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Basic First Aid Supplies

By Amy H. Kaji, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center

The medicine chest or first-aid kit should be kept well stocked and should be restocked every 6 months. The following basic supplies are useful to have on hand:

  • Activated charcoal (call the poison control center before using)

  • Adhesive tape

  • Antihistamine for allergic reactions

  • Antibiotic ointment (such as bacitracin)

  • Antiseptic solution or towelettes

  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen

  • Bandage adhesive strips in various sizes and shapes

  • Chewable baby aspirin in case of symptoms of a heart attack (call a doctor before taking)

  • Cold pack or ice bag

  • Compression (elastic) bandage for sprains and strains

  • Cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs

  • Eye wash (sterile)

  • First-aid manual

  • Gauze bandages in a roll, 2 or 3 inches (5 or 7 centimeters) wide

  • Gauze pads in various sizes to stop bleeding and cover wounds

  • Gloves (latex or nitrile)

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Hydrocortisone cream for insect bites and stings

  • Loperamide in case of diarrhea (call a doctor before taking)

  • Pen light or flashlight with extra batteries

  • Petroleum jelly

  • Plastic bags for the disposal of potentially contaminated material

  • Rehydration solution (call a doctor before taking)

  • Sharp scissors

  • Soap

  • Thermometer

  • Tissues

  • Tweezers

Additionally, have the following readily available:

  • Phone numbers and contact information for family doctors, emergency services, and regional poison control center (1-800-222-1222)

  • List of drugs (both prescription and over-the-counter) each family member takes

  • Medical history forms for each family member

Many people consider taking a first-aid course through the American Red Cross or some other agency. See the American Red Cross web site for more information. People may also need to prepare children for medical emergencies in age-appropriate ways.