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Ask an Expert - First-Aid Kit

My family is always on the go, and I'm putting together a first-aid kit. What items should be included?
Ask an Expert -  First-Aid Kit

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By Jay M. Albrecht, Ph.D., A.T.C., H.F.S. Assistant Professor,

Department of Health, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences, NDSU

The contents of a first-aid kit can vary greatly depending upon the objective for having one. For example, a first-aid kit can be purchased or constructed to accommodate the family on a weekend wilderness camping trip or a weekend trip to the sports complex involving organized youth sport events (tournament or league play). A first-aid kit also can be organized to provide for special situations, such as one specifically for the family pet or one with an array of their items that collectively might be used in a public disaster situation. However, in the context of this article, the focus will be to answer the question regarding the contents o a basic first-aid kit as it relates to most family households.

Maintenance, Design and Estimated Costs of a First-aid Kit

Some of the suggested items for the first-aid kit are considered expendable items and have expiration dates stamped on their respective packages (for example, antibiotic ointment packets, the commercial eyewash solution or the instant cold compress items. The first aid kits should be checked periodically to replace these items so that everything in the kit is ready to use at all times, especially in an emergency situation.

First-aid kits can be purchased commercially with many of the standard items listed, or they can be constructed to suit the needs of your individual family. In either case, the cost estimate for purchasing the first-aid kit can range anywhere from $15 to $150; it simply depends upon the needs or desires of your family household.

Anatomy of a First-aid Kit

The American Red Cross and the National Safety Council suggest the following in terms of variety and quantity of items:

  • 4 pairs of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
  • 1 breathing barrier (with a one-way valve)
  • 25 adhesive bandages in assorted sizes
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (3 by 3 inches)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 by 4 inches)
  • 2 or 3 absorbent compress dressings (approximately 5 by 9 inches)
  • 1 roll of adhesive cloth tape (10 yards by 1 inch)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packs (approximately 1 gram)
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of aspirin (81 milligrams each) or acetaminophen (325 milligrams each)
  • 1 blanket (emergency/space blanket)
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • 2 instant cold compress packs
  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Oral thermometer (non-mercury)
  • Eye covering patch
  • Eyewash solution (3- to 4-ounce bottle)
  • Waterless hand wash gel (2– to 3-ounce bottle)
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