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. First-aid kits for cars don't need to be elaborate, but they should contain certain essentials. 

Once you know what should be in a first-aid kit, you can put the essential items together yourself in a waterproof box or buy a pre-assembled kit from a pharmacy. Store your first-aid kit in an area of your car that stays relatively cool since heat and sunlight can degrade certain products, like medicated creams and ointments. It's also a good idea to have copies of important health forms in your car, including:

  • 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
  • Basic medical history forms for each family member
1

Adhesive Bandages

Child getting an adhesive bandage in car

Catherine Falls Commercial / Getty Images

Often referred to as Band-Aids—although there are many other brand names and generic versions—adhesive bandages are essential for dealing with small cuts, scrapes, and blisters. They come in many shapes and sizes to accommodate different injuries, so stock your kit with as much variety as you can.

Be sure to include butterfly-shaped bandages which can be used to hold two sides of a wound together. You might also want bandages that are waterproof or include antibacterial medication. You might also include a type of liquid bandage—a waterproof adhesive that only needs to be applied once and may speed healing.

2

Antibiotic Ointment

Girl putting on first aid ointment

Photoboyko / Getty Images

There are lots of topical antibacterial medications on the market, including bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin. Some brand-name products like Neosporin and Mycitracin combine all three medications into one formula.

You can apply antibiotic ointments directly to a wound or to an adhesive bandage or gauze pad before covering the wound. These formulations can help stop the growth of bacteria that can cause infection and slow healing.

Along with a first-aid kit, keep a waterproof container packed with items that are also useful during a roadside emergency, like a blanket, a flashlight, an extra phone charger, and bottled water.

3

Antiseptic Wash or Wipes

First aid kit
Tetra Images / Getty Images

The ideal way to clean a fresh wound is with soap and clean water. If they aren't on hand, use an antiseptic cleaner. Some come in squeeze bottles that produce a stream forceful enough to flush dirt particles out of a wound. 

Antiseptic wipes are a handy alternative. Recommended by the Red Cross for medical care on the go, these wipes can also be used to disinfect your hands before you administer first aid.

4

Disposable Gloves

Person putting on latex surgical gloves
chee gin tan / Getty Images

Gloves are important for protecting the person administering first aid and keeping a wound free of bacteria and other harmful microbes. They are also useful for cleaning up an area where blood or other bodily fluids might have been spilled.

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

5

Elastic Bandage

Girl with elastic bandage on her ankle

nycshooter / Getty Images

This length of stretchy fabric has a variety of uses in first-aid care. It can tightly wrap an injury to help reduce swelling, serve as a tourniquet, or hold cold packs or gauze in place. Look for elastic bandages that include metal clasps or Velcro for easy closure.

6

Instant Cold Packs

Girl holding first aid ice pack to her knee

Science Photo Library / Getty Images

There are many benefits to icing an injury. The cold can slow the flow of blood to decrease swelling and bruising after a sprain or collision. Cold also can ease itching from stings and bites.

An instant cold pack that turns icy when a substance inside is activated (usually by shaking or bending the ice pack) is an important addition to your first-aid kit. Consider keeping several in your kit, since instant cold packs can be used only once.

7

Scissors

Gauze bandage and medical scissors
Floortje / Getty Images

A good pair of scissors has lots of uses, from cutting gauze pads and medical tape to size to trimming away clothing to quickly access a wound. A pair of small curved medical scissors is worth the investment; their blunt tips make them safer than craft scissors and they're easier to manipulate.

8

Sterile Gauze Pads and Medical Tape

Gauze pads

VacharapongW / Getty Images

Medical gauze, which is sterilized to prevent bacteria from entering an open wound, should always be part of a first-aid arsenal. Use a length of gauze or pre-cut gauze pads to stop bleeding or cover a wound that's too big for an adhesive bandage to cover. Clean the wound before applying gauze, then use the tape to keep the gauze in place.

9

Sting and Bite Treatments

Women putting cream on insect bite

metinkiyak / Getty Images

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 (epinephrine injection) in your kit if someone in your family is allergic to bees or other insects.

10

Thermometer

Woman holding a digital thermometer
Maskot / Getty Images

Useful for checking to see if a child has a fever related to an illness or infection, a simple digital oral thermometer is a space-saving choice for a first-aid kit. Avoid thermometers made of glass, which can shatter.

Regularly check your first-aid kit for expired items, materials you are running low on, and dead digital thermometer batteries.

11

Tooth Preservation Kit

baby tooth

Aitor Diago / Getty Images


A knocked-out permanent tooth needs to be reimplanted by a dentist as soon as possible—15 minutes is ideal—to have the best chance of taking root in a child's mouth. Older kids who can securely hold a dislodged tooth in place with gauze as you seek emergency medical care should do so. But if you have younger children, using a tooth preservation kit may be best.

Recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA), tooth preservation kits contain a saline solution that is ideal for keeping a dislodged tooth in good condition before you get to the dentist. You can buy these kits through your dentist or online.

12

Tweezers

Women removing splinter with tweezers

BSIP/UIG / Getty Images

Tweezers can come in handy for extracting splinters, thorns, insect stingers, and ticks. With their very fine point, needle-nose tweezers made from surgical steel are a good choice for first-aid kits. They're sturdy, easy to handle, and allow for precision.

When to Seek Help

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.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ochsner Health. What Do Rising Temps Do to Medications? Published August 13, 2019.

  2. Seattle Children's Hospital. Skin Injury. Updated April 30, 2021.

  3. American Red Cross. Make a First Aid Kit.

  4. The Nemours Foundation. What Are Tooth Preservation Kits?

Additional Reading