I’m not a huge “doom and gloom” person. I usually believe we should expect (and look for) the best. But it never hurts to prepare for the worst, just in case. Do you have a plan of action for emergencies? A list of important phone numbers? First aid kit necessities?
Having the right essentials on hand can give you peace of mind and help you feel prepared. Any of us can experience a sudden crisis like an injury, weather emergency, or power outage. In some situations, it may take emergency responders time to reach you or you may need to deal with minor injuries on your own.
So, what are the first aid and emergency essentials that you should always have around? I suggest going through this list and collecting these items to keep in one designated spot. (We keep our emergency essentials in the hall closet, which is centrally located and easy to access.) That way, if something happens, you’ll always know exactly where to go.
1. Candles & Matches
Most of the minor emergencies we face aren’t life-threatening or dire. Many are merely inconvenient for a while. One of these situations is an unexpected power outage. If the lights go out, do you have some candles on hand? Do you know where your matches or a lighter are?
Don’t be left scrambling in the dark! I made some simple emergency candles out of recycled cat food cans. I keep these little candles handy for plenty of light in dark situations. These candles will last hours, and they’re easy to make. Better yet—they’re a great way to use up the leftovers of nicer candles when they burn down. Tuna or cat food cans are the perfect size for these little candles.
2. Flashlight & Batteries
Along with emergency candles, a good, reliable flashlight is priceless when the power is out. It’s generally good to keep a few flashlights tucked away for emergencies. One or two flashlights always seem to inevitably get “lost” or borrowed for a camping trip, late-night reading session, or trick-or-treat walk. So, buy more than one to store.
Keep at least one of your flashlights among your first aid kit necessities. Don’t forget to keep an extra set of batteries with the flashlight too! When you do the annual replacement on your smoke detector batteries, remember to swap out the batteries in your emergency kit flashlight. That way, you’ll never be left with a useless flashlight in the dark.
3. Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol is one of those items that rarely gets used unless you really need it. As you put together your first aid kit necessities, make sure you have a nice full bottle of isopropyl alcohol in your kit. Not only does rubbing alcohol come in handy for cleaning small cuts and scrapes, but it’s great to disinfect surfaces in a pinch too. It kills many germs instantly. Use it to clean off tweezers and other tools.
Keep in mind that rubbing alcohol should be stored safely—don’t use it around flames, never ingest it (obviously), and use it in only well-ventilated areas. Don’t use rubbing alcohol in large quantities to flush a wound and never use it on burns. In small amounts, rubbing alcohol is an important first aid essential.
Adhesive bandages are a first aid kit necessity, especially if you have kids! Many scrapes, scratches, and booboos feel “better” with the TLC of a Band-Aid. Bandages form a protective barrier that keeps bacteria and dirt away from healing cuts, preventing infection.
Even for adults, having a few bandages in your first aid kit is essential. Adhesive bandages help prevent blisters and hot spots. Bandages can also provide needed pressure to stop bleeding from minor cuts (and keep you from getting blood anywhere else).
5. Aloe Vera
I love natural remedies like aloe. The jelly-like insides of the aloe plant can be used to soothe scrapes, scratches, and regular burns. In the summer, you can use it to comfort sunburnt skin. In the winter, wind-chapped skin also feels better with aloe vera.
Keep a bottle of aloe vera with your other first aid kit necessities. The gel is inexpensive and easy to find in the sunscreen section of most pharmacies and grocery stores. Aloe vera is moisturizing and comforting. It’s odorless and colorless, making it easy for almost anyone to use.
6. Antibacterial Gel
A tube of Polysporin or Neosporin is an excellent addition to your first aid kit. Antibacterial gel or balm will keep cuts and broken skin from becoming infected. It’s soothing and protective—a good idea if you’re treating a broken blister, a sliver, or a scratch.
Keep in mind antibacterial gel often has an expiration date. So, if you have a tube lingering in a bathroom cabinet, check the end (usually where the tube has been stamped together) to see if there’s an expiration date listed. When in doubt, throw it out and start fresh.
7. Pain Reliever
Depending on your family’s personal preferences, you may want to include ibuprofen, Tylenol, Aleve, or another pain reliever in your family first aid kit. I don’t recommend keeping a myriad of different pills in the kit because they will probably expire before using them (and expired medication can even become toxic).
For most first aid kits, a small bottle of pain reliever is enough. Keep the bottle out of the reach of kids, of course, and keep the pills in the original container—this will allow you to identify the pills, AND it will help you watch the expiration date. If you have younger kids, you may want to keep a child’s pain-reliever/fever reducer in the kit as well.
