1,001 tiny Band-Aids and a plastic box
August 15, 2021 6:38 PM   Subscribe

Seeking recommendations for a decent at-home first-aid kit.

I am looking for a kit that is a bit more than a million Band-Aids, plus a couple token alcohol swabs and a pair of ear plugs, but a bit less than let's-be-prepared-for-anacondas-in-the-Amazon. Basically, a middle ground kit that will be practical at home without being largely redundant. The problem is, I really don't know what a kit like that would look like.

Lately, I have been scratched by bushes, cats, and file cabinets; sliced by can lids, and even (due to a renewed interest in sewing) burned by my iron, while incautiously reaching over it. (The iron makes lovely purple crescents, for those who are interested.) These are all minor injuries, fortunately, but they made me realize that my haphazard first-aid supplies could use some reinforcement.

Mefites, what first-aid kits work for you, and why do you recommend them?
posted by Armed Only With Hubris to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I probably trend towards too many things, but I always have dermoplast, hydrocortisone, acetaminophen and ibuprofen (or whatever variations of pain reliever you can have), tweezers, and benadryl.
posted by brilliantine at 6:45 PM on August 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

If it's a first aid kit you envisage using on other people, a notepad and a pencil, to take down their details, signs, and symptoms, and a box of nitrile gloves that fit your hands. Not the black coloured mechanics' ones—you can't see blood on black gloves.

The first aid kit in your cabinet is for one of two problems: either when you're dealing with the minor medical problem yourself, or, when you've already called for an ambulance and need to survive until then. For the first, good tweezers, sharp scissors, painkillers, saline solution, and medication specific to you. The rest you can probably improvise around the house.

For the second, the primary job of a first aid kit is to staunch blood flow, or splint fractures that might hemorrhage; that means bandages, which are all pretty rendundant, until they aren't. Get heaps of them. You can never have too many gauze absorbent pads and roll bandages, to keep the blood inside, and triangular bandages, to splint fractures. If it's for a car or somewhere that isn't your house, space blankets to deal with shock.

Best of all, do a first aid course, they're fun and incredibly useful!
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:05 PM on August 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

Tweezers. Example use: removing splinters.
Benadryl. Example use: calming an allergic reaction to a sting.
Turmeric. (I suppose most people probably use ibuprofen)
Something sort of ointment with arnica and/or comfrey and/or calendula in it. And/or aloe. Example use: burns. Arnica is good for pain, calendula is gentle, comfrey is for if like you broke a bone or something. Comfrey is extra-strength and will heal you up fast. For example, you wouldn't want to apply comfrey to an open wound until you were sure it wasn't infected, because it could heal right over the infection. But it saved my chicken's life once.
Alcohol and/or witch hazel and/or hydrogen peroxide.
A square of chocolate. In case of minor emergency, definitely a square of chocolate. Also good for diabetic shock.
posted by aniola at 7:07 PM on August 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

Non-latex gloves. I use my phone magnifier and light (unless you have a good flashlight to keep in a box). Steri-strips, butterfly bandages, hydrocolloid bandages, Tegaderm, flexible bandaids of various sizes, saline water to clean wounds - I usually just use regular contact lens saline because it's a decent stream and it's not expensive (get the travel-sized bottles so you don't have half-opened big ones). Wound spray is great if you have big cuts or road rash - it also doesn't hurt at all and is super helpful to soak off any bandages that have gotten stuck. You can find it online easily (we use it for both humans and dogs).

Neosporin (the spray version is great), Dermaplast, Benadryl, Advil, Tylenol, nasal decongestant spray for bloody noses, hydrocortisone, arnica gel, a small container of plain aloe vera. Gauze - (both sterile and not) pads (different sizes) and rolls, Coban rolls (that's the flexible non-stick stretchy bandage stuff. Way cheaper if you search for it under pet wrap!). Ace bandages of various widths - get the ones with velcro closures! Alcohol wipes are always something we go through; I like the larger ones - they tend to stay damp longer. I have also found excellent saline pads on Amazon; they are excellent for cleaning cuts and getting debris out if you don't have a bottle of saline around. Hydrogen peroxide for getting blood out of clothes (you don't want to use it on wounds as they heal- it kills new skin cells).

Tweezers - pointed and slanted, medical scissors, two digital thermometers, a heating pad, and good ice packs (the ones with the little pea-like things inside are great). You can use saran wrap to secure ice packs to appendages as long as it's not too tight. I happen to have a blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, and pulse-oximeter because I'm an RN. I highly recommend the BP cuff and pulse-ox. They're not expensive and are good info to have on hand if you need to call your doctor. They're not a must-have, but they're nice.

Silvadene is great if you can get it for burns, but it is prescription here in the US, so is Bactroban (better than Neosporin).

