Emergencies 101: Building the Perfect First Aid Kit

Written by Carewell Staff on Tue Sep 22 2020.

Emergencies 101: Building the Perfect First Aid Kit

Accidents happen, but most minor injuries are so simple to treat that you can fit all the materials you need in a small, well-stocked first aid kit. As a caregiver, keeping one first aid kit in your car and one at home can save valuable time and prevent mishaps from escalating into emergencies. The faster you can get to your supplies, the faster you and your family members can start to heal!

There are essential supplies that should be in every single first aid kit, and there are extra supplies that are not as critical, but great to have on hand if space and budget permit. We’ll give you both lists so you can create a kit that works best for you and your family.

Once you’re done assembling your kit, don’t forget to add a notecard with emergency contact info and notes on any specific conditions you’d like those administering first aid to be aware of. It’s also wise to include emergency consent forms for each member of your family if they’re unable to give your consent for treatment.

The must-haves

1. Adhesive bandages

Adhesive bandages gently fasten to the skin and help protect cuts and scrapes from coming into contact with dirt or open-air. We recommend keeping a few different sizes in your first aid kit, because you never know what kind of wound you’ll need to treat. Carewell’s pick: Curity Adhesive Strips

2. Compress dressing 

Compress dressings provide light compression and can be used to support minor strains and sprains. Carewell’s pick: McKesson Cohesive Bandage

3. Cloth or medical tape 

Medical tape is used to fasten gauze, bandages, or sponges to the skin, and is particularly handy when you have a wound that’s larger or more serious than an adhesive bandage can cover. Carewell’s pick: 3M Micropore Skin Friendly Paper Medical Tape

4. Antibiotic ointment 

Applying antibiotic ointment helps prevent infections and assists with faster healing. When dealing with fresh cuts and scrapes, wash first with cool water if possible. Once the wound is clean, dab on a little ointment and cover with a sterile bandage. Carewell’s pick: Neosporin First Aid Antibiotic Ointment

5. A cold compress 

A cold compress can help reduce pain and swelling. The newer ones developed for emergency kits don’t even need to be frozen ahead of time; simply squeeze them to start the cooling reaction. Carewell’s pick: McKesson Instant Cold Pack

6. A gauze roll and sterile pads/sponges 

Bandage rolls are great for packing open wounds and wicking away moisture. Purchase an assortment of rolls, two-inch pads, and four-inch pads to clean up scrapes and stop bleeding. Carewell’s picks: Kerflix Fluff Bandage Roll and McKesson 4-Ply NonWoven Sponge

7. Tweezers

Tweezers can help remove ticks, shards of glass, splinters, or insect stingers. Invest in a pair with a narrow point and a solid grip. Carewell’s pick: Grafco Stainless Steel Tweezers

8. A thermometer 

To be safe, choose a model that’s digital rather than mercury-filled glass. Carewell’s pick: Adtemp Digital Temporal Thermometer

The nice-to-haves

If you’re looking for some extra bells and whistles to add to your kit in order to cover all the emergency bases, here are a few suggestions. 

1. A stethoscope

Having a stethoscope on hand can help you measure heart rate and blood pressure. Carewell’s pick: McKesson Classic Stethoscope

2. Hot packs

Extra warmth can help with joint stiffness, pain, or muscle spasms. Carewell’s pick: McKesson Instant Hot Pack

3. Bandage scissors

The safest (and easiest) way to cut bandages is with true bandage scissors. Carewell’s pick: McKesson Stainless Steel Bandage Scissors

4. Skin closure strips

Skin closure strips can help hold skin together for those who have open wounds and may need stitches. Carewell’s pick: McKesson Reinforced Skin Closure Strip

5. Cortisone cream 

Cortisones are anti-inflammatory drugs that are useful for soothing rashes and relieve itching and redness. They are generally safe for infants and children when used in moderation. Carewell’s pick: Sunmark Itch Relief Cream

Also, see Calmoseptine Ointment Multipurpose Skin Protectant

6. Pain relievers

Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are good choices for relieving fever, pain, or both. And always keep aspirin on hand in case of a heart attack. Important note: Never give aspirin to a child or teenager who has a cold or fever, as it can trigger a rare but life-threatening condition known as Reye’s syndrome.

Annual check-ups

At least twice a year, check your supply levels to be sure your kit is up-to-date and complete. If you live in an area where earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, or other natural disasters occur, make sure you also have three days’ worth of water (approximately half gallon per person per day), nonperishable food (e.g. canned or dried products that don’t need to be cooked), a manual can opener, water purification tablets, flashlights, and other essentials in a watertight container.

Keep calm

Knowing what to do and having all of the necessary supplies on hand should give you the confidence to act quickly during an emergency.

If you feel yourself begin to panic, stop and take a few deep breaths while counting slowly from one to 10. Reassure yourself that you can handle the situation, then calmly review what you need to do first. You’ve got this!

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