The following list is based on the current recommendations of the American College of Emergency Physicians. It has been annotated for clarity and to provide specific recommendations for items covered only generically in their original list (PDF format). A few additional useful items have also been added. This list will provide you with the necessary "tools" to handle many medical emergencies at home. All items are readily available from your local pharmacy. The Medical Group section includes additonal recommendations.
This kit should be kept together in one place, and every member of the household should know where it is, as well as how to use each item in the kit. For the kit itself, a small tote box is recommended, large enough to hold all items listed with adequate room to find what's needed in a hurry, easily transported (even on vacation), and big enough to be visible wherever it is kept. For those families with children (or grandchildren, etc.), it should be able to be locked with a child safety lock (never with a key that could be unavailable when an emergency arises).
Remember to follow the same precautions with your first aid kit as you would with any medicine. Store out of the reach of children or lock up (as noted above). Remember also to note and keep track of the expiration dates of medicines in the kit and replace them as necessary.
Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and aspirin tablets: For headaches, pain, fever, and simple sprains or strains of the body. (Aspirin should not be used for relief of flu symptoms or given to children)
Ipecac syrup and activated charcoal: For treatment after ingestion of certain poisons. (Use only on the advice of a poison control center or a hospital emergency department.)
These items are primarily oriented towards households with children.
Elastic Bandages: For wrapping wrist, ankle, knee, and elbow injuries and holding larger gauze or trauma pads in place.
Self-adhering or Velcro tab are preferred and easiest to use. 2 inch wide (minimum), 3 inch wide optional
Triangular Bandage: For wrapping injuries and making an arm sling.
Scissors with rounded tips.
Adhesive tape and 2 inch gauze: For dressing wounds.
Paper tape should generally be avoided for immediate first aid use, unless you have special health requirements that dictate otherwise, because it doesn't stick as well. Elastic tape has advantages since it better conforms to the body. Self adhering, conforming "Kling" or similar gauze is easier to use to secure pads then plain gauze. Self-adhering "Coban" or similar elastic wrap is also very useful.
Instant Activating Cold Compresses: For icing down injuries.
A traditional ice bag is effective over the long term, but for immediate use to combat swelling where every second makes a difference, nothing beats these instant cold bags.
Bandages of assorted sizes: For covering minor cuts and scrapes.
Elastic knit cloth type bandages stick better, stay on longer, and are easier to live with, conforming to the body much better. "Coverlet" brand by Beiersdorf are the best, closely followed by Curad "Flexible Fabric." Johnson & Johnson "Band-Aid" brand "Flexible Fabric" bandages have pads which extend all the way to the edges of the bandage so that it cannot be sealed completely.
Don't forget to include specialty bandages for knuckles and fingertips.
Waterproof, but breathable, adhesive bandages (3M "Clean Seals" and Curad "Aqua-Protect") are excellent where it is necessary to keep the wound dry and fully protected. Available in a variety of sizes and the thin flexible material adheres well (follow directions exactly), even in areas subject to movement.
Antibiotic Ointment: For cuts and scrapes.
Single use packages may be a good alternative for infrequent use.
Disinfectant and Cleansing Solution: For cleaning and disinfecting cuts and scrapes.
Povidone Iodine 10% solution (Betadine is the most widely known brand name) is excellent, also available as a soap which works better for cleaning scrapes with lots of debris.
For those who are allergic to iodine, an anibacterial soap (Dial or Safegruard) and lots of running water are an acceptable solution.
Burn Treatment (optional): For minor burns only.
Tea Tree Oil or Aloe
Burn Dressings: To keep burns moist, also useful for blisters.
Spenco "2nd-Skin," "Aquaphor," etc.
Gauze in rolls and in 2- and 4inch pads: For dressing wounds.
A roll each of 2- and 3-inch gauze would be a good choice. Self adhering, confroming "Kling" or similar gauze is easier to use and generally more absorbent. Non-adherant style pads are best for next to the wound, cotton gauze, J&J "NU-GAUZE" is best, for absorbent material when necessary. A selection of both is a good idea. Lots of 2-inch gauze pads/gauze sponges are sueful for cleaning up the wound and surrounding area.
Wound closure or suture strips: For taping cut edges of skin together.
"Cover-Strip II" by Beiersdorf seem to perform best and may be repositioned, making it easier to get a good seam. (modern replacement for butterfly bandages)
Tweezers: To remove small splinters and ticks.
Safety pins: To fasten splints and bandages.
Rubber gloves: To protect your hands and reduce the risk of infection when treating open wounds.
Nitrile gloves (available from medical supply houses) are better than latex and the only good choice for those with a latex allergy.
CPR Mask: To protect against the transfer of bodily fluids in case CPR is required.
While you may be reasonably confident of the health status of your close family, friends and others who may visit present a less certain health situation.
First Aid Manual.
First Aid and CPR training are a big advantage.
List of emergency phone numbers.
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