Dr. Corey A. Fish (He/Him)
28 Jul 2021Dr. Corey A. Fish (He/Him)

How to Build a (Fun-Sized!) First Aid Kit for your Family

Everything you need to carry for adventures big and small.

How to Build a (Fun-Sized!) First Aid Kit for your Family

I’m guessing most families have a first aid kit. Maybe you did some online shopping? Or maybe someone gave it as a baby shower gift. Have you ever opened it? (Be honest!) If so, have you looked at every single item in there? Do you know what everything is, and how to use it?

If the answer is “no” to any of those questions, you might as well not have any kit at all.

What's the best first aid kit for kids?

Honest answer: The one where you know how to use everything in it! For most common pediatric injuries and illnesses holding to the maxim, “less is more,” is almost always the best bet. I know folks with advanced medical training who carry all sorts of things in their first aid kits—even equipment to put stitches in! However, it’s rarely a good idea to try and do things like suture in a non-sterile environment. (I don’t even carry this equipment in my own kit!)

Similarly, trying to “DIY” any complex medical procedures in a non-medical setting isn’t a great idea. Examples could include trying to set fractures, treating venomous insect bites (think: rattlesnakes and black widow spiders, not bees and mosquitos), or treating complex or deep wounds.

Suspected fractures should be held still as much as possible. People with serious venomous critter bites need to have the bite left alone and taken to an emergency room ASAP. Wounds should be cleaned with mild soap if available or just plenty of clean water and covered.  Conventional wisdom says that wounds may be closed with stitches up to about 19 hours post injury. Even if it’s longer than that and even if stitches are not placed, the cut will still heal—but the scar will be more prominent.

Because doing more interventions on injuries that happen in the wild can actually cause more harm than good, it makes assembling a helpful first aid kit much simpler. I’ve ranked these items from “most” to “least” important:

First Aid Kit Check-List:

  • Sunscreen (zinc or titanium-based and non-micronized—the kind that doesn’t rub in.)
  • Bandaids in a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • Gauze and medical grade tape. I like a couple of 3M products called Medipore or Transpore for tape. They’re sticky enough, but not so much that you need industrial grade products to remove them.
  • Antibiotic ointment. I like bacitracin ointment. Enough kids are actually allergic to neosporin-type products that I’ve switched to recommending bacitracin.
  • Tylenol and Ibuprofen—they each have their uses (tylenol is better for stomach pain because ibuprofen can irritate little tummies). Ibuprofen is a stellar anti-inflammatory so better for bumps, sprains, or other owies.
  • Benadryl liquid—great for everything from allergies, to allergic reactions, to super duper itchy bug bites.
  • Hydrocortisone ointment. Not cream. Cream stings. This is the best thing to put on itchy bug bites or rashes.
  • 2” or 3” Ace wraps (one is almost never enough) and get the kind that close with velcro, not those pokey metal choking hazards.
  • Scissors (for cutting things like gauze, tape, or even bandaids).
  • Tweezers (good for pesky splinters).
  • Crack to activate cold packs—good for bumps and bruises.
  • Cloth sling—Play with this, they can be tricky to figure out.
  • Sam Splint—These are splints that pack up super small but would be considered more of an advanced item. There are a number of good YouTube videos that demonstrate the basics.

You may notice some things are missing from this list. “What about aloe vera, or some other burn gel?” Or, “what about benadryl cream?” Turns out that none of those things actually work—and may make cause more harm. In fact, the very best way to treat a burn is with cool running water. Ice or burn gels can actually make the situation worse!

Throw all of those items above inside a cloth zippered pouch, small backpack, or other case and you’ve got yourself the best first aid kit. Remember to pull this out every six months, check expiration dates, and remind yourself what’s there and how to use it.

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