Reviewed by health expert Sally Russell, MN, CMSRN, CNE
8 essentials for your DIY first aid kit
Every year, unintentional injuries result in hundreds of thousands of medical visits. Thankfully, if you’re prepared, many common, mild injuries can be treated with a few medical essentials at home.
You can purchase a ready-made first aid kit or a pre-made emergency survival kit, but it’s also easy to assemble your own emergency kit and personalise it to your family’s needs. When putting together your first aid kit, make sure you have the following eight essential items.
The first thing you need is a water-resistant container to hold everything. You may want a soft pouch with multiple compartments to keep your items organised. You can reuse a backpack or purchase a first aid bag.
One of the most popular options is the WEDO Tactical MOLLE First Aid Medical Pouch, which features elastic straps, a drawstring bag, and a spacious pocket for smaller supplies.
Along with this primary container, you may also need plastic bags and pill bottles to hold small items and a marker to label them.
2. Personal items
Keep a list of emergency phone numbers, including those for doctors, dentists, local hospitals, and important family contacts. If you or a family member takes refrigerated medication or requires insulin, keep a few doses in your kit, along with a cooler travel case (keep the cold packs in the freezer so they're ready to go when you need them). If you run out of your prescription or can’t make it to the pharmacy, you’ll have a backup supply at home.
A few tips for keeping medications in your emergency kit:
- Keep prescriptions in their original containers so you have all pertinent information on hand, including dosages, warnings, and pharmacist contact details.
- Regularly check the expiration date of medications and replace them as needed. Some need to be replaced every six months.
- If you are storing insulin, keep it in a cool place. You can even pin a sticky note to the outside of your kit to remind you to grab insulin from the fridge so it's not forgotten in your rush out the door, along with your cold packs in the freezer.
4. Creams and ointments
Every first aid kit needs a couple of ointments: aloe vera gel and an anti-itch cream.
Aloe vera gel is a must for soothing and treating burns, as it gently moisturises the skin, relieves itching, and reduces any bleeding. Hydrocortisone cream calms itching from bug bites and reduces inflammation and redness due to rashes.
5. Pain relievers
Pain relievers are a necessity for reducing pain from an injury or illness. Keep a bottle of pain relievers on hand: we recommend paracetamol, ibuprofen, or aspirin—or all three.
- Paracetamol also helps with headaches, but unlike aspirin, it’s not an anti-inflammatory, so it won’t help with muscle pain or sprains.
- Ibuprofen can also get rid of headaches, aid joint and muscle pain, lower fevers, and reduce inflammation, making it a great option if you have the flu.
- Aspirin is helpful for headaches, aches, fevers, and joint pain.
6. Over-the-counter medications
You never know when you’ll be hit with food poisoning, catch the flu, experience an allergic reaction, or eat something that doesn’t sit right. While there’s little a doctor can prescribe other than time, over-the-counter medicines can help relieve your symptoms.
Keep antacid tablets and anti-diarrhea medication in your first aid kit to take when you have heartburn, indigestion, an upset stomach, or diarrhea. An antihistamine is helpful if you experience seasonal allergies as it provides relief from sneezing, itching, and a running nose.
7. Bandages and wraps
Every first aid kit needs an array of bandages and wraps to deal with minor cuts, burns, scrapes, sprains, and strains. Rather than visit the doctor for small injuries, you can treat them yourself with the right bandages.
To treat and stop bleeding, your first aid kit should contain assorted adhesive bandages, gauze for larger cuts, an aluminium splint to provide support for injured or sprained limbs, and sports tape to safeguard vulnerable or tender joints.
8. Medical tools
Your first aid kit needs a few basic medical tools. A thermometer is necessary for monitoring your temperature and knowing the difference between feeling ill and needing to go to the doctor.
Keep tweezers on hand to remove splinters or any small foreign objects lodged in your skin. You’ll also need blunt-tip scissors for cutting bandages and gauze without accidentally cutting yourself, and an instant cold compress, which provides quick relief for aches and pains.
Once your first aid kit is assembled, keep it adequately supplied and updated. Every six months, check your supplies and restock or replace as necessary.
Store your first aid kit in an accessible location, and if you have kids, teach them how and when to use the medical supplies. With a fully assembled first aid kit at home, you can treat injuries immediately and kick minor aches and pains to the curb.