Ask the Doctors - What should I put in a first-aid kit?


Dear Doctors: Our young son fell off his skateboard recently, and the items my wife and I needed to tend to his cuts and scrapes were scattered throughout the house. Now we want to assemble a home first-aid kit and wonder – what should it contain?

Great idea! A well-stocked first-aid kit is an important safety feature for every home. And while first-aid kits are available for purchase, you can easily put one together yourself.

Take an afternoon to evaluate your family needs, make a list, then hit your local drug store. With just a little bit of planning you’ll be ready to handle the minor bumps and mishaps of everyday life at a moment’s notice.

With a home first-aid kit, you’re preparing to deal with three basic types of medical issues – injury, infection and allergy.

Everyday injuries include scrapes, cuts, splinters, burns, sprains and stings. Infections may range from an inflamed wound to fever, a sore throat or the flu. You’ll also want to be prepared for common allergic reactions such as the rash from poison oak and poison ivy and itch and swelling from insect stings.

It’s important that if anyone in your family has severe food allergies or a respiratory condition such as asthma, you stock a backup of the appropriate medication. Mark each item with its expiration date and replace as needed. It’s a good idea to keep a separate checklist, which will make it easy to know when it’s time to replace that inhaler or EpiPen.

To build the actual first-aid kit, start with a container such as a plastic storage tub, a tackle box, or a tote bag with separate compartments. It should be easy to open, easy to carry, and have enough room for everything to be organized and recognizable at a glance.

Delegate one compartment for personal items – those allergy medications we talked about, backup doses of any other vital medications your family members may need. You’ll also want to include a list of emergency phone numbers.

For a family of four to deal with everyday emergencies, you should have:

      • 2 absorbent compress dressings
      • 25 adhesive bandages of assorted sizes
      • 1 adhesive cloth tape
      • antibiotic ointment and antiseptic wipes
      • ibuprofen
      • acetaminophen
      • an instant cold compress
      • non-latex gloves to be worn when dealing with blood or bodily fluids
      • hydrocortisone ointment
      • apair of scissors and a set of tweezers
      • athree-inch and a four-inch roller bandage
      • 10 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches and 4x4 inches]
      • an oral thermometer that is not glass and does not contain mercury
      • 2 triangular bandages
      • a good first-aid instruction booklet

Rather than the bathroom, where humidity may affect the contents, keep your first-aid kit in the kitchen. It’s also wise to consider a version of this kit for your car.

Finally, read through the first-aid instruction booklet on a regular basis. You don’t want to be holding a page open while you’re trying to bandage a sprained ankle.

Eve Glazier, MD., MBA, and Elizabeth Ko, MD., are internists and assistant professors of medicine at UCLA Health.

Ask the Doctors is a syndicated column first published by UExpress syndicate.