Mind and Body

9 things to stock in your first aid kit

If you're like many people, you pretty much never think about first aid supplies until the blood starts flowing.

And then, more often than not, it can be a bit of a panic—where the heck are those Band-Aids?

If you've pawed through your medicine cabinet one too many times, it's time to stock a first aid kit or maybe two (one for the car.)

Here's what you need, or check this list from the Red Cross.

1. The right bag
Not too big, not too small, this should be big enough to stash some gear, but not so large that you need to stuff it in the back of a closet or give it its own seat in your car.

You can always buy a pre-stocked kit, such as one from the Red Cross. But it's also OK to inject a bit of style and choose your own. Because really, who doesn't need a dose of panache to help ease the pain? Travel bags for toiletries are the perfect choice, what with all those cunning (clear plastic) compartments.

2. Band-Aids
The Red Cross recommends 25 adhesive bandages in assorted sizes for a first aid kit for a family of four.

It's a cinch to stock up on Dora and SpongeBob Band-Aids at your local drug store for the kids (or even yourself). But feel free to ramp up the fun even more.

FirstAidProduct.com stocks everything from pirate, ninja, and monster bandages to unicorns and fairies. Silly grown ups might like their eyeball or bacon bandages. Keep special fingertip and knuckle bandages on hand, and larger bandages for scraped knees or elbows.

2. Antiseptic
Individually wrapped wipes impregnated with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide are perfect for cleaning minor cuts and scrapes. (The Red Cross suggests keeping five packets in a first aid kit for a family of four).

But if you're scared of the sting—or have kids that are—consider antiseptic sprays.

3. Tweezers
Got a splinter? Rather than rifling through your man-scaping or beauty bag for your trusty eyebrow pluckers, get a pair of special first-aid tweezers.

Handy for splinters, removing ticks, or plucking debris from scrapes, these metal tweezers come in a plastic cylinder, and are easier to handle than the eyebrow kind; they're also fine-pointed enough to use for tiny splinters.

Buy a few (they cost about $1) so you can keep one in your bathroom and one in each of your first aid kits.

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4. Antibiotic ointment
With a tube of triple-antibiotic ointment in your medicine chest, you've got ammunition against infections in scrapes, scratches, cuts and other minor wounds.

Swiping antibiotic ointment onto a clean, minor wound—or even one that's contaminated—will keep bacteria in check and help injuries heal faster. For your first aid kit, pick up a smaller tube or several single-use packets.

5. Cold pack
Cold packs can be as simple as a plastic bag filled with ice, or fancy ones featuring Lightning McQueen, Tinkerbell, and more.

There are also kid-size reusable cold packs in the shape of My Little Pony, Scooby Doo, and assorted superheros.

Grown-ups can choose from a wide range of cold packs too. Stow a couple in your freezer, and then keep one or two instant cold compresses—which are activated by squeezing and need no refrigeration—in your portable kit. A two-pack from Walgreens is about $3.

6. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
Hand sanitizer is a key ingredient of any first aid kit, particularly if it's for your car.

Presumably if you're at home, you can wash your hands with soap and water before treating your own or someone else's injury, which is the best way to kill germs.

However, when you don't have easy access to soap and water, you can fight infection by using an alcohol-based sanitizer to clean your hands before and after treating injuries.

7. Hydrocortisone ointment
Itchy bug bites, poison ivy, mild skin irritations, and rashes are no match for hydrocortisone. You can buy 0.5 percent and 1.0 percent hydrocortisone cream over the counter, and individual use packets also are available for stocking your first aid kit.

The Red Cross suggests two packets for a family of four. It's also good to have a tube on hand for at-home use.

8. Sterile dressing
For injuries that a Band-Aid can't cover, sterile dressings are a must, and they're also useful for cleaning wounds and applying medications.

These individually wrapped pieces of gauze come in several different sizes. Jeffrey Pellegrino, a volunteer health and safety instructor with the Red Cross in Portage County, Ohio, recommends having at least eight pieces in four-by-four inch and two-by-two inch sizes.

The Red Cross also recommends having two roller bandages (one three-inch wide and one four-inch wide) as well as a couple of absorbent compress dressings (5x9 inches).

9. Adhesive cloth tape
"Adhesive tape can be used for adhering small and large bandages; it can also help create pressure over a wound to free hands for other first aid," says Pellegrino.

"Tape is also valuable for putting things together likes newspaper for a splint and/or adhering the splint to a digit or long bone. It can also be used to adhere objects to people if going to the hospital, for example, a used epinephrine injector or health history."

For a family of four's first aid kit, the Red Cross recommends a 10-yard roll of one-inch wide adhesive cloth tape.

Click here to find out what else you should keep in your kit from health.com.