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What's in your home first-aid kit?

April 27, 2017 | UC Irvine Health
woman putting bandage on child's knee as first-aid

Kitchen burns and cuts from gardening tools are examples of mishaps that routinely occur around the house and yard. Before you or a family member experience the next minor injury, make sure your household first-aid kit is stocked and handy.

Despite the easy accessibility of emergency care, it’s smart to have a first-aid kit, says Dr. Samuel Lin, a family medicine physician with UC Irvine Health.

“Even if you have to go see a doctor, there are a lot of situations where you need basic care right away,” he says.

For example:

  • People with allergies may need an EpiPen or antihistamines immediately.
  • If you get a chemical splash in your eye, you will benefit greatly by having an eyewash handy.
  • For a cut, applying sterile bandages is better than grabbing a roll of paper towels.

First-aid kit checklist

If you want to assemble your own kit, the American Red Cross suggests including these supplies:

  • Absorbent compress dressings, assorted sized bandages, roller bandages, triangular bandages, adhesive cloth tape
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • Antibiotic ointment and hydrocortisone ointment
  • Antiseptic wipe packets
  • Aspirin (81 mg each)
  • Blanket
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve), also known as a CPR mask
  • 1 instant cold compress
  • Nonlatex gloves (size: large)
  • Scissors
  • Oral thermometer (nonmercury/nonglass)
  • Tweezers
  • First-aid instruction booklet

Keep your current kit updated

If you have a kit at home already, make sure it’s updated and that medications haven’t expired. Some older kits contain ipecac syrup to induce vomiting when someone has ingested a poison or potentially dangerous substance. But according to Lin, ipecac syrup is no longer recommended.

“It’s not particularly effective,” he says. “It does cause vomiting, but studies show it doesn’t usually change the outcome. And in some cases if you ingest acid, you don’t want substances to come back up.”

Instead call poison control: 800-222-1222.

First-aid kit tips

To ensure your first-aid kit is adequately stocked and useful when you need it most, keep in mind these tips:

  • You can order pre-assembled first-aid kits online.
  • Most kits contain instructions for how to apply basic first aid.
  • Keep a first-aid kit in your home and another one in your car.
  • Include personal items, such as medications and phone numbers to your healthcare providers.

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