Dear Doctor: Our young son fell off his skateboard recently, and the items my wife and I needed to tend to his cuts and scrapes were scattered throughout the house. Now we want to assemble a home first-aid kit. What should it contain?
Dear Reader: Great idea! A well-stocked first-aid kit is an important safety feature for every home. And while first-aid kits are available for purchase, you can easily put one together yourself.
Take an afternoon to evaluate your family needs, make a list, then hit your local drugstore. With just a little bit of planning, you'll be ready to handle the minor bumps and mishaps of everyday life at a moment's notice.
With a home first-aid kit, you're preparing to deal with three basic types of medical issues -- injury, infection and allergy.
Everyday injuries include scrapes, cuts, splinters, burns, sprains and stings. Infections may range from an inflamed wound to fever, a sore throat or the flu. You'll also want to be prepared for common allergic reactions such as the rash from poison oak and poison ivy, and itching and swelling from insect stings.
It's important that if anyone in your family has severe food allergies or a respiratory condition such as asthma, you stock a backup of the appropriate medication. Mark each item with its expiration date and replace as needed. It's a good idea to keep a separate checklist, which will make it easy to know when it's time to replace that inhaler or EpiPen.
So how do you build a first-aid kit?
Start with a container such as a plastic storage tub, a tackle box or a tote bag with separate compartments. It should be easy to open, easy to carry, and have enough room for everything to be organized and recognizable at a glance.
Delegate one compartment for personal items -- those allergy medications we talked about or backup doses of any other vital medications your family members may need. You'll also want to include a list of emergency phone numbers.
For a family of four to deal with common emergencies, you should have:
- 2 absorbent compress dressings
- 25 adhesive bandages of assorted sizes
- 1 adhesive cloth tape
- Antibiotic ointment and antiseptic wipes
- An instant cold compress
- Non-latex gloves to be worn when dealing with blood or bodily fluids
- Hydrocortisone ointment
- A pair of scissors and a set of tweezers
- A 3-inch and a 4-inch roller bandage
- 10 sterile gauze pads (3 by 3 inches and 4 by 4 inches)
- An oral thermometer that is not glass and does not contain mercury
- 2 triangular bandages
- A good first-aid instruction booklet
Rather than in the bathroom, where humidity may affect the contents, keep your first-aid kit in the kitchen. It's also wise to consider a version of this kit for your car.
Finally, read through the first-aid instruction booklet on a regular basis. You don't want to be holding a page open while you're trying to bandage a sprained ankle!