30 Things you should have in your Emergency First Aid Kits

First Aid Kit

When it comes to survival gear, first aid kits are one of the most overlooked preparedness items out there. I know, they aren’t as fun to talk about as survival knives, bug out bags, and firearms; but when it comes to practical emergency preparedness items, the reality of the situation is that your medical bag is probably going to get more use that any other items in your survival stash.

If you haven’t dedicated time to really making sure your first aid needs are covered, you need to rethink your preparedness planning and do some serious work on making sure your first aid needs are covered.

What items go into a First Aid Kit?

A good first aid kit is always developed around your unique medical needs. There is no one size fits all solution, so every bag should be customized to deal with the most likely medical emergencies that you might experience. That means taking an inventory of who is in your household, what medications they are taking, what health problems they may have, and what you need to help them survive during times of crisis. While every kit is going to be a bit different, there are some things that every bag should have.

Here are the top items that we include in our first aid kit list; these medical items should be the foundation that your bag is built upon, and will help you get going.

Have a Way to Stop bleeding and Close Wounds

Every good medical kit should have items that can be used to help stop bleeding, close and protect cuts, and help prevent infection from setting in.

  • Duct Tape: Yes, duct tape. It can be a life saver when trying to treat a cut or wound when medical help may be too far away to reach quickly. Duct tape can quickly and safely pull together an open wound, and can buy you the time you need to reach medical help.
  • Butterfly Sutures: Another great way to close up small wounds is to use something know as a butterfly suture. These types of adhesive strips pull the edges of a small cut together in the same way as a doctor’s stitches.

When using duct tape or butterfly sutures to close a wound, make sure you carefully clean the wound and wash out any foreign materials or debris. If you have any kind of antiseptic, apply it to the wound and dry the area. Start in the middle of the wound and apply the strips, pulling the cut together as tightly as possible. Work your way towards the edges, gently bringing the two sides together and taping them shut.

Don’t Forget to Include Ways to Prevent Infection

During a survival situation, where sanitation issues may become a problem, keeping your wounds clean and covered is critical to preventing problems. Infection can set in quickly, so you need to stay on top of any open cuts. That means it’s important to carry the following items:

  • Gauze
  • Adhesive wound dressings
  • Antibiotic ointments and creams
  • Broad spectrum oral Antibiotics – This may be difficult to come by since you need a prescription, but some doctors may be willing to prescribe them as a preventative measure if you’re going to be on an extended trip out in the wilderness. Erythromycin, Ciprofloxacin, and Amoxicillin are all broad spectrum antibiotics.
  • Antiseptics and Disinfectants – Peroxide, Isopropyl Alcohol, PVP Iodine Ampules and Antiseptic wipes are all things that need to be in your kit.

Pain Management Items

Depending on your condition, pain can be a debilitating and even deadly thing if it causes you to lose hope or give up. Having a way to treat and manage pain, as well as decrease inflammation, is an important part of every emergency first aid kit.

  • Aspirin, Tylenol or Ibuprofen
  • Codeine or some type of pain killer
  • Chemical Ice Bags
  • Lidocaine

Dealing with Allergies

Even if you don’t think you have allergies, certain things can still cause an allergic reaction. In some cases, especially in people who have food allergies, allergens can cause life-threatening anaphylaxis reactions that need to be treated immediately.

  • Antihistamine – Benadryl, otherwise known by its generic name Diphenhydramine HCl, is one of the best antihistamines on the market and is something that should be part of everyone’s kit.
  • Antihistamine creams
  • EpiPen or Epinephrine – For those with a life-threatening allergy, having an EpiPen with you at all times is essential. They can help stop an anaphylaxis reaction and buy you time until medical help arrives.

Items Specific to Your Unique Medical Needs

No one kit is right for every person. That’s why special attention needs to be put into developing a kit for yourself and your loved ones. I advise staying away from prepackaged kits unless you’re using it as a foundation to build your kit.

  • Make sure your kit is stocked with extra prescription medications if you have a medical condition that requires you to take medication.
  • OTC Meds – If you routinely take Over the Counter medications to treat conditions like arthritis, nausea, etc., make sure you have an ample supply of them in your bag.

Your Kit should also contain at least some of the following items:

  • Emergency dental kit
  • Sterile needles and surgical blades.
  • Splints – SAM and air splints
  • Quick Clot Gauze
  • Grooming and cleaning tools – Fingernail clippers, soap, Antiseptic wipes.
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Disposable thermometers
  • Disposable gloves
  • Sterile eyewash & eye dressings
  • Sunblock
  • Vaseline
  • Burn creams and dressings
  • Medical manuals and basic first aid instructions.

