needing recommendations for good quality First-Aid kits

GMartin used Ask the Experts™
Hello and Good Evening Everyone,

       I am interested in any online links for recommended First Aid kits.   While there are certainly many out there on Amazon and eBay to select from, I am not entirely sure how to filter them out so I get the one which meets the highest standards.

       Any suggestions for good quality First-Aid kits will be greatly appreciated.

       Thank you

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Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software Engineer
If this is for a business, either state or local laws will govern what should be in a kit that meets legal requirements for a business.  Find those requirements first, then shop for something that, e.g., "meets New York state and city requirements."
A First Aid kit is only as good as the first aid knowledge of the people who may be required to use it, and there are many instances where the contents of the kit are tailored for specific workplaces, industries, and may even be country-specific.

I would seriously like to do a survey and ask first aiders how many times they have actually used the ubiquitous "triangular bandage" that occupies so much valuable space in the first aid box.  It might prove quite handy for somebody who injures an arm while trekking the Himalayas and is many hours or even days from a proper medical facility or rescue, but for most urban and suburban dwellers for whom an ambulance or hospital is less than an hour away it is an absolute waste of time making a fancy sling for the injured arm.  It should always be borne in mind that trained medical staff have to remove all the surgical dressings and other crap that first aiders are trained to deftly apply to fellow first aid students in a classroom.  Field medics and survival experts should be the ones teaching first aid, not origami masters who often have never seen a gaping wound let alone had to press a dressing onto it, because the medics and survivalists are able to improvise using everyday objects and materials and they don't waste time tying nice little knots and tucking in the edges of dressings to make them neat.  Forgive my cynicysm, but I've had to sit through too many first aid courses run by people who have never had to give a dying person CPR or had never had to shove their thumb into a spurting arterial laceration, yet they believe they are equipped to teach others what to do.

A domestic first aid kit needs to be tailored for certain things.  It seems that everybody is allergic to something these days, so consideration needs to be given to buying hypo-allergenic band-aids if you have any family members who have a serious sensitivity to standard ones, and any antiseptic cream should also be tested.  If you are in a rural area where the only water is well water, you should include a fairly large bottle of purified/distilled water or saline solution because you wouldn't really want to douse a wound or somebody's eye containing grit with well water and potentially introduce an additional source of infection.  The exception would be for a bad burn where the affected area needs to be cooled for a long time under running water and a bottle of water would run out in seconds.

The small "squeezy" eyewash bottles of saline solution can be very useful for things other than washing grit or chemicals out of eyes, and it saves having to throw away a larger bottle that has been opened and is therefore no longer sterile.

Here's what I would pack into a domestic first aid kit:

Band-aids.  The silly little waterproof ones that are individually wrapped are a pain to try and tear open.  The next time you slice your finger with a Sabatier knife while experimenting with a new culinary dish, try and stem the flow of blood on your left index finger with a finger and thumb on your right hand while tring to extricate the individually wrapped band-aid from its wrapper with your toes.  You are better off with a box of fabric dressings that come loose (unwrapped) in a fixed size that will work for most wounds that need a band-aid.  If they are too large for a small cut, so be it.  After the bleeding stops it can be swapped for a smaller prettier one that allows you to type about your unfortunate accident in a blog.  If it needs a bigger band-aid, then it's probably deep enough to warrant sutures, in which case you apply a dressing while being taken to the ER.

Remember, a first-aid kit should be for emergencies, not a fully stocked medical cabinet.  You can keep the pretty band-aids in the medical cabinet for later application after the emergency has been addressed using the essentials in the kit.

If you are a keen gardener or handyman who uses loads of power tools, then you really need some quite large dressings for the time you hack off the tip of your finger with the electric hedge trimmers or plunge router.  You also need a couple of bottles of purified water to wash out sawdust, workshop grime, or garden soil.

You will usually find "eye patch dressings" in first aid kits in a workplace, and often in domestic ones.  The only difference between an eye dressing and a standard field dressing is that the eye dressing most often the padded part isn't as fluffy as a standard dressing.  If somebody gets a sharp piece of machine swarf or a sliver of wood in their eye, it's an ER job so it doesn't matter what the dressing looks like or how well it fits and ties off behing the head.  The object is to prevent further contaminants from entering the eye, to try and restrict the blinking a bit, and to stem any bleeding, it is not to try and emulate a character from Pirates of the Caribbean - unless of course a radial saw also severed the injured party's lower leg at the same time in which case your first aid kit should also include a stuffed parrot and some pieces of eight.

If a wound is serious enough to need a large dressing, any pad will do.  In one of my previous public service jobs I bashed open the sanitary pad dispenser in the ladies toilet of a night club to use one as a dressing for a severe laceration until the abbulance arrived.

Most household accidents are fairly minor and involve grazes, minor cuts, splinters of wood in fingers, and joint trauma.  Tweezers are a helpful addition, as are scissors to cut dressings and band-aids.  Antiseptic cream is useful for minor grazes and cuts, and so are insect sting cream and antihistamine tablets.   Those bags that you squeeze and the crystals inside quickly get very cold are quite handy to apply to a twisted joint while away from the home (eg. a car first aid kit), but normally a home would have a tea towel and a bag of frozen peas to apply and it works just as well.

