13 First Aid Essentials You Must Have In Your Medical Kit

From shaving cuts to sprained ankles?these little accidents can happen anytime, anywhere. Creating a first aid box can not only save valuable time but also keep you prepared for emergencies.

By Debashruti Banerjee
09 Sep 2021

Having a first aid box at your easy disposal can tend to a variety of minor accidents such as sprains, cuts, minor burns, body aches etc. Even in serious situations, it can buy you invaluable time until you have access to professional help.


A 2011 study of 152 medical students in Mangalore, India was published in the Annals of Medical and Health Science Research to assess how much they knew about first aid care. Results of their questionnaires revealed that the majority lacked proper training and/or awareness on the matter and wished that it be taught to everyone from school level onwards.


A medical kit box is indispensable in every household, vehicle or institution. Though there are ready-to-use first aid kits available in retail shops, you can also make your own based on your personal needs. Keep a regular stock of these following supplies to quickly and easily deal with minor cuts, burns or pains as well as your prescribed medication, if you have any. Here’s everything you need to know to make your DIY first aid kit:


Things to remember while putting together your first aid kit

1. Check expiry dates: According to an article by Howard Seiden et al in the journal Canadian Family Physician, “virtually every medication becomes useless and even dangerous after a period of time”. Therefore, it is crucial that you go through your kit at regular intervals to check the expiry dates of all the medication and the “best before” dates for the rest of the supplies as well. Replace and restock with fresh items at all times.

2. Emergency contacts: Your first aid equipment must be informative for not just you but others as well, in case you are the one in need of help. It is smart to keep a list of emergency contacts (personal contact as well as national helplines) and important details of your medical history to make it easier for others to take care of you.

3. Do not take things casually: Howard Seiden et al further suggest that “if you’re not 100% sure of what you’re doing, admit it and try to find someone who is as quickly as possible”. If the injury or the sickness appears serious, do not delay contacting the hospital as soon as possible. Refrain from experimenting with non-prescription drugs or extensive self-treatment without the know-how. The aim of first aid is to mitigate minor issues and to hold off the situation from getting worse before professional help arrives. It is not, by any means, a substitute for a trained medical official.

4. Keep it organised: The entire purpose of a first aid box is functionality and time management under pressure. Rummaging through a cluttered bag is the last thing you need in an emergency. Your kit need not be the classic white box with a red cross, purchase any durable bag with separate compartments. You can categorise your supplies based on wound care, burn care, oral medication, epidermal (over the skin) medication etc to make things more organised.

5. Find a good place for it: The medical kit should be in a place where everyone can reach it in a hurry. Your family should be aware of what it looks like and where it is, to avoid confusion. However, make sure the items are not easily accessible to children, who shouldn’t use them without proper supervision and training.


Build your own first aid box with these must haves

1. Sterilised cotton: It stops bleeding from minor cuts or punctures as well as clean those wounds. Sterile packages are preferred to usual cotton packs to avoid getting dirt or bacteria in the wounds. Store them in airtight bags to prevent contamination.

2. Antiseptic liquid: After washing with clean water, put these on a cotton pad to clean dirt, bacteria and blood off of minor wounds and prevent infection.

3. Gauze and band aids: These come in handy to dress and cover wounds. While band aids are appropriate for smaller cuts and punctures, gauze can be used to wrap around a larger area. If the area isn’t likely to face friction or get dirty easily, you can leave smaller wounds uncovered to heal naturally.

4. Antibiotic ointment: Minor skin wounds (small cuts, blisters, skin infections) can be treated with antibiotic creams or lotions after cleaning with water and antiseptic.

5. Thermometer: It’s a handy tool to check body temperature (the general healthy level being between 97° C to 99°C), available in both mercury and digital forms. According to a 2016 study published in Advances in Nursing, the mean differences of mercury and digital thermometers “were not clinically significant (<0.2°C) or do not differ enough to cause problems in clinical interpretation". However, due to the risk of breakage or difficulty in reading in mercurial thermometers, the digital alternatives can be safer and easier to use by non-professionals.

6. Crepe bandage: It can be wrapped around your limb and joints to provide basic compression. According to a 2017 study published in the journal Trials, crepe bandages were able to “reduce knee swelling and improve pain and early function”. By positioning the concerned person in a comfortable position, tie the bandage around the affected area firmly and secure the ends by tucking them in, tying a knot, using safety pins or bandage clips.

The National Health Service, UK, warns against tying the bandage too tight and recommends checking the circulation at intervals by pressing on a fingernail or a piece of skin until it turns pale. If the colour does not return immediately, loosen the wrap a bit.



7. General medication: It is feasible to stock up on some basic medicine like antihistamines (for allergies), anti-nausea medication (for motion sickness), paracetamol (for regular fever) and light painkillers and pain relief spray.

8. Tweezers: These mini tongs can help dislodge pesky little objects stuck in your skin, like splinters. Remember to sterilise them after every use.

9. Scissors: Clean, stainless steel scissors will help you easily cut bandages for dressing.

10. Protective gear: You cannot help others without being safe yourself. Always keep extra face masks and gloves. Wash your hands before and after administering first aid.

11. Petroleum jelly: For minor burns or blisters, as per the American Academy of Dermatology Association, you can try basic pain relief, wrapping the area in a non-adhesive sterile bandage and applying petroleum jelly. However, B. A. De Souza recommends in a paper for The British Medical Journal that petroleum jelly products are “not to be used as an immediate first aid measure for burns, but can be used as a subsequent dressing for minor burns”. Waiting a while allows the skin to form a natural film first.
According to the National Health Portal of India, the first step of burn treatment is running it underwater. Do not use ice on the burned area or try to peel something stuck to it. In case of serious and larger burns, immediately get professional help.


12. ORS packets: ORS or oral rehydration solution packets can be used in case of dehydration and loss of bodily fluid. In fact, according to a 2010 paper published in Electrolyte Blood Press, “ORS has been used successfully in the treatment of diarrheal illness and has resulted in a reduction in childhood mortality from diarrhea”.

13. Cold compress packs: While a hot water bag can help with muscle and joint pain, keep cold packs at hand for swelling or injuries. Nowadays, you can also buy instant cold packs which don’t need to be refrigerated.


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