In order to be prepared when accidents happen, most of us have a first aid kit on hand, or even in the car. Because these kits can tend to be an afterthought, they don’t get updated often. It’s also tough to throw out a half used tube of antibiotic ointment. So how do you know when to toss certain items in your first aid kit and when you can keep others?
What Should Be In A First Aid Kit?
Let’s back up a second and take a look at what items should be included in a home first aid kit in the first place. A standard first aid kit should be kept within easy reach (although out of the reach of children) and include the following items:
- Sterile gauze pads and tape: These will be needed for cuts and scraps. Simply apply pressure to the small wound until the bleeding stops. Tape can be used to cover and protect wounds.
- Antiseptic wipes and antiseptic solution like hydrogen peroxide: Prior to bandaging a scrape or wound, you will want to clean the area with an antiseptic wipe or solution.
- Hydrocortisone cream: This will provide quick relief from itchy bug bites and help to reduce inflammation.
- Antibiotic ointment: This will be come in handy for several reasons. Not only will an antibiotic ointment help protect minor wounds from getting infected, it will also keep the area moist which will promote healing.
- Tweezers, sharp scissors and safety pins: This is a must for any first aid kit. You can use these objects to help remove splinters or even a tick. It’s important that you disinfect these tools before and after each use.
- Hand sanitizer and gloves: This is crucial if you have to help a wounded friend or family member. You do not want to tend to a wound with dirty hands as you risk introducing the wound to infection. You should also wear gloves prior to treating an open wound.
- Allergy medication: An antihistamine can be helpful to counter a mild allergic reaction, while someone with a serious allergy should be treated with an injectable epinephrine. An epinephrine can help save someone’s life in case of anaphylaxis, so be sure this is included in your first aid kit.
- Acetaminophen and ibuprofen: This will come in handy when pain relief is needed. You can also help to bring down a fever with an over-the-counter pain reliever if necessary. (You should not give aspirin to anyone under the age of 18.)
- For additional suggestions for your first aid kit, read here.
What To Do Once You Have Stocked Your First Aid Kit
After you’ve stocked your first aid kit, it’s a good idea to read the labels of each product so you know what everything is for. If your children are old enough to understand, it’s smart to review with them as well.
Be sure to check your kits regularly to ensure there are no missing items or expired medications. If you have a flashlight in your first aid kit, make sure the battery is still working.
What Are First Aid Kits Used For?
Depending what’s in your first aid kit, it may be used to treat burns, cuts, scrapes, insect sings, splinters, sprains or even muscle strains. If your first aid kit contains the proper products, it may also be used to treat fevers, sore throats and congestion. Oftentimes, a first aid kit is used to provide temporary treatment until a medical professional can help.
Do You Need A First Aid Kit?
Generally speaking, everyone can benefit from a first aid kit. It’s actually ideal to have multiple first aid kits so you’re prepared no matter what you are. Many people will have a first aid kit in their car, at home, in their sports duffel bag and even at work. (Many offices will provide a first aid kit, so this may not be necessary.)
When Will My First Aid Kit Products Expire?
It is important to know that many of the items in your first aid kit will expire. In fact, many items have expiration dates from 3-5 years after purchase. However, it’s suggested that you review all of the products in your first aid kit on a yearly basis to avoid items expiring or becoming less effective.
Most medications will be marked with an expiration date on them. Typically these dates can be found on one end of the packet or tube. These dates are usually an indication of how long the manufacturer feels comfortable that the product will be effective or sterile.
Slightly less easy to identify is the expiration of dressing and bandages. There are usually no expiration dates on these items, but you can inspect them by checking non-sterile gauze pads or rolls for the smell of mildew and signs of discoloration. Sterile versions of these items can be more difficult to inspect, so it’s recommended you look at the packaging to search for discoloration and signs of fading.
Where Should You Store Your First Aid Kit?
First and foremost, you should also keep your first aid kit out of the reach of children. A few recommendations in your home include in a cupboard above the counter, under the sink (only if your cabinets are childproof) or in an easily accessible drawer.
If you are planning to have a first aid kit in your car, a glove box is the best place to store it. Under the passenger side front seat is another good option.
It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the contents in your first aid kit so you’re prepared in any medical situation. You can read more about first aid kit expiration here.
When first aid isn’t enough, we’re here for all your family’s minor injuries and illnesses with convenient pediatric urgent care clinics in DFW.