Single people can probably get away with having a relatively simple set of medical supplies on hand, consisting of a box of Band-Aids and a bottle of ibuprofen in the medicine cabinet, even though they should probably have a whole lot more. But when you have a family, creating a thorough first aid kit should be a priority. You have to be prepared for every possible emergency

DIY: The Most Effective First Aid Tool Kit

You could buy one, but premade kits rarely contain everything you need. It's better to get a plastic cooler, small suitcase, metal toolbox, plastic tackle box, or something similar and build a custom medical supply kit. Storage cases that include small compartments will help you keep your kit organized. You can also keep it tidy by putting items into smaller clear plastic boxes and well-labeled zipper pouches. In an emergency situation, you don't want to be digging through any clutter. Be sure to keep additional first aid supplies with you when you travel — if you have a summer cottage, boat or camper, be sure to keep fully-stocked first aid kits there. You should also make additional mini first aid kits to take with you when you're on the go. It's a good idea to keep a mini kit in your car at all times, and store zipper pouches stocked with the essential medical supplies to the inner pockets of your travel bags, including your camping and fishing supplies, gym duffels, backpacks, suitcases, beach bags, etc. 

Evaluate Your Family's First Aid Needs

If you only have one child, your needs may be a little different than a family with five children who also have a constant flow of friends around. Obviously, the volume of some items on this list will be significantly higher for a larger family, so plan your list accordingly. Get in the habit of checking your stock monthly to see what needs to be replenished. You also need to check expiration dates and replace items, as needed.

Include Essential Medical Instructions

Make sure you and your family members are familiar with how everything works, as well as proper dosage for any medications included. Include a list of important instructions for other people, in case someone else is using the kit to treat your injuries or a babysitter is using the supplies on your children while you are out.

First Aid Checklist

  1. Adhesive Bandages: Have a variety of sizes, but focus mainly on the rectangular full-size ones. You know those tiny bandages in bulk boxes always end up getting thrown away, so why buy them? Spend the extra money on quality bandages that you know will stick well to keep a wound clean.
  2. Sterile Gauze Pads: Larger wounds need gauze pads. For example, if your child falls off their bike and scuffs their entire knee on gravel, an adhesive bandage just won't do. Include a variety of sizes when you stock your gauze pads.
  3. Roller Bandage: These are used as a dressing or splint. They can also be used to restrict a body part, so a roller bandage could help slow heavy bleeding of a deep cut.
  4. Adhesive Tape: Use this to hold gauze pads or roller bandages in place.
  5. Mouth Barrier Device: Used during CPR, a mouth barrier has a built-in one-way valve. It provides minimum airflow resistance, and a reverse direction shut-off, so the rescuer doesn't end up with exhausted air, vomit, or a foreign object in their mouth from the person in distress.
  6. Moleskin: Blisters are inevitable when you have kids. Large moleskin can be cut into appropriately sized pieces to wear over the blister.
  7. Scissors: You will need these to cut gauze, tape, and moleskin.
  8. Tweezers: These will remove splinters.
  9. Splints: Have at least a small and large splint included to immobilize a sprain or break.
  10. Gloves: Opt for non-latex gloves. Even if your kids don't have a latex allergy, you never know when one of their friends might.
  11. Instant Cold Compress: A cold compress will alleviate pain and reduce swelling. Have some instant ones for your kits for the car and camping. You can also keep a reusable one in the freezer at home.
  12. Oral Thermometer: Choose a non-glass, non-mercury thermometer.
  13. Space Blanket: Also known as emergency blankets or solar blankets, these are used to regulate body heat. The aluminum redirects about 80% of overall body heat to reduce the risk of hypothermia if someone's body temperature is too low. 
  14. Eye Wash: Whether someone gets a chemical or smoke from a bonfire in their eye, eye wash solution will help. It will cleanse and relieve irritation. It is also essential to have on-hand when pollen and ragweed levels are high if members of your family have allergies.
  15. Calamine Lotion: Calamine lotion soothes a wide variety of skin irritations, including bug bites, poison ivy, hives and chicken pox.
  16. Sunburn Lotion: Pure aloe vera gel is an excellent option. It will soothe and moisturize to relieve discomfort and reduce the chance of peeling.
  17. Plastic Goggles: If someone has severe arterial bleeding, the goggles will protect the rescuer's eyes from any blood.
  18. Antiseptic: This essential component cleans and sterilizes an exposed skin area.
  19. Burn Dressing: Available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, burn dressings protect a severe burn, without using water. Plus, they don't stick to the wound.
  20. Burn Gel: This thick gel draws heat from a wound, eases the pain, and soothes the skin. Try to find a product with 2% lidocaine.
  21. Benadryl: Essential for allergic reactions, Benadryl is a must have for children, adults, and pets. It is a good idea to have liquid or quick dissolve tabs handy in case the victim is having a reaction and panicking too much to drink water. These options are crucial for supply kits used on the go, in case running water is not available.
  22. Imodium: Imodium can be used to treat diarrhea, gas, bloating, and cramps.
  23. Antibiotic Ointment: This topical ointment kills bacteria and prevents infection.
  24. Antiseptic Wipes: Sometimes, wipes are just more convenient, especially when you need to wipe a cut before dressing it. You can also use these to clean your hands when you're away from running water. 
  25. Pain Reliever: Make sure you always have a stock of your pain reliever of choice, or multiple different types. Make sure they are in a childproof container or kept separate from the actual kit, something that applies to the Benadryl and Imodium, as well.
  26. Activated Charcoal: Only use this if you are advised to do so by the Poison Control Center.
  27. Emergency Numbers: Create an index card with all the emergency numbers you need. It should include personal contacts, pediatricians, and the pharmacy.
  28. Pencil and Paper: Use these to log treatments and important details to hand over to paramedics. You should also include the victim's age and any known allergies.
  29. Epi-pen: If someone in your family has a life-threatening allergy, an epi-pen should be included in your kit.
  30. Other: You may also want to include a bar of soap, hand sanitizer, safety pins, sterile needle, triangular bandage, sling, water purification tablets, medical-grade glue, magnifying reader glasses (for digging out splinters), laminated CPR cards, and an extra inhaler if anyone has asthma. It's a good idea to include a flashlight in your first aid kit, too, in the event of a power outage or if you need some extra light to see an injury or a splinter. Store the batteries in the flashlight backward, so they don't drain quickly; all you have to do is turn the batteries around when you need it. 

Remember that everyone's first aid needs are different. Ask your family doctor if they have any special recommendations for medical supplies to keep handy based on your children's health needs and regular activities. Did we miss anything? Add your suggestions for first aid essentials in the comments.