Most importantly if you have kids! Red washcloths!! Your kiddo can't see blood on them and won't freak out with bloody noses or cuts. Absolute baller mom hack.
posted by dancinglamb at 7:24 PM on August 15, 2021 [9 favorites]

Of all the first aid kits I’ve ever bought, this dog hiking kit has been the most useful. I added a box of bandaids, my preferred painkiller, and some burn cream but other than that it’s been used as-is multiple times since I bought it and I just keep restocking as needed. I’ve yet to use it on my dog, very useful for humans! Sorry for ugly link due to mobile.
posted by assenav at 7:59 PM on August 15, 2021 [4 favorites]

New-Skin Liquid Bandaid is the best thing ever for papercuts, hangnails, or very tiny wounds. Especially so when you expect to need to wash your hands or will be getting them wet. It sounds so minor but it is sooooo nice to have around! Caution: burns like fire until dry, don't use it on children (or anyone who would rather not tolerate the initial discomfort).
Edit: I am a dinosaur. Get the modern no-sting spray-on kind.
posted by variella at 8:13 PM on August 15, 2021 [5 favorites]

Take a 1st aid course.
My 1st aid kit is for car-camping, go-bag, etc. When Covid started, I had masks, so that was nice.
Prescription Meds, Vitamins, Ear plugs, Whistle, spare glasses, sunscreen
Gauze and tape
space blanket
Cold/hot pack (scout canteen works, frozen peas, etc) handwarmers are useful
Bandages (bandaids, assorted)
Safety pins
Antiseptic wipes
Antibiotic ointments
Hand sanitizer
Disp. Gloves
Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin
posted by theora55 at 8:16 PM on August 15, 2021

I recently learned there are fever thermometers that don't take batteries AND aren't made with mercury (which is fine but trouble to clean up if you break it.) They use a non-toxic formula that looks and works like mercury.

If you're like me and only use a thermometer once a year or so, but when you need it you need it, I recommend getting one of those.
posted by fritley at 8:34 PM on August 15, 2021

Whichever first aid kit you get, I would recommend removing the contents from the container that it comes in (usually a red bag or box) and reorganizing it in a fishing tackle box, something like this. If it stays at home, storage space is less of a concern.

When it's in a bigger, separated container, it's easier to find things instead of rummaging around in a big container or even those clear sleeves that never seem to hold things the way they came from the store. When you run out of a specific item, it's also super obvious because there's an empty section.
posted by meowzilla at 9:07 PM on August 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

Eye wash kit with cup and rinse. Especially good for camping first aid but all around nice to have handy.
posted by Swisstine at 12:00 AM on August 16, 2021

I guess you can say that this particular post is about shit I forgot to mention that burns and may be useful...

Itch-X (spray! - the cream isn't as good). It burns at first but then works like a charm - kinda hard to find, but worth it.

As mentioned upstream, New Skin works (so does Crazy Glue and much cheaper) but hurts like a MF. I've tried using it for recurrent skin cracks I get on my heels from a type of psoriasis, but it doesn't last long at all for me - that's how I discovered multitasking for steri-strips.

Finally, another good addition to the first aid kit is styptic powder. It is used to stop bleeding, usually found by shaving supplies in stores. I've only ever used it when I've cut dog nails too short and it does burn. I've had mild success substituting corn starch, and again, you can use nasal decongestant spray in a pinch because it constricts blood vessels.
posted by dancinglamb at 12:12 AM on August 16, 2021

"burned by my iron, while incautiously reaching over it" this is why you shd never call someone on the telephone when they are ironing! The main ingredient of styptic powder is alum = aluminum sulfate: generic may be cheaper. But I came here to say keep a roll of clingfilm / saranwrap in the car for when you're first on site after a car-wreck. It will staunch bleeding from limbs until paramedics arrive and they can assess the damage easier than through bandages.
posted by BobTheScientist at 2:47 AM on August 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

The last time I bought a first aid kit, I was surprised to see it was more than just a box of supplies. It was well- organized and had instructions for dealing with various sorts of wounds and ailments. And it didn't have a lot of any particular thing. More on the order of "this is to handle one bad injury, afterwards, buy a new kit."

That kit was for my boat. Look for one aimed at your life situation.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:49 AM on August 16, 2021

Consider the DeChoker or LifeVac.
posted by slidell at 7:20 AM on August 16, 2021

But I came here to say keep a roll of clingfilm / saranwrap in the car for when you're first on site after a car-wreck. It will staunch bleeding from limbs until paramedics arrive and they can assess the damage easier than through bandages.

Is this actually recommended by first aid professionals? Stop The Bleed recommends hemostatic gauze, gauze, or a clean cloth.
posted by zamboni at 8:02 AM on August 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

Vet wrap (cohesive compression bandage) is very handy - it's stretchy and sticks only to itself. Try to find the non-latex kind.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 8:30 AM on August 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

I use a basic premade kit like this, supplemented with full-size or upgraded versions of things I use semi-regularly (for us, that's been ibuprofen, neosporin, insect bite cream, various band-aids, blister pads, canker sore gel, and a thermometer) and a box of other health-related supplies that I have accumulated over various injuries (finger/wrist splints, reusable heating pad, etc.). I replace the things I've used; it's probably a good idea to go through expiring products and replace those semi-regularly as well. It seems cheaply made, but I've been using it regularly for 5+ years with no issues. Perhaps not perfect, but I've found it useful in many situations I would not otherwise have been prepared for.
posted by mosst at 10:32 AM on August 16, 2021

