Your essential first aid kit checklist
Accidents happen often when you least expect them. That’s why it’s really important to keep your first aid kit stocked up with essential dressings, medicines and tools to make sure you’re always prepared.
It’s also vital that you know how to use them when the time comes. Fortunately, we’ve created this handy guide to help make sure you and your first aid kit are ready to go!
Start by making sure your first aid kit is locked and kept in a cool, dry place out of the reach of children. If you're using a plain box or bag as your first aid kit, you should label it clearly so other people can easily identify it in an emergency.
It's a good idea to keep a first aid kit in your house, of course, but you should also consider keeping one in your car or van for emergencies whilst travelling. Keep a manual in there so you and your loved ones know how to use all of the items and remember to regularly check the products to see if they are within their expiry date.
Now, let's start packing our first aid kit!
Bandages and dressings
That random box of plasters you’ve got hiding in your cupboard somewhere probably isn’t going to cut it when you’ve got a nasty wound to deal with! Check below to see whether you’ve got all the dressings you need and be sure to stock up if you’re short of anything.
Plasters are, of course, a vital part of the basic first aid kit. They’re ideal for small cuts and grazes, coming in a variety of different shapes, sizes and materials.
Waterproof plasters are ideal for keeping your wound dry and they’re particularly beneficial for your hands as they won’t come off when you’re washing.
Fabric plasters are strong and durable, meaning they’re great for use over long periods of time.
Blue plasters are essential if you’re working in food service - these are designed especially to prevent cross-contamination and their bright colour means you’ll certainly notice if your plaster slips off into food handling or preparation areas.
If you’ve got young children, keeping a pack of fun plasters with their favourite characters on can help to calm them down and cheer them up when they suffer a cut or graze.
Small, medium and large sterile gauze dressings
When a plaster won’t do the job, sterile gauze might be your next best bet. Sterile gauze dressings are individually packaged to make sure they’re free from any dirt or bacteria, making them the ideal choice for preventing infection in open wounds.
Wash your hands and put on a pair of disposable non-latex gloves before touching the dressing or the wound itself. Hold the pad by the edges and lay it directly on top of the wound, making sure the pad covers beyond the edge of the wound.
Secure the pad with adhesive tape, but never wrap the tape all the way around the injured body part as this could reduce blood flow.
Triangular bandages are used to create a sling, helping to keep the arm in a raised position. Slings are important because they stop the injured person from moving their arm and the elevated position will help to minimize swelling.
Creating a sling for an injured person can be tricky if you don’t know what to do - this video from St John’s Ambulance talks you through how to use the triangular bandage correctly.
Crêpe rolled bandages
Crêpe rolled bandages are designed to provide support for sprains and strains.They’re an essential part of the PRICE method for sports injuries - this stands for Protect, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
Using a crêpe bandage will provide compression while allowing the skin to breathe, and they’re washable and reusable. Do not use a crêpe bandage on an open, bleeding wound - they are not sterile and could lead to infection of the wound.
Sterile eye dressings
Sterile eye dressings are used to prevent infection while the eye is healing following a mild trauma. Similarly to sterile gauze, you should always wash your hands and wear a pair of disposable non-latex gloves before touching a sterile eye dressing or the wound.
Ask the injured person to close their eyes and place the eye pad diagonally over the affected eye. Secure the pad with strips of tape running diagonally from the forehead to the jaw.
Then wrap rolled bandage around the forehead, over the eye and under the ear, securing it in place with adhesive tape.
As well as sterile eye dressings, there are a couple more eye-related essentials that you’ll need to add to your first aid kit. These items are to make sure you’re prepared in the event of any irritation or contamination to the eyes.
If your eyes have been contaminated with particles, smoke, dust or liquid, a sterile eye wash will be needed to rinse the eyes. An eye wash will provide moisture replenishment to soothe any irritation caused by minor contamination.
You should, however, seek emergency medical attention in the event of the following scenarios:
- a strong chemical, such as oven cleaner or bleach, is in your eye – keep rinsing your eye with water while waiting for medical help
- a sharp object has pierced your eye
- something has hit your eye at high speed
- there are any changes to your sight after an eye injury
- you have a headache, high temperature or sensitivity to light
- you're feeling sick or being sick after an eye injury
- you cannot move your eye or keep it open
- blood or pus is coming from your eye
An eye bath is a small plastic tub to help you irrigate your eye with water or eye wash solution.
To use an eye bath, fill with the water or eye wash until it’s about a third full. Bend your head forward, hold the eye bath by its base and place your eye over the eye bath.
Keeping hold of the eye bath, tip your head back with your eyes open so the solution can flow into the eye and gently rock your head from side to side for about 30 seconds. Make sure to sterilize your eye bath in boiling water before packing it away in your first aid kit for future use.
Don’t underestimate the importance of certain creams and ointments when it comes to basic first aid.
Be sure to stock up on these creams for your first aid kit at home, but do bear in mind that they sometimes need to be disposed of around a month after opening. If you’ve got some old creams that you haven’t used for a while, it’s likely that they’ve expired and you’ll need to replace them.
