A first aid kit is a collection of supplies and equipment for use in giving first aid. Recommended contents of a first aid kit are dependent upon the activities for which the kit will be used. Common contents include items to help control bleeding, such as bandages, breathing barriers for performing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), and may contain some medicines.


First aid kits can be assembled in almost any type of container, and this will depend on whether they are commercialy produced or assembled by an individual. Standard kits often come in durable plastic boxes, fabric pouches or in wall mounted cabinets. The type of container will vary depending on purpose, and they range in size from wallet sized through to large backpacks.

It is recommended that all kits are in a clean,waterproof container to keep the contents safe and aseptic. Kits should also be checked regularly and restocked if any items are damaged or out of date.

Contents Edit

Commercially available first aid kits available via normal retail routes have traditionally been intended for treatment of minor injuries only. Typical contents include adhesive bandages, regular strength pain medication, gauze and low grade disinfectant.

Specialized first aid kits are available for various regions, vehicles or activities, which may focus on specific risks or concerns related to the activity. For example, first aid kits sold through marine supply stores for use in watercraft may contain seasickness remedies.

Airway, Breathing and CirculationEdit

Most modern commercial first aid kits (although not necessarily those assembled at home) will contain a suitable infection barrier for performing artificial respiration as part of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), examples include:

  • Pocket mask
  • Face shield
  • Bag valve mask

Trauma InjuriesEdit

Trauma injuries, such as bleeding, bone fractures or burns, are usually the main focus of most first aid kits, with items such as bandages and dressings being found in the vast majority of all kits.

  • Adhesive bandages (band-aids) - can include ones shaped for particular body parts, such as knuckles
    • Moleskin - for blister treatment and prevention
  • Medical Dressings - for application directly to wound
    • Sterile eye pads
    • Sterile gauze pads
    • Sterile non-adherent pads - containing a non-stick teflon layer
    • Petrolatum guaze pads - used as an air-tight dressing for sucking chest wounds, as well as a non-stick dressing
  • Bandages - for securing dressings, not necessarily sterile
    • Gauze roller bandages - absorbent, breathable, and often elastic
    • Elastic bandages - used for sprains, and pressure bandages
    • Adhesive, elastic roller bandages('Vet wrap') - very effective pressure bandages or durable, waterproof bandaging
    • Triangular bandages - used as slings, tourniquets, to tie splints, and many other uses
  • Butterfly closure strips - used like stitches to close wounds
  • Saline - for cleaning wounds or washing out foreign bodies from eyes
  • Soap - used with water to clean superficial wounds once bleeding is stopped
  • Antiseptic wipes or sprays - for reducing the risk of infection in abrasions or around wounds.
  • Burn dressing - often a sterile pad soaked in a cooling gel
  • Adhesive tape - preferably hypoallergenic
  • Hemostatic agents (powders for application to wounds) may be included in first aid kits to promote clotting for severe bleeding.

Personal Protective EquipmentEdit

The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) will vary by kit, depending on its use and anticipated risk of infection.

  • Medical gloves - single use and disposable to prevent cross infection
  • Goggles or other eye protection
  • Surgical mask to reduce possibility of airborne infection transmission (sometimes placed on patient instead of caregivers.
  • Apron

Instruments and EquipmentEdit

Equipment needed for proper care of injury and illness.

  • Trauma shears - for cutting clothing and general use
  • Scissors - less useful than sheers but often included instead
  • Tweezers
  • Lighter - for sterilizing tweezers, pliers, etc
  • Alcohol pads for sterilizing equipment, or unbroken skin. (This is sometimes used to debride wounds, however some training authorities advise against this as it may kill cells which bacteria can then feed on.)
  • Irrigation syringe - with catheter tip for cleaning wounds with sterile water, saline solution, or a weak iodine solution. (The stream of liquid flushes out particles of dirt and debris.)
  • Flashlight
  • Instant-acting chemical cold packs
  • Alcohol rub (hand sanitizer) or antiseptic hand wipes
  • Thermometer
  • Space blanket - lightweight plastic foil blanket, also known as "emergency blanket"
  • Penlight


Medication can be a controversial addition to a first aid kit, especially if it is for use on members of the public. It is, however, common for personal or family first aid kits to contain certain medications. Dependent on scope of practice, the main types of medicine are life saving medications, which may be commonly found in first aid kits used by paid or assigned first aiders for members of the public or employees, painkillers, which are often found in personal kits, but may also be found in public provision and lastly symptomatic relief medicines, which are generally only found in personal kits.

Life saving

  • Aspirin primarily used for central medical chest pain as an anti-coagulant
  • Epinephrine auto-injector (brand name Epipen) - often included in kits for wilderness use and in places such as summer camps, to treat anaphylactic shock.

Pain killers

  • Acetaminophen (Paracetamol) - tablet or syrup
  • Ibuprofen, Naproxen or other Anti-inflammatory painkillers can be used as part of treating sprains and strains

Symptomatic relief

  • Anti-diarrhea medication - especially important in remote or third world locations where dehydration caused by diarrhea as a leading killer of children
  • Oral rehydration salts - for re-hydration
  • Antihistamine - for control of minor allergic symtoms
  • Smelling Salts (ammonium carbonate)

Topical Medications

  • Antiseptic ointment, fluid, moist wipe or spray (Neosporin, triple antibiotic, Bactine)
    • Povidone iodine is an antiseptic in the from of liquid, swabstick, or towlette
  • Aloe vera gel - used for a wide variety of skin problems, including burns, sunburns, itching, and dry skin. Can be used as a substitute for triple-antibiotic gel to keep a wound moist and prevent bandages from sticking
  • Burn gel - a water-based gel that acts as a cooling agent. Often includes a mild anesthetic such as lidocaine and, sometimes, an antiseptic such as tea tree oil.
  • Anti-itch ointment
    • Hydrocortisone cream
    • Antihistamine cream
    • Calamine lotion
  • Anti-fungal cream
  • Tincture of benzoin - often in the form of an individually sealed swabstick, protects the the skin and aids the adhesion of butterfly strips or adhesive bandages.

Improvised usesEdit

Besides its regular use in first aid, many first-aid items can also have improvised uses in a survival situation. For example, alcohol pads and petroleum jelly-based ointments can be used as a fire-starting aid in an emergency, and the latter can even be used as an improvised lubricant for certain mechanical devices, and adhesive tapes and bandages can be used for repairs. These alternate uses can be an important consideration when picking items for a kit that may be used in wilderness or survival situations.

External LinksEdit

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