Reviewed by health expert Sally Russell, MN, CMSRN, CNE
How to Choose a Pre-Made First Aid Kit
One of the biggest perks of a pre-made first aid kit is not having to remember where everything is during an emergency. When your kiddo scrapes their knee, you immediately know where to get the antibiotic cream and their favorite character-themed bandages.
But choosing a first aid kit isn’t always simple. Grocery stores and pharmacies have several options, but the clerk may not know you well enough to recommend the best first aid kit for your lifestyle.
Choose a first aid kit that fits your unique needs
No matter your needs, there's a first aid kit on the market that will serve you well. If you're a parent of a newborn, for example, you need a kit fitted to an infant’s needs. It would include items to treat croup, earaches, tummy aches, and teething symptoms. If you have pets, you want an entirely different first aid kit with products to remove ticks and treat sore paws.
Hikers and campers have different medical requirements. You spend your time in rugged terrain, which increases your risk for falls and sprains. And if you travel in groups, you may need to purchase a larger first aid kit. For solo adventurers, a smaller, lightweight kit could serve you best.
If you regularly commute or take road trips it's smart to get a car first aid kit that contains flares, jumper cables, water, and food. Those who live in areas with snowy weather should add a blanket and other winter safety items to the kit.
Focus on the essentials when building a first aid kit
When evaluating or making a first aid kit, focus on the essentials. The following list isn’t exhaustive, but it covers many of the basic products found in first aid kits. If your kit is missing any of these must-haves, be sure to add them separately.
- Splints or wraps
- Gauze pad packs
- Medical tape
- Bandages (adhesive bandages, triangular bandage, etc.)
- Rubbing alcohol
- Antibiotic ointment or antiseptic wipes
There are some optional items you may want to consider too:
- Insect bite cream
- Medical tape
- CPR mask
- Cold pack
- Hand sanitizer
- Nitrile gloves
- Emergency blanket
How to safely use first aid products
Each item in a first aid kit comes with guidelines for use. Read these to prevent allergic reactions and other maladies. Many first aid kits also come with an instruction book or recommend attending a first aid class.
Reading the book and attending the class are excellent ideas, but if you face an emergency before you do this, use the five tips below. They can help you take immediate action and keep everyone safe.
- Keep the kit in a central location. Keep your first aid kit in an easy-to-access and known location—for adults, not kids—within your home or vehicle.
- Examine the active ingredients. Some drugs react poorly with other medications or contain ingredients that could cause a rash. Make sure your products, such as aspirin, are safe for use.
- Look for indications of use. Every medication, ice pack, and other first aid item includes indications for use. Follow them to ensure a bandage doesn’t stick to a wound.
- Follow the directions. Kids under age twelve usually require smaller doses of medications. Read the directions carefully so you don’t over-medicate.
- Remember the expiration dates. Antibiotic cream and other first aid items come with expiration dates. Typically, they lose effectiveness after this date, so make sure you’re aware of when to replace these products. This is particularly important if you're storing prescription medications. Nitro (for someone with heart disease), for example, should be replaced every six months because it degrades and won't work as well.
- Keep it cool. Some medications, like insulin, need to be kept cool. If you're storing your emergency kit in the garage or in the trunk of your car, there might be an issue.
- Don't use vaseline or antibiotic ointment for burns. It can trap the heat in and continue the burn if the burn is new and intense. Aloe is best.
- Nix the aspirin for kids. It's not recommended that young children (infants through school-age) take aspirin, especially if you don't know if they've recently had a viral illness. Children taking aspirin can develop Reyes syndrome, which can be fatal.
9 best pre-made first aid kits
These best first aid kit recommendations fit a variety of lifestyles, so you’re sure to find one—or pair a couple—that will help you soothe ouchies for every member of the crew (furry ones included!).
1. Coleman Expedition First Aid Kit
If the Coleman brand makes you think of heavy-duty water jugs and coffee thermoses, you’re on the right track. This first aid kit is designed for groups headed to the great and rugged outdoors. We like that it has a semi-hard case to protect the goodies inside. We also like that it's jam-packed with 205 items to keep you prepared for a variety of situations, including cuts and sprains.
2. Trek Proof Compact First Aid Medical Kit
Geared towards people who love spending time outdoors, this kit’s small size is deceiving. It contains almost any bandage imaginable. It has more than 100 items total. Even better, it's inexpensive so you can put a few around the house so they're handy.
3. Sustain Supply Co. 4-Person Emergency Survival Kit
If you live in a disaster-prone region, you’ll want to buy this kit. Sure it's expensive, but it's worth it. It features all the supplies needed for four people to survive for three days, as well as a number of first aid items. All of this goes into a backpack so it's easy to carry.
4. Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight and Watertight Medical Kit
The Adventure Medical Kit first aid kit caters to the lone ranger. It comes in three sizes so that you can find the one that fits your needs. Plus, it has three water-proof barriers to keep things dry, even when you're kayaking.
5. Lifeline Trail Light Dayhiker First Aid Kit
For lengthy bike rides or hikes in the woods, you can’t go wrong with Lifeline’s kit. It contains fifty-seven items to help with burns and wounds. It fits in a backpack or attaches to a bicycle so you can take it with you anywhere.
6. The First Years American Red Cross Baby Healthcare Kit
If you have a kid, you’ll wonder how you ever left home without this kit. It meets every requirement for a young child who’s not feeling well. The kit has a thermometer, medicine spoon, nasal aspirator, and more for taking care of tots. It's small so you can toss it in the diaper bag before heading out.
7. Medibag Kid-Friendly First Aid Kit
This Medibag first aid kit truly serves the whole family. It contains 117 pieces, including kid-friendly bandages and stickers. Plus, its friendly look is great for homes with children. The cute pup on the front may just get a giggle out of a tearful patient.
8. New Market Squared Pet First Aid Kit for Dogs & Cats
This one's for the pet parents. If you own a kitten or a dog that likes to chew everything in sight—even sharp objects—purchase this first aid kit. It holds 45 items essential to handling a pet emergency. The included emergency care handbook can guide you through some stressful situations.
9. Thrive Car Emergency Kit
Keep this kit in the car. The Thrive Car Emergancy Kit doesn’t have the most first aid items, but it's well-equipped with car emergency supplies. It includes bungee cords, tools, rope, jumper cables, and more to get you out of many different emergency situations.
With the kits recommended and advice given here, you’ll be ready for any emergency. Scraped chins and sprained ankles have nothing on you thanks to your pre-made first aid kit.
*SafeWise has conducted impartial research to recommend products. This is not a guarantee. Each individual's unique needs should be considered when deciding on chosen products.
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