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Basic First Aid Supplies


Amy H. Kaji

, MD, PhD, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, David Geffen School of Medicine

Last full review/revision Jun 2020| Content last modified Jun 2020

The medicine chest or first-aid kit should be kept well stocked and should be restocked every 3 to 6 months. The following basic supplies are useful to have on hand:

  • Activated charcoal (call the poison control center before using)
  • Adhesive tape
  • Antihistamine for allergic reactions
  • Antibiotic ointment (such as bacitracin or neomycin)
  • Antiseptic solution or towelettes (disinfecting wipes)
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Bandages in various sizes and shapes
  • Aspirin, 325 mg, nonenteric coated, to be chewed in case of symptoms of a heart attack (call a doctor before taking)
  • Cold pack (instant) or ice bag
  • Compression (elastic) bandage for sprains and strains
  • Cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs
  • Eyewash (sterile)
  • First-aid manual
  • Gauze pads in various sizes to stop bleeding and cover wounds
  • Gloves (latex or nitrile)
  • Hydrocortisone cream for stings and itchy, inflamed rashes
  • Nail clippers
  • Pen light or flashlight with extra batteries
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Plastic bags for the disposal of potentially contaminated material
  • Safety pins in different sizes
  • Scissors
  • Soap
  • Thermometer
  • Tweezers
  • Warm pack (instant)

The following can be given by lay (nonprofessional) rescuers and may be appropriate for some first aid kits:

  • Epinephrine injection (for example, EpiPen) for life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis)
  • Naloxone (Narcan) nasal spray or injection for opioid drug (for example, heroin, fentanyl) overdoses

Additionally, have the following readily available:

  • Phone numbers and contact information for your family doctor and/or pediatrician, emergency services, and regional poison control center (1-800-222-1222 in the United States)
  • List of drugs (both prescription and over the counter) that each family member takes
  • Medical history forms for each family member

Many people consider taking a first-aid course through the American Red Cross or some other agency. See the American Red Cross web site for more information. People may also need to prepare children for medical emergencies in age-appropriate ways and know when to call 911 or the local emergency service.

More Information

  • American Association of Poison Control Centers
  • American Red Cross

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
Hydrocortisone CORTEF, SOLU-CORTEF
Acetaminophen TYLENOL
Epinephrine ADRENALIN
bacitracin BACIIM
ibuprofen ADVIL, MOTRIN IB
neomycin NEO-FRADIN
Naloxone EVZIO
Aspirin No US brand name

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