A first aid kit in a public place or a workplace will often have a sheet of rubbery platic with a non-return valve in the middle.  This would be used to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and prevents the patient puking or bleeding into your mouth and forms a barrier against communicable diseases.  This is quite obviously unnecessary in a domestic environment where you would most often be saving the life of a family member or friend, and what's a little bit of vomit between relatives compared with sustaining and saving their lives?  If you had a first aid kit in your car and felt that you may someday be the only person around to perform such life saving practice on a total stranger, then feel free to include one.  I can tell you from experience though, that the time wasted in trying to locate it in the kit and test which direction the valve allows air to pass through might well negate its use.  If you are first aid trained and inclined on saving the lives of total strangers at a moment's notice, carry one folded into its little container on your belt or in your pocket.

Most first aid kits of old used to contain alcohol swabs, but they have been replaced by alcohol-free sterile swabs.  They are great for minor cuts and grazes, but try sticking a band-aid to the damp surrounding skin.  You introduce more germs by trying to dry the skin to apply the band-aid with something else than you would by using an alcohol swab and telling the patient to prepare for the stinging that the alcohol causes to a fresh wound.  Don't waste your time trying to clean a large wound if you are within an hour from medical assistance.

Safety pins to hold the trailing end of a dressing in place are a waste of time in an emergency situation.  Just tie the ends.  Ambulance personnel and ER professionals always carry scissors to cut the knot off.  They are useful, however, for those stretchy "crêpe bandages" (known as "conforming" bandages) that are used for supporting a sprained joint pending medical assistance.

It goes without saying that if any family members have a severe allergy that may require adrenaline injections to control anaphylactic shock, or who use a relieving inhaler for asthma, or who have diabetes and may need an insulin injection or a quick dose of glucose, then provision should always be made to carry spares in the first aid kit for those eventualities.

I mentioned a "medical cabinet" earlier.  A domestic first aid kit is for emergency situations and follow-on treatments can be sourced from the medical cabinet.  When travelling, however, you would normally add a few of those "medical cabinet" items to your absolute emergency first aid kit, but don't confuse the first aid kit in your car with a survival kit.   I know that a lot of first aid kits contain those thin foil "blankets" for times when a patient may go into shock or to wrap somebody in after they fell into a cold river, but that is something that could more easily be packed into a survival kit along with a forehead flashlight in the car rather than taking up unnecessary space in the first aid kit.  I've seen gimmicky first aid kits with a flashlight and flashing beacon in the handle, but I wonder how many people would actually check the battery status of such a first aid box in the trunk of the car at regular intervals, and the light probably wouldn't work when most needed anyway.

I've seen old first aid kits with thermometers in them.  If you are a trained first aider it is important to know a patient's temperature to assess shock, hypothermia, and severity of blood loss, but a shivering patient would bite through an oral thermometer and using it rectally might be a bit invasive and personal if the patient is a stranger.  You can get plasticky strips that show the temperature visually as different colours and they are very cheap.

Disposable plastic/latex gloves?  Who are they there to protect?  Really?  The patient against infection, or you from blood, sputum, and vomit?  Your patient could die from blood loss as you rip open the packet and then try to get one finger into each finger of the glove only to realise that you are putting the right one on your left hand.  It is always good practice to carry hand sanitiser in a car, so if you ended up with the aforementioned stuff on your hands because you didn't have time to put gloves on, you can sanitise them afterwards.

I always carry plastic pedal bin liners in the first aid kit in my car and in my home.  They are excellent for covering severe burns after cooling them in water to protect from bacteria and can be used to cover a patient who is lying out in the rain.  They are also useful as seat covers in times when you have queasy and gurgling bowels and are worried about whether you may be caught in a traffic jam on the way home.

You should always carry jump leads in case you encounter somebody in cardiac arrest ;-)

I hope you don't find my very general advice too flippant.  The thing to bear in mind is that I have saved lives in emergency situations and have sadly also lost some, so I can speak from experience.
Bill has given you a thorough answer and I simply went to Google and entered the search term: Best first aid kit it gave a drop down list. On the list were:
a. for car
b. for hiking
c. for home

When you consider a first aid kit think of when and where you might need one. If you are away from your home and your car you might need one. The results above suggest that when you find a good one you may need to consider buying at least two (home and car) and hopefully if you need one during a hiking trip or nature trail you could take the one from the car with you or go ahead and buy three. Sure as the world if you buy one for a certain setting you'll end up needing one at another setting. And everyone should have one in their car. You might need one yourself or others in an accident might need your help where your car first aid kit could be of some value in a non life threatening situation or possibly be the only medical supplies at the scene until emergency personnel get there.
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Hello and Good Morning Everyone,

            I apologize for failing to mention this, but, the first-aid kit will be for home use as opposed to any business or commercial application.  Basically, the desired first-aid kit will be whatever the average house hold keeps around for minor things such as scratches, minor cuts, minor burns. etc.  


