First Aid Kits

Reviewed on 7/23/2022

What Supplies Do You Need for a First Aid Kit?

Woman holding a first aid kit.
There are a number of ways to fill your first aid kit with the supplies you will need to be prepared for an emergency.
  • Almost everyone will need to use a first aid kit at some time. Take the time to prepare a kit to have available for home and travel.
  • First aid kits may be basic or comprehensive. What you need depends on your medical training and how far you are from professional medical help.
  • Ready-made first aid kits are commercially available from chain stores or outdoor retailers. But you can make a simple and inexpensive first aid kit yourself.
  • Be prepared to take enough medication to last at least as long as you may be traveling (or for a few days more in case of delays).
  • Carry your medical information with you.
  • In case of emergencies when first aid is only the beginning of care, people should be prepared to give emergency personnel all of their current and past medical history (see below for methods).
  • All of the lists of content for first aid kits can be printed.

16 Scenarios to Consider for Packing Your First Aid Kit

Home First Aid Kit

Home first aid kits are usually used for treating these types of minor traumatic injuries.

  1. Burns
  2. Cuts
  3. Abrasions (scrapes)
  4. Stings
  5. Splinters
  6. Sprains
  7. Strains

Travel First Aid Kit

First aid kits for travel need to be more comprehensive because a drug store may or may not be accessible. In addition to personal medical items, the kit should contain items to help alleviate the common symptoms of viral respiratory infections, for example:

  1. Fever
  2. Nasal congestion
  3. Cough
  4. Sore throat
It should also contain items to treat:
  1. Cuts
  2. Mild pain
  3. Gastrointestinal problems
  4. Skin problems
  5. Allergies

16 Essentials for a Household First Aid Kit

You can buy all items for your first aid kits at a well-stocked drug store. Ask the pharmacist for help in selecting items.

At-Home First Aid Kit Contents

A household first aid kit should include these 16 items.

  1. Adhesive tape
  2. Anesthetic spray (Bactine) or lotion (Calamine, Campho-Phenique) — for itching rashes and insect bites
  3. 4" x 4" sterile gauze pads — for covering and cleaning wounds, as a soft eye patch
  4. 2", 3", and 4" Ace bandages — for wrapping sprained or strained joints, for wrapping gauze on to wounds, for wrapping on splints
  5. Adhesive bandages (all sizes)
  6. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) — oral antihistamine for allergic reactions, itching rashes. Avoid topical antihistamine creams because they may worsen the rash in some people.
  7. Exam gloves — for infection protection, and can be made into ice packs if filled with water and frozen
  8. Polysporin antibiotic cream — to apply to simple wounds
  9. Nonadhesive pads (Telfa) — for covering wounds and burns
  10. Pocket mask for CPR
  11. Resealable oven bag — as a container for contaminated articles, can become an ice pack
  12. Safety pins (large and small) — for splinter removal and for securing triangular bandage sling
  13. Scissors
  14. Triangular bandage — as a sling, towel, tourniquet
  15. Tweezers — for splinter or stinger or tick removal
  16. In case of a medical or trauma related emergency, a list of family member's medical history, medications, doctors, insurance company, and contact persons should be readily available.

4 Items for a Small First Aid Kit at Home

Try to keep your first aid kit small and simple. Stock it with multi-use items. Almost anything that provides good visibility of contents can be used for a household first aid kit.

  1. If your kit will be on the move, a water-resistant, drop-proof container is best.
  2. Inexpensive nylon bags, personal kits, fanny packs, or make-up cases serve very well.
  3. You do not need to spend a lot of money on a fancy "medical bag." Use resealable sandwich or oven bags to group and compartmentalize items.
  4. Put wound supplies in one bag and medications in another.

