14 essentials to build your own first aid kit

Summer is a great time to refresh your first-aid kit or build a new one. If you need to treat an illness or injury at home or on the road you’ll thank yourself later for having all of the essentials in one place.

These are the essentials for your personal first aid kit, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians:

Supplies you’ll need to replace periodically:

Acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen tablets for headaches, pain, fever and simple sprains or strains. Drug stores and groceries sell travel-size packets. You can also put a few from your medicine cabinet into small baggies, just be sure to clearly label the bag with the medication name, dosing instructions and expiration date. If you have children, include medicines that are safe for their age group(s) in your kit.

Antibiotic ointment for burns, cuts and scrapes. A small tube will do. Otherwise, boxes of single-dose packets are also available online. In either case, watch the expiration date.

Bandages of assorted sizes for covering minor cuts and scrapes. If the bandages in your current kit are more than a few years old or if they’ve been in repeatedly hot/freezing situations, test one of the bandages for stickiness. If there’s any doubt, buy new.

Gauze in rolls and pads (small and large sizes) for bandaging wounds. If there are any holes or tears in the packaging, you’ll want to replace them.

Adhesive bandaging tape for securing a bandage over an injury. If the tape is old, check to see if the adhesive is still sticky enough to be effective. There are different types: clear, plastic and cloth. Choose the kind that works best for you.

Bandage closures or “butterflies” for taping cuts closed. You can buy these at drug stores or make them as needed out of adhesive bandage tape.

Instant cold compress for icing injuries and treating high fevers. You can find these at large chain stores or drug stores or buy them in bulk online. If your compress is more than a few years old, consider replacing it to be on the safe side.

Supplies that will last until they have been used:

Elastic wraps for wrapping wrist, ankle, knee and elbow injuries. You can use either the “self-adhering” kind or one that requires a hook closure.

Triangular bandage for wrapping injuries and making an arm sling. You can make one from a white cotton sheet. Cut the cloth into a triangle that’s about 56 inches on one side and 40 inches across on the other two.

Rubber gloves to protect against infection when treating open wounds. Consider non-latex gloves, in case anyone who might use the kit has a latex allergy.

Items that will last 


Scissors with rounded tips for cutting wraps and gauze. You can often find small scissors at garage sales or the dollar store.

Tweezers to remove small splinters and ticks. Drug and discount stores carry a variety of styles and prices to suit your needs.

Safety pins to fasten splints and bandages. Look for a package of assorted sizes in drug, discount or sewing stores.

Thermometer with case for checking for fever. A lot of options are available when it comes to thermometers: old-fashioned mercury, digital oral, temporal and even disposable. What you choose will depend on how much you want to spend and where you will use the kit.

For more tips on staying well this summer, visit peacehealth.com/healthy-you.

(Article courtesy PeaceHealth Medical Group)

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