A first-aid kit is an assortment of medication supplies and equipment essential in giving medical treatment during minor emergencies, and even major ones before medical help can arrive. Items in the first-aid kit can be put together by individuals or organisations, or ready-made kits can be purchased. The first-aid kits can be assembled in any type of container, but preferably in durable plastic boxes, fabric pouches or wall-mounted cabinets. They should be clean and waterproof to keep the contents safe and aseptic, and should be checked regularly and restocked if any items are damaged or past expiry date.
The essential first-aid kit items include
- Plasters or adhesive dressings of different sizes, shapes and types – water-proof or fabric-padded. It is better to leave very minor cuts or grazes open, though, after applying the required ointment.
- Non-adhesive dressings or gauze pads, as it is easy to seal the open wounds with them to guard against infections. Gauze pads are the best dressings to have in your first-aid kit for arresting bleeding from small to medium-sized wounds.
- Bandages of various sizes and kinds should be included in the first-aid kit – triangular bandages for slings or head wounds, elasticated bandages for wounded joints, and roller bandages for holding dressings in place and for stopping bleeding.
- A thermometer, either the mercury or digital kinds, to check body temperature.
- A pair of scissors, preferably one with one rounded side for safely cutting dressings while treating burns or scalds without hurting the skin.
- Safety pins to hold slings or bandages together.
- Disposable gloves to handle open or bleeding wounds to protect your hands as much as the wound from infections.
- A list of emergency telephone numbers is a must in your first-aid kit, including those of your family doctor, nearest chemist and hospital, and neighbours.
Handy first-aid kit extras
- In your personal first-aid kit, you might find it useful to stock basic medicines like paracetamol, calamine lotion, antihistamines, pain killers, cough syrups and maybe a spoon.
- Tweezers to remove splinters of glass or wood.
- Cotton wool to clean skin around the wound, but it should not be used to dress up open wounds and the fluff may stick to the wound.
- Water-proof adhesive tape, as it can be useful in bandaging areas like the hands, which frequently get wet.
- Gel-filled packs which can be warmed up or cooled down. They can be useful for relieving sprains, treating a child with fever, bringing down swellings or cooling superficial burns.