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Building Your Own First Aid Kit

Small bumps and bruises are bound to happen to everyone. Most of us are well prepared for the small scratches with our SpongeBob Band-Aids or Dora the Explorer ice packs. What else should we have readily available? There are a lot of pre-packaged first aid kits on the market, but they either fall into 2 categories: too light for most serious incidents like life threatening bleeding, or overly stuffed with Tacti-cool gadgets for the sofa-warrior. Let’s break down what most of us need for our everyday kits or car supplies.

First of all, this is not an all-inclusive list that will fit everyone but it is a basic set for most of us. There are plenty of first responders, security, and construction workers who would benefit from a more comprehensive kit, specifically built for their scenarios. But we as lay people should think about our kits in the same way that professionals pick theirs. What are the likely scenarios I will encounter? What do I need to survive that situation long enough to get advanced care? If you are long distant backpacking across the Appalachian Mountains, a splint and satellite phone may make perfect sense. Whatever your scenario, start with a basic kit, such as the one described below then add what else you need.

Basic supplies that should be in almost every first aid kits should include: 

  • Band-Aids of varying size

  • Bottle or packets of baby Aspirin

  • Bottle or packets of Ibuprofen

  • Alcohol wipes

  • Gauze or sponges

  • Quick clot

  • Tourniquet

  • Nitrile gloves.

Undoubtedly there are items not on this that people are incredibly passionate about and believe they should be in every kit, like Israeli dressings or chest seals. That’s where you need to determine what you need for your specific application. Personally, I have several different types of first aid bags depending on the scenario, ranging from a truck bag with everything listed above to my bigger advanced care bag that is specific to critical dynamic incidents. 

Everyone’s bag is going to be different, and everyone’s minimum items will be different. If you have someone with allergy issues, you may put Benadryl in your bag. Whatever you put in your bag, you need to make sure everything in it is organized in a way that you can easily access quickly, one handed, in an emergency and be able to describe its location easily without seeing the bag. Additionally, don’t put anything in your bag that you aren’t specifically trained to use. That is a nightmare liability scenario waiting to happen. Get training for what you think you may encounter every few years so you are prepared. First aid skills can atrophy over time. Take a Stop the Bleed class, Emergency First Aid Fundamentals, or Red Cross CPR and First Aid so you can be confident in your ability to handle any situation that may arise.