What do you have in your medical kit?

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29 Comments

  1. I see a lot of survival websites suggesting prescription painkillers and antibiotics, how is someone supposed to procure these? I’ve spoken to different doctors and telling them that I wanted them for a med kit wasn’t sufficient enough for a script.

    • The Antibiotics shouldn’t be a problem if you’re asking for them for emergency preparedness purposes, or your traveling on an extended backpacking trip in the wilderness or something of that nature. Since painkillers are a controlled substance in most areas, and are a big problem for law enforcement, (responsible) doctors will not write a prescription without a valid medical problem.

    • agreed the kit above is missing some basic bleeding control like tourniquets. Quik clot won’t help if you’re missing an arm.

      • That is a very good point. I would also suggest learning how to make one with other medical supplies.

        Ex: two crevats (triangle bandage) and an object at least 6 inches long to tighten it with. Takes a minute to learn and could be helpful to know.

        • You might want to add a sharpie if you are putting a tourniquet in. So you can record the time it was applied to the individual so when EMS arrives or they get medical help the professionals know how long it’s been on for.
          And just FYI you write the time above the area applied and on the forehead if the area is difficult to see at a glance.

  2. A must have for me is a magnifying glass. This is extremely helpful with splinters, eye debris and getting the grit out of wounds.

  3. Thank you for a great list and all of the comments with additional suggestions. I’m working on a mater list for our first aid kit and see several things that I’ve missed. Very helpful.

  4. Always remember that knowldge is the best item in your kit. All the gear in the world is useless if you don’t know how to use it. Learn as much as you can, then prepare for the worst- for instance if you lost your kit and need a bandage; go for a pine tree. The sap works almost and well as glue on a wound and has some slight antiseptic and pain relieving properties.

  5. Where in the world do you get such things like Lidocaine. It is a numbing agent for suturing wounds. If you had it you would also need a small needle and a sringe

    • Lidocaine 2% can be prescribed by a doctor if he is willing to write the script. I explained it was for my end of the world kit, with a chuckle he wrote me a script of 10 little bottles. cost about 50 bucks 5 years ago. it does have a shelf life but last week I had to use some and it still going fine

  6. You did not mention a reference medical/remedies/knowledge book. A tourniquet, a mirror for self-care, a permanent marker to write needed info. about the injury in case you have to leave, emergency blanket, matches, Q-tips, cotton balls, knife, razor blades, …

  7. Antibiotics are available at pet supply stores and farm stores. You will have to calculate dosage so mark the bottle with dosage/weight ratios.

  8. I usually get wounded, so the most often used contents are band-aids, bandages, and gauzes. Not to include alcohol 70%/95% and antiseptic. I also stashed decent amount of paracetamols, vitamins, and electrolytes. In the equipment department, an X-acto knife, scissors, and gloves are always ready

    In a pinch, tea, honey, sugar, and salt would help a lot in upset GI tracts

  9. Tea tree oil, it’s an antibiotic, anti fungle,solvent, also good for bug bite, heck it’s good for just about everything

  10. I’m a paramedic. Carry quite a few items specific to my licence level. Also have many years of wound care and infection. Take advantage of first aid and higher levels of care classes if you can! Even volunteer to learn and help out with those around you who are giving wound care and learn the techniques. It’s all golden if you come to need it. Other than those mentioned in the article and comments, I also carry nebules of saline (15 ml) that are fantastic for flushing debris from wounds. Also a spray product called Seaclens for flushing and cleaning wounds. I carry lots of disposal nitrile gloves (LOTS), alcohol gel to use on them if I have to (good for starting fire in gauze as well), epinephrine and antihistamine (both tablets and liquid). Also carry some silver impregnated sterile gauze called Aquacel Silver which is the gold standard (no pun intended) to treat very much infected wounds. Expensive but an amazing product. Also use essential silver gel for smaller skin issues which works like a charm. Add in glucose tablets, and big band aids. In the field I never use small ones…go big or go home :). Also carry iv set ups etc etc but that’s more in my 911 kit.

  11. You’re missing anti-diarrhea pills. Might sound funny to some, but it can be debilitating when in the context of a serious illness.

    • Dehydration will kill you pretty quick if you cannot keep anything down. Next time you go to your doctor for this, ask for zofran ODT-its different as It dissove in your mouth & acts pretty quickly. Any other pill you risk coming back up.

  12. As simple as having some bandaid in your wallet helps in need when you are hiking. at least you will have something to put on when u get scratch or your hiking shoe starts acting up….

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