How to Stock a First-Aid Kit

How to Stock a First-Aid Kit

How many times have you had a bump, scrape, or burn only to find that your medicine cabinet lacks basic first-aid supplies? There's no better time than the present to put together complete kits and stash them where they'll be needed most. And if you do it the DIY way, buying in bulk for several kits at a time, you'll save some green, too.

Where Do I Need First-Aid Kits?

• In every bathroom of your home

• In your car

• In the workshop or garage

• In your disaster evacuation backpack

• In the home office

• In your hiking and camping equipment

• In a child's stroller or diaper bag

What Should a First-Aid Kit Contain?

The basics, as recommended by the American Red Cross:

• 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 by 9 inches)

• 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)

• 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards by 1 inch)

• 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)

• 5 antiseptic wipe packets

• 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)

• 1 blanket (thermal space blanket)

• 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)

• 1 instant cold compress

• 2 pairs of nonlatex gloves (size: large)

• 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)

• Scissors

• 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)

• 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)

• 5 sterile gauze pads (3 by 3 inches)

• 5 sterile gauze pads (4 by 4 inches)

• Oral thermometer (nonmercury/nonglass)

• 2 triangular bandages

• Tweezers

• First-aid instruction booklet

Clearly, first-aid kits should be tailored to their specific uses. If you live in an urban area, you probably don't need a snake-bite kit in your bathroom. You might, however, need one if you live in or near the woods or to stock your hiking backpack.


Once a standard in every home first-aid kit, syrup of ipecac does not necessarily help a person who has swallowed poison. Parents are now advised not to use it. Instead, in the case of a suspected poisoning, call Poison Control at 800-222-1222 or call 911.

What Specifics Should I Have for a Children's First-Aid Kit?

• Eyedrops

• Anti-itch lotion

• Baby wipes

• A list of emergency phone numbers (doctor, hospital, Poison Control)

• Rectal thermometer

• Mouthpiece for administering CPR (available from your local Red Cross)

• Children's ibuprofen and acetaminophen (but never aspirin, which can cause fatal Reye's syndrome in young children—check with your doctor, even before giving baby aspirin)

• A tooth preservation kit

• Activated charcoal powder (to use only when advised by poison control)

How Can I Personalize My First-Aid Kit?

• Be sure to include your prescription or over-the-counter medications when you're traveling. Make sure to check expiration dates every so often and replace as needed.

• If you wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, have extra lenses as well as extra cleaning and storage solutions in first-aid kits in your car or camping gear.

• If you are allergic to nuts, bee stings, shellfish, or any other potentially anaphylaxis-inducing substance, have an EpiPen in every kit.

• If you have sensitive skin, consider packing emollients for dry skin or cornstarch-based body powder (avoid talc, as it's harmful when breathed into the lungs).

The concept of the first-aid kit has been around for quite some time—aviator Charles Lindbergh carried one across the Atlantic on his first successful ocean crossing in 1927.


1. Keep car keys and cell phone on your nightstand. If you hear suspicious noises in the night, press the panic button to set off the car alarm. Given the commotion, an intruder is likely to flee the scene. Landlines can be cut; having a cell phone near at night secures the opportunity to call 911 if necessary.

2. Keep shrubbery trimmed. Heavy dark shrubbery growing high close to a house can give someone a place to hide when you're coming home at night.

3. Enlist a neighbor to check for leaflets. When you're away from home for an extended period of time, even if you stop the mail and the newspaper, marketers could still leave fliers, brochures, or pamphlets stuck in the door crack or lying on the porch. Don't broadcast that household members are away.

4. Install smoke detectors. Smoke detectors should be on every floor and carbon monoxide detectors near bedrooms. Test them regularly and replace the batteries every daylight savings time change.

5. Secure tall bookshelves to the wall. This is especially important in households with young children. Climbing on them can cause them to topple over and injure someone.

6. Cover all unused outlets. Plastic outlet covers are cheap and readily available. Even if no kids or pets live in your home, you never know when you might have visitors.

7. Don't pile firewood along the outside of your house. Intruders can climb aboard, gaining access to windows. It can also fuel house fires. Instead, pile it next to a fence or shed, at least 20 feet away from the dwelling.

8. Put up a security-system decal. Even if you don't really have a system in place, this could discourage inexperienced burglars.

9. Take care with extension cords. Never place them under rugs or heavy furniture. Wear and fraying could lead to fires.

10. Create a plan in case of fire. Practice a fire escape plan with your family. Identify two exits for every room and assign jobs for rescuing small children or pets.

11. Avoid burns in the shower and bath. Set your water heater below 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid potential burns (and to save energy).

12. Invest in fire extinguishers. Place all-purpose fire extinguishers in key locations in your home: the kitchen, bedrooms, and the basement. Check expiration dates regularly.

13. Skid-proof your tub or shower. Use rubber mats, adhesive decals, or strips to help prevent falls.

14. Store heavy items properly. They should be organized in cabinets at waist level or below.

15. Don't overload outlets. Be certain that you have no more than one high-wattage appliance plugged in to any given power point.

16. Spring for a chimney sweep. If you burn wood in a fireplace, be sure to have the flues and chimneys professionally cleaned and swept annually.

17. Be strict and unfailing about firearms. If there are guns in the house, make sure they are locked up, unloaded, and stored separately from ammunition.

18. Fence in the pool. All pools by law require a four-sided fence and a child-proof gate. If you have a temporary pool—even a small wading pool—empty it when it's not being supervised.

19. Make sure your house number is visible. Visitors should be able to read the number from the street. This will lead emergency workers directly to your door when needed.

20. Paint the bottom steps of the stairs white. This will help reduce tripping and falls.