Scratches, grazes and minor cuts - In the UK the most common household antiseptic / disinfectant liquid has always been "Dettol".  Diluted with water it turns milky and is ideal for washing a graze, scratch, or minor cut.   Applied neat it would sting like hell, but would disinfect anything.  If you have something similar in the house then you don't need anything else in the first aid kit, but there are antiseptic sprays that are useful and would save you rummaging around under the kitchen sink or bathroom cabinet while trying to hold tissues over a bleeding cut.  Antiseptic cream can be applied to the wound on a band-aid or dressing.

Band-Aids in several sizes are a must for household first-aid kits.  Get a few dressings in different sizes.  A very useful type of "sticking plaster" to get (they cost a bit more) are the type often used to cover post-operative holes left from Laparoscopy (keyhole surgery) procedures.  They come in a few sizes and comprise clear slightly rubbery membranes that have strong adhesive around the edges but have a non-adhesive see-through section in the centre.  They are square or rectangular with rounded corners so that they don't peel off as readily as normal band-aids, are waterproof, and have the benefit of allowing you to see the healing process.  They can also be used with a fibre pad if they are likely to stick to the wound beneath.  Unfortunately I can't recall the brand names that I have had before, but I am seeing Tegaderm and Hypafix when I do a search for "transparent film dressings".  As far as I am aware these are useful for very minor burns also.

For minor scrapes there are products that can be sprayed or painted onto the wound and forms a barrier that allows the wound to begin healing.  Search for "liquid bandage".  This is usually a polymer dissolved in a solvent and sometimes has antiseptic and local anesthetic added.  Don't be tempted to try and superglue cuts as they do in the minor wounds departments of hospital ERs.  If it is bad enough to superglue it probably needs stitches or at the very least "butterfly stitches" or "Steristrip dressings".  I keep some of these in my car and home first aid kits simply because I would rather treat my own wounds than catch MRSA in the local ER, but pulling a wound together and applying steristrip dressings isn't for the faint hearted.

As far as standard wound dressings are concerned, you need some that are large enough to wrap around a finger or thumb and others that would be useful for something like a larger gash on the palm of your hand, forearm, or shin.  Anything larger than that takes you into the realms of severe trauma, in which case it would require a large pad held onto the wound with pressure and that can be done with a tea towel, a bathroom towel, or anything else that is immediately at hand.

Burns are more difficult to handle.  Running cold water over the area of the burn is by far the best way to apply first aid, but then you have the issue of the large blister that follows.  This shouldn't be burst to drain the pus because the clear liquid that builds up will attack and kill off any bacteria.  It's a case of covering it until it dries out.  If a blister does burst, then antiseptic cream on a dressing should stop bacteria from entering the raw area under the blister.  Never smother burns or scalds with anything from the "old wives tales" book of medical hacks.  If a burn is bad enough that you aren't sure how to treat it, then have it inspected at ER or by a GP, it's that simple.

Anything else I can think of are things that I have in my bathroom cabinet, such as rubbing alcohol for disinfecting surrounding areas before applying band-aids, thermometer, painkillers, tweezers with magnifying glass, scissors, and so on.


Thank you very much everyone for your thorough suggestions and tips.  Everything mentioned here certainly makes sense.  Normally, I have a follow-up question or two, but, this time I do not due to the comprehensive and thorough feedback given by Bill.

Great job, everyone, and thanks once again :-)



Just out of curiosity Bill, are you a doctor?  The reason I ask is because of the advanced knowledge you have about first-aid procedures.

No George, I wish I could say that I earn even 1/10th of a doctor's salary.  To satisfy your curiosity though, I once worked in a front-line "public service" job where I gained quite a lot of practical first aid experience, especially during the time that the National Health Service ambulance drivers went on strike here in the UK during the late 80s and non-paramedics like me had to ferry casualties to hospital ERs using Ford Transit vans.  There's a major difference between "resuscitating" the unresponsive cold rubber torso of a "Resusci Annie" mannequin on the carpeted floor in a warm classroom (whoops, can't use that expression now as everything must be gender-neutral)  and battling to try and save the life of a real person on a cold hard surface in the dark and in the rain or snow while onlookers gasp in feigned shock but still gawk.  I would hazard a guess that not many of the "experts" who teach first aid in those warm carpeted and well-lit classrooms have had practical experience of that nature.

My Father had a large hard-back book when he was a teenager and attended The Boys' Brigade.  That "Boys' Brigade Book of First Aid" must have been printed around 1947 and as a kid I used to marvel at the black and white photos showing an unfortunate volunteer neatly strapped up in every conceivable kind of bandage, dressing, splint, and sling for the purposes of illustrative learning.  By contrast I would hazard a guess that the people who wrote that book and strapped up the volunteer probably had some first-hand experience with major trauma (at home or abroad) during WWII and were possibly even medically qualified.

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