Essential First Aid Kit Items for Your Car

A well-stocked first aid kit is an essential item in every home—and in every car. After all, you're just as likely to get a bump, bruise, bite, or other self-treatable injury while traveling as you are at home. Given the limited space in an automobile, the first aid kit you keep in your car doesn't need to be as elaborate as the one you have at home, but it should contain the essentials below. 

It is also a good idea to keep copies of:

  • Contact information for your family doctor or pediatrician, local emergency services, emergency road service providers, poison helpline (800-222-1222 in the United States), and family or friends
  • Medical consent forms for each family member
  • Medical history forms for each family member

Keep everything together in a water-proof box and store it in an area of your car that stays relatively cool, since heat and sunlight can degrade certain products.

Check your car first-aid kit regularly to replace items that have expired or that you're running low on.


Antiseptic Wash

first aid box sitting on the seat of a car

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The ideal way to clean a fresh wound is with soap and water. But unless you've somehow managed to rig a faucet into your car, this won't be an option in the case of a roadside emergency. The next best thing is an antiseptic wash that comes out in a stream forceful enough to flush dirt particles out of a wound.  Some brands include a mild pain reliever in addition to antimicrobial medicine.

The ​Red Cross also recommends individual packets of antiseptic wipes. You can use these on injuries as well as to wipe your hands before and after administering first aid.


Adhesive Bandages

Often referred to as Band-aids—although there are many other brand name and generic versions of adhesive bandages—these are essential for dealing with small cuts, scrapes, and blisters. They come in many shapes and sizes to accommodate any size or type of injury on any part of the body (for example, some are designed to fit snugly on a finger), so stock your kit with as much variety as you can.

Be sure to include butterfly-shaped ones which can be used to hold two sides of a wound together. You might also want bandages that are waterproof and/or have built-in antibacterial medication. You might alsoneed liquid bandage—a waterproof adhesive you can use to seal a cut closed while it heals.


Antibiotic Ointment

There are lots of these topical antibacterial medications on the market, including bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin. They are sold under these generic names as well as various brand names, such as Neosporin and Mycitracin. So-called "triple" antibiotic ointments contain all three of these medications.

Whether alone or in combination, you can apply antibiotic ointments directly to wounds, or to an adhesive bandage or gauze pad before it's used to cover a wound. These topical medicines (they should never be ingested) help stop the growth of bacteria that could cause a wound to become infected.


Sterile Gauze Pads and Medical Tape

Gauze pads should always be part of a first aid arsenal. Use them to stop bleeding or to cover a wound that an adhesive bandage won't accommodate. First smear the wound with antibacterial ointment, then use the tape to keep the gauze in place.

Stock your kit with five 3-inch by 3-inch gauze pads and five 4-inch by 4-inch pads.



A good pair of scissors has lots of uses, from trimming gauze pads and cutting lengths of medical tape to snipping clothing that needs to be trimmed out of the way. A pair of small curved medical scissors is worth the investment; they're safer than regular sewing or craft scissors and easier to manipulate.


Instant Cold Packs

Many types of injuries benefit from being iced. The cold can slow the flow of blood to decrease swelling and bruising after a sprain or impact. Cold also can ease itching from stings and bites.

Since it's impossible to carry ice around in a first aid kit, the next best thing is an instant cold pack that turns icy when a substance inside is activated (usually by shaking or bending the ice pack). Keep several in your kit, since they can be used only once.


Elastic Bandage

This length of stretchy fabric has a variety of uses in first aid care. It can tightly wrap an injury to help reduce swelling, hold bandages in place, serve as a tourniquet, or hold hot or cold packs in place. Some elastic bandages, like the ACE brand, come with metal clasps to hold them in place, but those that close with Velcro can be more convenient.


Disposable Gloves

Gloves are important for protecting both the person administering first aid and the injured area from bacteria and other harmful microbes. They also come in handy for cleaning up the area where blood or other bodily fluids might have been spilled.

Some people are allergic to latex, a material commonly used to make disposable gloves. To be safe, stock up on non-latex gloves made of nitrile or neoprene.



A good pair of tweezers can come in handy for extracting splinters, thorns, insect stingers, and ticks. There are many varieties of this basic tool; needle-nose tweezers made from surgical steel, with their very fine point, are a good choice for first aid kits. They're sturdy, easy to handle, and allow for precision.


Sting and Bite Treatments

Insects are everywhere, so it's a good idea to have treatments on hand to deal with bites and stings. To ease itching (not only from bug bites but also from poison ivy or poison oak), pack calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream, ointment, or lotion.

It is also a good idea to include an Epi-Pen in your kit if someone in your group is allergic to bees or other insects.

When to Seek Help

First aid kits are intended to help manage a non-emergency injury or other medical issues on the spot. For serious problems, such as a large wound that won't stop bleeding or a blow to the head, call for help or head directly to the nearest emergency room.

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