Like most families, we keep a thermometer in the bathroom cabinet. I like to keep a backup thermometer in the first aid kit, though. If we ever needed to grab the kit and go, we would have it (plus, it’s just nice to have an extra if the batteries run out).
A thermometer is helpful because fever can be a sign of illness or infection. Keeping one in your family first aid kit will ensure you never get caught in the middle of the night without being able to run a temperature check on a sick child. Having access to a thermometer can make the difference when you’re trying to make a hard decision about going to the doctor NOW or waiting until morning.
Gauze is another useful first aid kit necessity. Gauze is absorbent and soft, so it helps apply ointment and dress wounds. You can use gauze to protect broken skin from a burn, while still allowing the injury to “breathe” and heal. Keep the bandage in the sterile packaging until you’re ready to use it—that will ensure no germs or bacteria are present when you cover an injury.
Gauze can also be used as a makeshift rope. If you need to tie or secure something in an emergency, a roll of gauze is useful to have on hand. In a pinch, you can even use gauze as toilet paper (but don’t flush it)!
10. TUMS or Antacids
Your stomach may feel queasy in an emergency, and you may or may not have access to the restroom. For example, during a hurricane or tornado, you may need to shelter in your basement for a while—it is NOT a good time for a stomach upset.
I like to keep a small roll of TUMS in our family first aid kit. These are chewable, don’t need to be taken with water, and soothing on a sour stomach. That said, follow the direction on the packaging for children under 12. There are also children’s TUMS available if you have younger kids.
11. Hand Warmers
I like to keep a set of instant hand warmers amongst my first aid kit necessities. The hand warmers work very simply—remove them from the outer plastic packaging, shake, and they will stay warm for up to 8 hours. These are perfect for keeping little hands and toes warm during a power outage.
I also like to keep a few hand warmers in my car if we’re ever stalled or stranded. You can even stuff them in the toes of your boots if you have to walk far in the snow. One thing to remember about hand warmers: don’t put them on bare skin or near very young kids. They don’t typically get hot enough to burn, but they can cause some discomfort if they’re too close to the skin.
12. Instant Ice Packs
If you’ve never used these before, you’ll be amazed! Instant ice packs are genius! You simply squeeze the pack to break the inner bag. Some chemicals inside the package mix and turn icy cold. These ice packs are perfect for injuries because they reduce swelling, bruising, and pain.
Anyone with kids knows that ice packs are a quick fix for a myriad of booboos. While these instant ice packs are a little expensive for day-to-day use, they’re invaluable in an urgent situation. A bee sting, a fever, or a twisted ankle will feel better with instant ice.
Tweezers are another first aid kit necessity. These handy tools are useful for many different situations—carefully removing a sliver, pulling out a tick, or removing something from a small space. There are a variety of uses for tweezers.
Keep a sharp pair of really good tweezers in your kit. I like the slanted ones made by Tweezerman, but most drugstore varieties will do. Alternatively, you can keep a multitool like a Leatherman or a Swiss Army knife in your first aid kit instead. The tweezers included in these tools are often less sharp than the drugstore type, but they offer an array of other items that can also be useful in emergencies.
Even if you don’t keep water directly in your first aid kit, stashing a bottle or two on the shelf near your first aid kit can be extremely useful in an emergency. During an earthquake, flood, or another natural disaster, the water may be shut off for a few hours (or longer).
Even if you keep extra water in your pantry, it doesn’t hurt to have a bottle or two near your first aid kit. If someone falls outside or needs to visit the ER, it’s beneficial to have a bottle of water handy to bring along. When stressful situations occur, many of us have a hard time thinking clearly—make it easy on yourself by keeping what you need on hand.
Should you keep snacks in your family first aid kit? I don’t think it hurts to stash a couple of granola bars, fruit snacks, or a small package of nuts in your first aid box. You’ll definitely need to change these out regularly, so choose items with a very long shelf life.
If you’re sheltering from bad weather for a few hours, a snack or two will come in handy. You might be able to reach your cupboards or pantry in emergencies, but you never know. Keeping a few snacks in the pack is also helpful for grab-and-go emergencies or trips to the doctor.
Of course, none of us likes to think of emergencies, but should you face one, you’ll thank yourself for taking the right steps to be prepared. Put together a simple family emergency kit with these first aid kit necessities to stay ready no matter what life throws your way.