How to Pack a First Aid Kit for Your College Student

Mother hugging son who's holding a cardboard box labeled "dorm room"

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Sending your kid off to college with a first aid kit is a good idea. This will allow them to take care of minor cuts and sports injuries in the dorm room and have all of their health information on hand in case of an emergency.

Packing a first aid kit is easy and you can include information about how to use the supplies so they're prepared. Also, be sure that your college student knows when they should seek help at the campus health center.

What to Pack in a First Aid Kit for a College Student

First, figure out what it is you need to pack. Start with the basics that your teen can use for a cut, scrape, or minor burn.

First Aid Basics

  • Adhesive bandages (include small, medium and large bandages for all sizes of cuts)
  • Non-stick gauze to cover larger wounds
  • Adhesive tape to help secure the gauze
  • Antibiotic ointment to prevent infections in a wound or minor burn

For Sprains, Strains and Similar Injuries

  • Elastic bandage to wrap and provide compression for sprains and strains.
  • Ice pack for when an injury first occurs.
  • Warm pack or heating pad for bringing warmth and blood flow to an older injury

OTC Medications

When you need medication for a headache or heartburn, it's nice to have some over-the-counter medications on hand and avoid a trip to the store.

  • Acetaminophen: Great for headaches and other aches and pains. Advise your college student not to use acetaminophen if he or she is going to drink alcohol. The combination of the two can cause liver damage. Alcohol and acetaminophen are taken within a few hours of each other is a significant problem, but regular alcohol drinkers should avoid acetaminophen at any time.
  • Ibuprofen: Also great for headaches and particularly for pain from inflammation or swelling. Be aware that ibuprofen can be irritating to the stomach, so it's still important for your college student to avoid alcohol when using this medication.
  • Antacids: With all of the new foods your teen will be experiencing, these are nice to have on hand.
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl): Whether it's an itchy bug bite or a stuffy nose from a friend's dog, diphenhydramine is great for allergies of many kinds.
  • Cough drops or sore throat lozenges: For minor throat pain, these can be great to soothe the irritation and scratchy feeling in the throat. (Honey has also been shown to calm a cough — but that might be messy in a first aid kit!)

First Aid Tools and Extras

  • Tweezers: From removing ticks to removing splinters, tweezers are an essential part of any first aid kit.
  • Thermometer: Your student might feel hot, but is it a fever? He or she won't know without a thermometer. Get a regular oral digital thermometer and make sure your teen knows how to use it.
  • Eyewash: If your teen gets something in his or her eye, like a chemical, dust or even irritating vapors, an eyewash is great to have on hand. Plain water can be used, but an eyewash is a nice extra. If eyewash is needed, though, a 911 call or trip to the emergency room is a good idea. At least, they should do a follow-up visit to campus health services.

Packing the Items

Now it is time to figure out what you will pack the supplies in. Any durable plastic box with a lid will do.

Camping supply stores will often carry waterproof boxes. They are very sturdy and have a rubber gasket that will seal out any moisture. Because many first aid supplies can be ruined by water, these boxes are ideal.

A clear box is also a good idea. In the case of an emergency, it allows anyone to quickly figure out what is inside.

Extras to Include

It is a great idea to include a card in the first aid kit that provides basic health information about your student in the case of an emergency. Also, add the telephone numbers that your child might need.

  • Your personal doctor's phone number: If another provider needs more information on your student, that person can call your teen's personal doctor.
  • Campus health's phone number: When your teen has a fever, most times it isn't practical to run home for care. Campus health has providers that specialize in college health and can manage many common illnesses.
  • Health insurance information and phone number: What doctor or specialist can your teen see when at school? Does your student need preauthorization for a medical procedure that is needed? Call the customer care telephone line and find out what the insurance will or will not cover.

Send Personal Health Information to School

College students should also have a few other things in the first aid kit or with them at school.

  • Copies of their insurance card. If you've been to a new doctor or provider recently, you know you can't get seen without it.
  • Chronic health information. If your student has a chronic medical condition (seizures, diabetes, etc), he or she should have a medical alert bracelet or necklace. (There are even medical alert tattoos and thankfully that can't be misplaced!)

Any personal medical information should be included on a card in your teen's wallet and in the first aid box.

  • Blood type
  • Allergies to medicine, food or anything else that causes a severe reaction
  • Physician's name and office information
  • Any medical conditions
  • Medications they take on a regular basis
  • Emergency contact information (your name and any phone numbers you could be reached at)

Packing up a few first aid essentials is a great gift for your teen. It's also a reminder to always stay safe and a lesson on how to take care of problems while away from home. All that in one kit!

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3 Sources
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  1. MedlinePlus. Acetaminophen. Updated July 21, 2020.

  2. MedlinePlus. Ibuprofen. Updated July 21, 2020.

  3. Oduwole O, Udoh EE, Oyo-Ita A, Meremikwu MM. Honey for acute cough in childrenCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;4(4):CD007094. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007094.pub5