Friday, March 07, 2014

How to Make a First Aid Kit

First of all, this is going to be a HUGE post, and I'm sorry for that.  Second, I am not a medical professional: any suggestions you find here should not be taken as medical advice.  I will not be responsible for your safety.

With those two notes out of the way, let's dive in to my massive first aid kit (known as a FAK from here on).
 We (The Man and I) purchased all of these items after hours of research and months of here-and-there buying.  Though links are included to specific items below, we are not endorsing any particular brand unless noted and are not paid for the endorsements.  We purchased every item ourselves with our own funds.  This kit was not built in a day, and it is still a work in progress.  We had always wanted to have a fairly extensive FAK, and after my mom broke her arm at our house last spring, we hatched this bird.  Never again will we be without splinting material, a triangular bandage, or instant cold packs.


Plano 787, removed two 2-3701 and replaced them with one 2-3780.  Both 2-3601 are unused as well, and I plan to replace them with a 2-3630-01.  The thin stowaway boxes just don't hold much in a FAK, so replacing them with deeper boxes makes sense.  (We have used the thin stowaway boxes for craft supplies instead.)  Fully-loaded, the FAK weighs almost exactly 20 pounds--13 of which is just the boxes.  While we wouldn't want to haul it through a marathon, it is easy for a normal person to transport reasonable distances.  We purposely grouped all of the major trauma supplies in one stowaway box so that a person could grab that and run quickly.  We store this in our master bathroom on the back edge of the tub.  Yes, it is huge.  Yes, it is an eyesore.  But we're potentially saving lives here, not winning decorating contests.

FAK CONTENT STORAGE: How is this stuff organized?

Back of kit: face masks, large ACE wrap that holds an ice pack

Top flaps: gloves (two gloves per small baggie), trauma shears, ACE wrap, cohesive wrap, hand sanitizer

Top lift-up-lid: oral medications, cough drops (currently missing), waterproof tape, tweezers, pen light, paper, pencil, CPR mask, VapoRub

2-3650: ThermaCare hot pad, Cold packs, thermometers and covers, Vicks inhalers

2-3780: Tegederm and Steristrips (under splint), SAM splint, blood pressure cuff, triangular bandage, Biofreeze, burn gel, eye wash, ear drops, nasal spray, contact-safe eye rewetting drops

2-3750: sanitary napkins, non-stick gauze in both 2x3 and 3x4, gauze in two brands of 2x3, gauze rolls in 2" and 4", jumbo Band-Aids, blister Band-Aids, Blistop spray, gloves, alcohol wipes, wet wipes

2-3701: assorted Band-Aids (including cartoon bandages, butterfly closures, and antibacterial bandages), antibiotic and anti-itch creams, more Neo To Go, more gloves, alcohol wipes, wet wipes


For aches and pains, these are the Big Three in my kit.  We don't have any Aspirin.  The Man prefers Ibuprofen for headaches and sore muscles, and I'm solidly in the Naproxen camp for my pain needs--Ibuprofen makes me feel horrible.  We have Acetaminophen for fevers or when our two NSAIDs aren't working well enough (read more about that here).  Our big bottles are Kirkland brand generics for Tylenol, Advil, and Aleve (left to right), and they'll definitely expire before we finish them.  Neither of us has a problem using slightly outdated painkillers, so we'll probably still use them up to two years after the expiration date.

The rest of our non-prescription medication includes generic Benadryl (used for both allergies and as a sleep aid), Uricalm (for when you want to urinate a flaming napalm orange color), cold medications, anti-diarrheal pills and laxative powder (the nice kind that works slowly).  We also keep some heartburn stuff around just in case.  Most of these are generics that we purchased at our local stores.

The CPR mask is always right on top in our kit.  It comes with gloves and alcohol prep pads right in that hard white case.  The tweezers are self-explanatory.  Paper and a pencil come in very handy to write down notes in an emergency.  The penlight helps to light up wounds or look in ears or check pupil reactions (but don't shine this LED directly into eyes--it's SUPER bright!!!).

We've got hot and cold stuff: the crushable cold packs are much nicer than bags of ice or unsanitary bags of frozen veggies.  The ThermaCare pad is pretty old, but they are more convenient than a hot pad sometimes.  We have two thermometers and plenty of probe covers for them.  The BioFreeze is like IcyHot but has zero smell and lasts much, much longer.  Blistop is sort of a liquid bandage that works well over rugburns.  The waterproof tape is very old (and frankly, I hate it), but it works.  I plan to replace it with breathable tape very soon.  The little lip balm looking thing is a Vicks VapoInhaler that we call "nose candy" when we get colds--so incredibly useful for opening clogged nasal passages.  Lastly, the moleskin is in the FAK because there isn't another place to put it in our bathroom.  Mind the blisters, ouch!

