10 Easy Steps to Building your Ideal First Aid Kits

There is no perfect First Aid kit.  Let’s talk about ideal first aid kits.  The ideal first aid kit is one that you had with you at the time of a medical incident and that was able to be used by someone to resolve the medical incident or at least stabilise the person until more comprehensive care was obtained.

How do we build ideal fist aid kits?  Let’s do this.

1.   Store Bought First Aid Kits

Commercially available first aid kits are good starting points for your various kits.  I say kits because I want you to maintain a number of first aid kits, so you have what you need when and where you need it.

Story: Let me tell you about a recent long weekend trip we did.  I’d made myself a note to pack our trusted travel first aid kit, but I got distracted and stupidly forgot it.  Guess what, in two separate slip-ups that trip, both children ended up really cutting up their lower legs.  Could our trusted travel first aid kit have handled those two incidents?  Yes.  But it was at home, so it was of no use.  We struggled to contain one of those wounds and since the lone pharmacy was already closed, we had to use the limited first aid items I could find at a grocery store.

I say that commercially available first aid kits are starting points because you will need to upgrade some of the items, add items specific to your types of anticipated injuries, and you need to replace what you use and what expires.  Hey, you also get a handy container that is clearly marked First Aid!

2.   Equip each First Aid kits to its setting

A first aid kit is an insurance policy.  Just like health, home, vehicle or travel insurance policies, your first aid kits are there for when you need them.

If you only have one first aid kit and it is always at home, how are you going to deal with all of life’s surprises away from the home?

Plan the following first aid kits and tailor them to the needs of that setting:

  1. Home
  2. Car: one in each vehicle and this is legally required in many countries
  3. Sporting or outdoors outing: yes, compact and light is nice but be equipped
  4. Travel: be mindful of certain medications crossing borders and flying regulations
  5. Workplace: Do your research. This may be legally required to be of a certain certification and have certain contents.
  6. Pets: Yes, you can have one geared to your pet!

3.   How many people should that first aid kit treat?

If you tend to hike on your own, you might need fewer supplies than for a family of four.  I have a super compact one for my solo outings and a larger one for when it’s our family of four.

A vehicle kit is what you have should you have an accident or tend to various injuries during an outing.  In a major accident, that first aid kit might be all you have and all that bystanders might have to tend to all the persons in your vehicle.

4.   A first aid kit is always a gamble, so make it an informed gamble

You can’t have a kit for everything or it will be so big, heavy and expensive that you’ll never have it with you.  Instead, for each kit, plan for what you expect the kit to handle.  A home, vehicle and workplace first aid kit can be larger and better stocked than a more compact and light weight cycling, hiking, travel or motorcycle first aid kit.

In emergency management, we talk of doing a risk assessment.  Essentially, look at your likely and possible injury types and plan for them.  If there is a serious type of injury that could occur, you’ll need to decide if you are willing to be without the means to handle that type of injury.  If so, think how you will want to handle that injury should it in fact occur.

5.   Take Training Courses, Ask Questions and Improve Your First Aid Kits

Relevant courses are First Aid, CPR, Wilderness First Aid, and Advanced First Aid.

Taking a course is an opportunity for you!  Maximize your opportunity.  Get there early, discuss during the breaks, and leave late.  You are there to learn, so ask questions.

Bring your kits with you and get their advice for each of your kits.  Are there items they can show you how to use?  Are there important items missing?  Are there specific types of infant, toddler or child injuries you want to ask about?  Is there a special needs scenario in your family you’d like advice about for your first aid kits?

6.   Upgrade or add items

I said that commercially available first aid kits are a good starting point.  A starting point!

Look through your first aid kits and ensure that all the items are of good quality (ex: replace plastic tweezers with metal ones), and the correct quantity, types and sizes (gauze pads and bandages).

Wound closing strips are rarely included so add them to all your kits.  Story: A few years ago, I was on my own an hour from the city and using an axe to cut down a tree.  Yes, it happened.  In a freak incident, the axe head bounced and went into my shin.  I painfully hopped to my car.  My vehicle first aid kit didn’t have wound closing strips!  I did what I could with my vehicle first aid kit, but I lost a lot blood driving an hour to the nearest hospital as a result of not having wound closing strips.  Now I have them in all my kits!

Think about a mylar foil blanket and a triangle bandage to stabilize a victim.

Should you pack gear for dealing with blisters or bug stings?

Consider what specialised medication(s) you need for your kits such as EpiPens or …

Purchase supplies in bulk quantities such as those mylar foil blankets and bandages, and store the excess together in a bin of first aid supplies.  The BetterPreparedness.com first aid supplies page can help you with some of these products.

7.   Replace what you use and what expires

If you or some one you know plays golf, have them give you tiny golf course pencil.  Put that pencil and some sticky-note papers in a little Ziplock baggie and put it in each first aid.  Use the paper to note items you have used or items that have expired.  Learn from mistakes and make notes based on your experiences of things to buy.  Bring the paper to the store or order online and purchase those items in bulk so you have extras.

With the paper, you can also record critical information relating to an incident or the victim.

8.   If a kit has a little first aid sheet, keep it

When faced with a medical crisis and emotions running high, we can feel overwhelmed.  Many kits come with a little cheat sheet for handling various scenarios.  Keep it in the kit so you or someone else can refer to it.

9.   Little extras that pay off when you need them

Consider adding a list of emergency phone numbers, some bit of money, and perhaps a photocopy of your IDs to your first aid kits.  What would you like to have?

10. Plan for your other emergency items

Unless you combine them into one kit, distinguish between your first aid items and your emergency items.  I’ll have a separate video on thinking through your other emergency items, but examples are the following:

  1. More mylar foil blankets
  2. Headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries
  3. Multiple whistles and other signalling devices
  4. Lighter or fire starter
  5. Compass
  6. Small knife
  7. Sun cream

Conclusion: Get to it today

Your first aid kits are about you!  Buy and improve store kits or build kits from scratch.  Your kits should be where and when you need them.  Take courses and build the following first aid kits based on the intended injuries.  Here are some good kits to start with:

  1. Home
  2. Car
  3. Sporting or outdoors outing
  4. Travel
  5. Workplace

Take the first step.  Grab a pen and paper.  Assemble all your first aid kits and make notes about what’s missing, what needs replacing, and what training you need.  Purchase missing items or extra kits, and put those first aid kits where they need to be.  You can do this!

Refer back this BetterPreparedness.com blog entry as a good reminder.

Please share your experiences and comments below.  What’s worked for you?  What could you recommend to others?

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