33 First Aid Kit Supplies for Travel

Travel Kit

A travel first aid kit may contain these items:

  1. Adhesive tape
  2. 4" x 4" sterile gauze pads
  3. Antacid — for indigestion
  4. Antidiarrheal (Imodium, Pepto-Bismol, for example)
  5. Antihistamine cream
  6. Antiseptic agent (small bottle of liquid hand soap) for cleaning wounds and hands
  7. Aspirin — for mild pain, heart attack
  8. Adhesive bandages (all sizes)
  9. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) — oral antihistamine
  10. Book on first aid
  11. Cigarette lighter — to sterilize instruments and to be able to start a fire in the wilderness (to keep warm and to make smoke to signal for help, for examples)
  12. Cough medication
  13. Dental kit - for broken teeth, loss of crown or filling
  14. Exam gloves
  15. Small flashlight
  16. Ibuprofen (Advil is one brand name); another good choice is naprosyn (Aleve is a brand name)
  17. Insect repellant
  18. Knife (small Swiss Army-type)
  19. Moleskin — to apply to blisters or hot spots
  20. Nasal spray decongestant — for nasal congestion from colds or allergies
  21. Nonadhesive wound pads (Telfa)
  22. Polysporin antibiotic ointment
  23. Oral decongestant
  24. Personal medications (enough for the trip duration and perhaps a couple of extras in case of delays) and items (for example, a cane or knee braces if needed)
  25. Phone card with at least 60 minutes of time (and not a close expiration date) plus at least 10 quarters for pay phones and a list of important people to reach in an emergency; cell phone with charger (cell service is not available in many areas, especially remote areas)
  26. Plastic resealable bags (oven and sandwich)
  27. Pocket mask for CPR (although now, CPR does not have to be mouth to mouth)
  28. Safety pins (large and small)
  29. Scissors
  30. Sunscreen
  31. Thermometer
  32. Tweezers
  33. A list of your and other family members' medical history, medications, doctors, insurance company, and emergency contact persons (this can be accomplished easily with a flash drive.

Where to Keep First Aid Kits

Make sure you know how to properly use all of the items in your kit, especially the medications. Train others in your family to use the kit. You may be the one who needs first aid! Pack and use barrier items such as latex gloves to protect you from bodily fluids of others. Check the kit twice a year and replace expired medications. The National Poison Control Center phone number in the U.S. is 1-800-222-1222.

Where to keep your first aid kit

  • The best place to keep your first aid kit is in the kitchen. Most family activities take place here. The bathroom has too much humidity, which shortens the shelf life of items.
  • The travel kit is for true trips away from home. Keep it in a suitcase or backpack or drybag (for example, a zip lock plastic bag), depending on the activity.
  • A first aid kit for everyday use in the car should be just like the home first aid kit. For that matter, you could keep similar kits in your boat (inside a waterproof bag), travel trailer, mobile home, camper, cabin, vacation home, and wherever you spend time.

Emergency First Aid

Some people try their best to assist someone in need of first aid, even if they don't have the knowledge. However, often a person fears they will make a mistake if they try to help a victim, thus paralyzing them into inaction. The first step in first aid is wanting to help. Whether it is reading a pamphlet or taking a first aid course offered by the Red Cross, the American Heart Association, YMCA, local school or hospital, there are places that teach first aid basics that will last a lifetime and possibly save a life.

Reviewed on 7/23/2022

1. American Red Cross. Learn About CPR and AEDs. Learn About CPR and AEDs.

2. American Red Cross. Workplace Training: Standard First Aid. Workplace Training: Standard First Aid.

3. Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine: Management of Wilderness & Environmental Emergencies. Mosby-Year Book; 2000.

4. Donner H. Wilderness Medical Society: What's in a good medical kit? 1996. Wilderness Medical Society: What's in a good medical kit? 1996.

5. Forgey WW, ed. Wilderness Medical Society Practice Guidelines for Wilderness Emergency Care. Globe Pequot Press; 1995.

6. International Society of Travel Medicine. The Newsletter of the International Society of Travel Medicine. 2001. The Newsletter of the International Society of Travel Medicine. 2001.

7. Slapper D. Wilderness and Travel Medicine. eMedicine Journal [serial online]. 2001. Wilderness and Travel Medicine. eMedicine Journal [serial online]. 2001.

8. Weiss EA, ed. A Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness and Travel Medicine. 2nd ed. Adventure Medical Kits; 1998.

9. Wilderness Medicine Institute. Buck's Article Archive. Buck's Article Archive.