Essential First Aid Kit Items

All the Basics You Need for Safe Travels

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 that follow. 

In addition, the Mayo Clinic advises having copies of the following as well:

  • Contact information for your family doctor, pediatrician (if you have kids), local emergency services, emergency road service providers, poison helpline (800-222-1222 in the United States), and family or friends who should be reached if necessary..
  • 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 high and sunlight can degrade certain products. And be sure to check the kit regularly to replace items that have expired or that you're running low on. 

1

Antiseptic Wash

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, say, 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 the antimicrobial medicine. The ​Red Cross advises also having individual packets of antiseptic wipes. You can use these on injuries as well as to wipe your hands before or after before and after administering first aid is with plain

2

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, smearing it first with antibacterial ointment and using the tape to keep the gauze in place. A good rule of thumb is to have five each in sizes 3 inches by 3 inches and 4 inches by 4 inches. You also can use scissors to cut larger gauze pads down to size when necessary. 

3

Scissors

A good pair of scissors has lots of uses, from trimming gauze pads and cutting lengths of medical tape, as noted above, 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.

4

Elastic Bandage

Commonly referred to by the brand name ACE bandage, this length of stretchy fabric has a variety of uses when it comes to first aid care. It can be used to 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 come with metal clasps to hold them in place, but those that close with Velcro are more convenient. 

5

Instant Cold Packs

Many types of injuries benefit from being iced: The cold can slow the flow of blood to decrease swelling and bruising of a twisted ankle or battered shoulder. Cold also can ease itching from stings and bites. But 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: They can be used only once. 

6

Disposable Gloves

Gloves are important for protecting both the person administering first aid and the injured part 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 left behind. Some people are highly allergic to latex, a material commonly used to make disposable gloves, so to be safe, stock up on nonlatex gloves made of nitrile or neoprene. 

7

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 injuries such as 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 snuggly 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. Other features to consider: bandages that are waterproof, have built-in antibacterial medication, and more. You might also liquid bandage—a waterproof adhesive you can use to seal a cut closed while it heals. 

8

Tweezers

A good pair of tweezers can come in handy for a plethora of purposes, including 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 as they're sturdy, easy to handle, and allow for precision. 

9

Sting and Bite Treatment

Insects and other creepy-crawlers are everywhere, particularly in warm climates, so it's a good idea to have several items on hand to deal with bites and stings. To ease itching (not only from bug bites but also from poison ivy or poison oak), have on hand calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream, ointment, or lotion. It wouldn't hurt to have an Epi-Pen either if you know that someone in your group is allergic to bees or other insects.  

10

Antibiotic Ointment

There are lots of these topical antibacterial medications on the market, including bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin, 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, antibiotic ointments are applied directly to wounds or to an adhesive bandage or gauze pad before it's used to cover a wound (never ingested) to stop the growth of bacteria that could cause a wound to become infected.

In Case of Emergency

First aid kits are intended to help manage a non-emergency injury or other medical issue 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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