brand Flexible Adhesive Bandages, 5/8 x 2-1/4 in
    21 Band-Aid Brand Sheer Strips Adhesive Bandages, 1 x 3 in


    Targeted more for cuts and scrapes, the Johnson & Johnson Safe Travels First Aid Kit is encased in a protective hard case and is a little more basic than other kits.

  • rei-backpacker-plus-multiday-first-aid-kit

    REI Backpacker Plus Multiday First Aid Kit

    Make & Model - REI Backpacker Plus Multiday First Aid Kit
    Approximate Dimensions - 5.75 x 7 x 3 in
    Weight - 13 oz
    Features - Made to cover four backwoods adventurers for five days, this kit is compact and comprehensive, and it should easily cover a small group's minor injuries in the event of an urban disaster. The kit is contained in a durable pack cloth nylon zipper bag and includes The Wilderness First Aid Manual by Dr. William Forgey for quick reference.
    MSRP - $33.50
    URL - http://www.rei.com
    Supply List - Medications
    2 Nutralox, Mint Antacid, Pkg./2
    2 Propinal, Ibuprofen (200 mg), Pkg./2
    2 Cetafen, Acetaminophen (325 mg), Pkg./2
    2 Histaprin, Diphenhydramine (25 mg)
    2 Pill Vial with Label
    Ointments/Wipes
    4 Triple Antibiotic Ointment Packets
    3 Sting Relief Wipes
    3 BZK Antibacterial Towelettes
    3 Povidone-Iodine Wipes
    1 Antimicrobial Hand Wipe
    Wraps/Splints
    1 Cloth Tape, 1 in x 10 yd
    1 Elastic Bandage, 2 in
    Wound Care
    5 Adhesive Bandages, 3/4 x 3 in
    5 Adhesive Bandages, 1 x 3 in
    4 Fingertip Adhesive Bandages
    4 Knuckle Adhesive Bandages
    4 Butterfly Closure
    1 Sterile Stretch Gauze, 2 in x 4.1 yd
    1 ABD Combine Pad, 5 x 9 in
    4 Sterile Gauze Pad, 2 x 2 in
    3 Sterile Gauze Pad, 3 x 3 in
    1 Non-Adherent Pad, 2 x 3 in
    1 Non-Adherent Pad, 3 x 4 in
    2 Sterile Top Sponges, 4 x 4 in, Pkg./2
    2 Moleskin, 3 x 4 in
    Tools
    1 Bandage Scissors
    1 Splinter Forceps
    3 Safety Pins
    Other
    1 Wilderness First Aid Manual
    1 Pencil
    1 Accident / Evaluation Record
    1 Latex-Free Medical Gloves
    1 Resealable Waste Bag, 8 x 10 in


    Made to cover four backwoods adventurers for five days, the REI Backpacker Plus Multiday First Aid Kit is compact and comprehensive, and it should easily cover a small group's minor injuries in the event of an urban disaster.

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