Antiseptic cream is designed to soothe and heal wounds whilst protecting against infection. They can be used on cuts and grazes, minor burns and scalds, small areas of sunburn, dry or chapped skin, nappy rash, insect bites, spots and pimples.
Start by washing your hands with soap and water, then apply gentle pressure to the wound with sterile gauze if it’s still bleeding. Clean the wound with fresh running water or an antiseptic wipe, then apply the antiseptic cream.
In some cases, you may wish to cover the wound with sterile gauze after you’ve applied the cream.
Hydrocortisone or calendula cream
Hydrocortisone cream is a topical corticosteroid used to relieve inflammation and itching caused by eczema, dermatitis or insect bites and stings.
Calendula cream, with its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, can also be used to treat similar skin concerns. Always read the patient information leaflet before applying any of these creams to make sure you use them correctly.
Insect bite cream
Insect bite cream is exactly what it says on the tin (or tube, in this case!) - it’s a cream to treat insect bites and stings. These creams can also be used to treat nettle rash.
Insect bite creams typically contain a type of medicine called an antihistamine, which works by blocking a substance called histamine that is produced during an allergic reaction. Again, always read the patient information leaflet before using insect bite cream to make sure it’s safe for you.
Below are a couple of medicines that are always handy to have readily available in your first aid kit. Do be sure to keep track of the expiry dates and read the storage information for liquid medicines to see how long after opening you must dispose of the medicine.
Make sure these medicines are right for you and your family by reading the patient information leaflet or asking your pharmacist for advice.
Keeping a box of antihistamine tablets in your first aid kit is essential for tackling any minor allergic reactions.
As well as tablets, antihistamines also come in liquid formulas that may be more suitable for your children.
Antihistamines can be used for hay fever, hives, conjunctivitis and insect bites or stings. Make sure to read the box or leaflet to check whether the antihistamine is drowsy or non-drowsy - you don’t want to choose a drowsy medicine by accident, especially if you need to work or drive.
We all experience mild to moderate pain now and again, so it’s best to keep a pack of painkillers on hand for when you need them.
We recommend paracetamol or ibuprofen as these are generally suitable for most adults.
If you have any medical conditions or take any other medicines, make sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist to see which painkiller is suitable for you.
Having the right dressings in your first aid kit is all well and good, but they’re useless if you haven’t got the right tools to use them.
Below are some essential items that you’ll need to keep in your first aid kit to help you treat and dress minor injuries:
Hygiene is key when it comes to preventing infection in basic first aid. Whilst you may feel panicked and wish to address the problem immediately, always stop to wash your hands thoroughly before touching a wound or applying a dressing or cream.
Ideally use soap and water to wash your hands, but an alcohol-based hand sanitiser will suffice if you don’t have access to soap and water. It would be a good idea to keep a hand sanitiser in your first aid kit for these situations, especially if it’s a kit that you keep out of your home (in your car, for example).
Make sure to keep the three following important hygiene products in your first aid kit:
- Distilled water for cleaning wounds
- Alcohol-free cleansing wipes
- Non-latex disposable sterile gloves
As well as the basics, there are a few extra items that you might wish to pack into your first aid kit depending on your situation. We’ve included some handy suggestions for parents with a new baby or those jetting off on holiday.
Looking after a new baby can bring a whole heap of new worries, especially when it comes to first aid for little ones. Ensuring your first aid kit is stocked up with the following essentials for your infant will help you feel prepared, keeping you and your baby as calm as possible in the event of a minor injury or illness.
- Infant paracetamol: This can usually be given to infants aged 2 months or over for pain and fever, but make sure to check the leaflet to see if it’s right for your baby.
- Colic drops: If your baby is suffering from colic, these drops may help to relieve their discomfort and calm them down.
- Teething gel: When your baby’s first teeth start to come through, teething gel or powder can ease any pain, discomfort and inflammation.
Holiday & travel
It’s always ideal to bring a basic first aid kit on holiday with you, but there are some extra items you might want to include to make sure your holiday goes smoothly. Navigating a pharmacy in a foreign country could be confusing and expensive, so it’s always best to be prepared for a range of outcomes.
- Blister plasters: Exploring the sights in a hot country could lead to painful blisters, so these specific plasters for your heels can prevent and ease any discomfort.
- Insect repellant: Wearing an insect repellent will prevent annoying or even dangerous bites from foreign creepy crawlies.
- Anti-sickness tablets: These will help to prevent travel sickness or a bout of food poisoning from completely ruining your trip.
- Diarrohea tablets: Traveller’s diarrhoea is common and could affect anyone - these tablets will help to relieve the unfortunate symptoms.
- Rehydration sachets: If you are affected by a bout of diarrhoea, these will restore any lost fluids and prevent dehydration.
- Indigestion tablets: Your body might react differently to exotic foods you’ve never tried before, so it’s wise to prepare for any heartburn or acid reflux that might occur.
- Suncare: Keep stocked up on a high SPF sunscreen, as well as an aftersun cream or aloe vera lotion.