By: Jim Reilly
Not scientifically reviewed by Dr. Eeks
While many think home first-aid kits are just for in-house accidents like cuts and scrapes, they can also be lifesavers in the case of emergencies.
A comprehensive first-aid kit can make all the difference in the event of a disaster – like a blizzard, flood, hurricane, or blackout.
Whether you decide to buy a ready-made commercial first-aid or put one together yourself, here are nine items that you shouldn’t go without.
1. Dressings, Cleaning Supplies, and Ointments for Wounds
Home first-aid kits are typically used to treat minor traumatic injuries, including cuts, abrasions, stings, burns, splinters, strains, and sprains. These minor traumatic injuries are also the most common injuries sustained in the home.
Ensuring that your first-aid kit is stocked with a variety of dressings and adhesives will enable you to address each size and type of wound.
You should keep adhesive and non-adhesive bandages, gauze pads, bandage tape, roller bandages, and liquid adhesives like mastisol in your first-aid kit at all times.
You’ll also need wound cleaning supplies – such as antiseptic wipes, antiseptic solutions, and hydrogen peroxide – as well as a few pairs of latex gloves, hand sanitizer, and a pair of sterile tweezers.
Over-the-counter antibiotic ointment is also essential for the wound-care section of your first-aid kit because it kills pathogens and prevents infection.
2. Basic Diagnostic Equipment
The two essential diagnostic devices that no home first-aid kit should be without are a thermometer and a pulse oximeter – especially in the time of Covid-19.
A basic pulse oximeter became a must-have in every home during the pandemic. A pulse oximeter’s purpose is to measure and monitor a person’s blood oxygen levels, and they are relatively inexpensive, non-invasive, and easy to operate.
Having a pulse oximeter is a way to monitor your blood oxygen saturation level and determine whether you need to be hospitalized for Covid-19.
Although a person’s ‘base’ body temperature fluctuates throughout the day (around 98.6F), a sudden high temperature (over 99 F) can point to an infection or illness.
Ensuring that your first-aid kit is equipped with a thermometer will allow you to determine whether you or another family member has a fever.
3. Over-the-Counter Medications
Over-the-counter medications are an effective way to manage pain, inflammation, and itching.
For pain and inflammation like headaches, body aches, or fever, you should keep your first-aid kit stocked with ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen. However, it’s important to avoid NSAIDs if you have diabetes, renal disease, or hypotension. Always consult the medication leaflet for contraindications and dosage.
For itching, allergic reactions, or insect stings, you should stock up on antihistamines. Antihistamines come in the form of tablets or cream.
4. Prescription Medications
Suppose you or another family member is on chronic prescription medication. In that case, you should keep at least a week’s worth of it in your first-aid kit in case of an emergency situation – like a hurricane, blizzard, or other natural disaster.
You should also keep a list of your and your family members’ medications and dosing regime inside the first-aid kit.
5. Instant Heat and Cold Packs
If you slip or fall and suffer a traumatic injury at home, keeping instant heat and cold packs in your first-aid kit can help with the pain.
Instant heat and cold packs can be stored at room temperature and don’t rely on electricity (like a fridge or microwave) to work, so you can count on them during a blackout. Instant heat and cold packs are activated by squeezing them.
6. Emergency Blankets
If you experience a blackout during the cold months of winter, storing emergency blankets in your first-aid kit is the best way to ensure that you and your family can stay warm in an emergency.
You can also store specialized emergency blankets like space blankets in your first-aid kit. Space blankets are designed to trap body heat and keep it close to your body.
7. A Portable Cellphone Charger and a Flashlight
If you face an emergency situation, your phone can be a lifesaver. You can use it to monitor the weather, connect to the outside world, and contact emergency services. However, your phone is useless if you can’t keep it charged.
A fully-charged portable phone charger or power bank will keep your phone charged – even if the electricity goes out.
If you experience a blackout at night, an LED flashlight with spare batteries is indispensable. You can also add a few battery-powered or solar-powered lanterns in case you need them during an emergency.
8. A List of Emergency Contacts
Finally, you should add a list of emergency contacts to your first-aid kit. While emergency numbers can be stored on your phone, it’s helpful to have them on paper and in a place where you can get to them quickly.
Don’t forget to include the numbers of your local fire and police department, your physician, your child’s pediatrician, and poison control.