I suggest take a first aid course and buy a MILSPEC IFAK (individual first-aid kit) which is what individual soldiers carry when they go into the field. You probably don't need the chest patch and needle and the really serious stuff, but you need the "Israeli bandage" and similar blood-stopper wraps. These are NOT for ouchies aka for band-aids, but stuff that you actually need for survival, including a good tourniquet. THEN you get a separate more "obvious" first aid kit for the ouchie box with gauze, tape, bandaids, ointments, and common OTC remedies. There are YT videos where operators and first responders explain what goes into their first aid kits.
posted by kschang at 11:11 AM on August 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

The clingfilm thing sounded familiar- it came up in an AskMe The other month. Still haven’t found anything reputable on using it for staunching bleeding.
posted by zamboni at 4:19 PM on August 16, 2021

IME, first aid kits tend to either come in overprepared or underprepared flavors, and in general they're not really suitable for using with minor household injuries that happen on a regular basis (e.g. minor cuts, scrapes and burns, insect bites, etc.) as they don't stock nearly enough supplies for that. My approach is to have an off-the-shelf first aid kit that treats a wide range of injuries and then stock larger amounts of bandaids, burn cream, antibiotic ointment, etc. in a separate but nearby container. Nthing that First Aid training is likely to be much more useful to you though, first-aid kits are only useful if you know how to use the stuff in them.
posted by Aleyn at 4:23 PM on August 16, 2021

Vet wrap (cohesive compression bandage) is very hand

Love this stuff, it's great for things like scratches where maybe you need to get gauze along a long area in a way band-aids won't really help with and medical tape will rip your skin off. Stays on well, easy to use.

I agree with everyone else about first aid training, it's great. A few other things I didn't see mentioned

- if you are like me and are a "reading glasses" type, you might benefit from tweezers that have a little magnifier with them. (example)
- don't know your gender, but a few tampons are never a bad idea, especially the ones without applicators. (examples)

What I've actually used in my first aid kit lately: band-aids, bactine (antibiotic and numbing spray), neosporin, that wrap stuff, tweezers, gauze.
posted by jessamyn at 7:05 PM on August 16, 2021

Some misc knowledge I picked up...

@Zamboni -- if you mean clingfilm as in "Saran Wrap" type film, I believe those are used to treat road-rash (serious scrapes) after a thorough cleaning of the wound area. It's mainly to protect it from dirt and stuff. However, modern suggestion is "Tagaderm", which is a breathable plastic dressing, or if not available, petroleum gauze. Saran Wrap is not breathable and may inhibit healing.

@Jessamyn -- tampons supposedly makes a field-expedient plug for bullet holes. However, it's more like "if you have nothing else" kinda expedient. Snopes considers it to be undetermined.
posted by kschang at 5:49 AM on August 17, 2021

if you mean clingfilm as in "Saran Wrap" type film

That’s exactly what BtS seems to be suggesting for bleeding limbs. I don’t think it’s recommended for that purpose.
posted by zamboni at 7:10 AM on August 17, 2021

Snopes considers it to be undetermined.

The ‘undetermined’ is for that specific story about the Marine.
Tampons have been used by U.S. Army medics as emergency wound care dressings: True.
This particular story about a wounded Marine saved by a tampon included in a misdirected care package from home is factual: Undetermined.
Numerous soldiers have told us that yes, tampons are indeed carried in med kits and are used on bullet wounds in the field. Medics with years of combat experience say they consider tampons excellent for penetration trauma because not only do they absorb a lot of blood, they are sterile, packaged with easy-to-use applicators, and leave a “tail” protruding from the wound that aids doctors in easily removing them.
posted by zamboni at 7:19 AM on August 17, 2021

We also divide first aid kits into two pieces; The 'Oh Shit Kit' and a 'Boo Boo Box'. Literally the Boo Boo Box is an old diaper wipe box which I keep stocked with various bandaids, some small vet wrap, tube of polysporin, tweezers and a few more odds and ends for small but annoying injuries. The Oh Shit Kit consists largely of things I might need until help can arrive, or we can get to more help. Consider large and small pressure dressings, tensor bandages, gloves, a CPR mask, a moldable metal splint (SAM splint), 4x4 gauze, a bottle of sterile or clean water (for flushing eyes or dirty wounds), chemical ice packs, and if you are feeling fancy, live remote and have a higher comfort level with first aid: a tourniquet, an epi-pen (if anyone has life threatening allergies), Aspirin, Benadryl, some triangular bandages and maybe quick clot dressings.

That said, if money is an issue remember that individually wrapped sanity napkins (the big bulky kind) make great cheap, accessible very clean (but not sterile) make shift pressure dressings, Vet wrap is cheaper than Coban (try farm supply stores), and first aid is just that.

A standard first aid kit is a great place to start, but often is more of a Boo Boo kit with some extras, and probably should be supplemented with a few things.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 6:18 PM on August 17, 2021

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