The EMT's Guide to Making a First Aid Kit
It is very simple to put together a First Aid or medical kit. Many people go out and buy a small one to put in their car. When it comes to injuries that might occur in the home however, many people do not have a dedicated kit. They instead rely on whatever is in their medicine cabinet. Medicine cabinets though tend to not have enough space for the necessary items needed to mitigate the typical injuries. Medicine cabinets also tend not to be portable. If someone was to injure themselves in the backyard for example then a portable medical kit would be best. I am a registered EMT and a firefighter and I have put together many medical bags over the years, for Fire Departments, EMS agencies, volunteer organizations, local schools, and large job sites. I also have several medical kits of my own. I always keep one in my car, my wife's car, and a large one in the home.
Starting with the bag itself, dedicated medical bags range in size as well as price. You can get something as small as a fanny type bag if you are on the move a lot at a large location, or something that has twenty different compartments with included multiple color coded bags that fit inside the main bag. sky really is the limit. The price for medical bags typically range from a very reasonable $30 to the professional $400 tactical medic bags. For our purposes though, a home kit can usually be on the smaller end.
Before choosing which bag you would like, try to remember that what goes inside it, really will be the deciding factor for what size bag to get. So lets go over what are some items that every bag should have:
- CPR mask
- Adhesive bandages
- Abdominal pads
- 4"X4" gauze pads
- Gauze rolls 3"
- Elastic bandages 3"
- Triangular bandages
- 1/2-1" medical tape
- Burn gel
- Antibiotic ointment
- Alcohol prep pads
- Iodine wipes
- Small bottle of hand sanitizer
- Cold packs
- Eye wash solution or small container of sterile water
- 10 pairs of medical gloves. Non latex.(Nitrile are best)
- Small flashlight
- Space blanket
- EMT shears
- Bandage scissors
- Splinter foreceps (tweezers)
- Aluminum splint roll (Sam Splint)
Many people understand how to use a CPR mask and even more when it comes to adhesive strips. Abdominal pads on the other hand sound a lot worse than they are. They are typically 5"X9" large absorption pads used for injuries around the stomach area. Also the major difference between the gauze rolls and elastic rolls are that gauze rolls hold gauze pads in place or can be used to cover a would alone. The best types to get are the sterile ones just in case the need arises like covering minor burns. Elastic rolls are the brown stretchy ones that we often see people wrapping around their wrists or ankles for support. Providing support is what they are designed for.
When it comes to choosing what size gauze pads to get, go simple with 4 inch pads. If you need a small one just fold it in half. Another way you can simplify your kit is by going with 3 inch gauze and elastic rolls as opposed to 2 or 4 inch. The middle choice is the most versatile in that respect.
There are many companies out there that can supply you with a pre-stocked bag. Please remember though to shop around because one companies $200 bag may be the $60 bag of the next. There are many other items that can go into your bag if you want. Some examples are pieces of hard candy if a diabetic has a sugar crash or Tylenol or Motrin for aches, pains, and fevers, Benadryl for acute allergies, thermometers, hot packs, and an automatic window punch for a car kit. Every kit will be different but getting a good base and knowing how to use them can really save the day.
If you get the chance, leave me a comment. I'd love to hear what you have to say! Also check out: Five Simple and Cheap Ideas for Emergency Preparedness and What's the best combat boot?