Need a cream or salve?  We put antibiotic ointment, anti-itch cream, burn gel, and IcyHot in our kit.  The eye wash, nasal spray, and ear drops all help mucous passages.  The SAM splint is a radiolucent splint that can be used anywhere on the body.  The blood pressure cuff is more practical day-to-day to monitor blood pressure, but it doesn't hurt to have one in the FAK. I picked up the triangular bandages online from an unlikely source, but most items were picked up at our local stores.

We're getting to the end with some random items now.  Those scissors will cut through seriously thick denim without a second thought, but they are blunt so they won't jab skin.  We have really nice face masks that conform nicely to the face.  Hand sanitizer can be applied to sanitize almost anything, but it is best kept to hands.  We do have a bulb syringe (comes with ear drops), waterproof tape, an ooooold ACE bandage, and some stretch-to-stick tape (also known as cohesive wrap).  The blue nitrile gloves are stored two per baggie and are kept in EVERY box in our FAK because you don't ever want to be caught without gloves.  They didn't come sterile in the box, but I did keep everything very clean as I was putting them into these baggies, so they're as clean as can be reasonably expected from not-sterile-in-the-first-place gloves.

Lastly, wound care.  Let me just say that what you see above is only the tip of our Band-Aid iceberg!  With my cuticle picking habit and complete lack of coordination, we go through a lot of Band-Aids.  I'm being specific here with the brand because we've tried lots of "bandages" over the years, and we have realized we're both very comfortable being total Band-Aid snobs.  They just work better--in our opinion.  We also have several types of both non-stick and traditional gauze, plus two sizes of gauze rolls.  Tegederm, SteriStrips, two versions of Neosporin, alcohol wipes, antiseptic towelettes, and sanitary napkins round out our wound care kit.

And if you're laughing at the inclusion of sanitary napkins, well, lemme tell ya: they were invented by Benjamin Franklin for bullet wounds.  "Pads," as they are commonly known, or "supplies" when I need to write them on a shopping list, are MUCH cheaper than real gauze sponges, and they're sterile.  Seriously.  Including them in a FAK is like putting them in their proper home.  Tampons wouldn't hurt in here either.


A few items aren't shown in the images above.  We purposely left out all personal medications.  We keep these in a different location as neither of us have required medications (Zyrtec isn't necessary for my survival, and neither are vitamins or probiotics).  We keep large bottles of rubbing alcohol (99%) and Hydrogen peroxide under the bathroom sink with our other duplicates and extras.  Our cotton swabs and cotton pads are right on the bathroom counter.  It isn't that we don't have these items, people, they just didn't fit in the FAK.


Before you comment below that we're missing this or that, please know that we're always looking to add to our kit in reasonable and productive ways.  We know that we don't have any QuikClot or Celox.  We know we don't have a dental kit or suture kit.  We also don't have an Epi-pen or any antibiotics, a stethoscope, any airway devices, battle dressings, goggles, or aprons.


There is one other important thing to note about having a huge first aid kit: knowledge.  The Man and I know how to use every single item in our kit.  We have both taken CPR-AC courses in the past, and we're actively working to increase our knowledge in this field.

So there you have it.  Our FAK.  Well, our BIG FAK.  We have smaller versions in both of our cars, a wound kit in the kitchen, and mini-kits in our backpacks that we carry every day.  We have a camping-specific kit as well that stays in our camping supplies so we never forget it.  I might do another post about those kits someday.  For now, this is it.

WANT TO DIY?  I've set up an Amazon Wish List with ALL of the items above.  You can purchase this whole kit in one very expensive ($650!) click.  Note that some of these items are definitely available cheaper in local stores (no way we paid more than $250 all said and done), but if you're strapped for time and not cash, here you go: Jaggy's BIG FAK.  And please consider using the Amazon Smile program while you shop--free to use and you donate to charity at the same time!

1 comment:

Dr. Weirdbeard said...

Here's some missing things that are easy to add:

- Get some red reflective tape and some silver reflective tape. Cut and assemble so you have a silver cross in red field, or vice versa. Stick it on your kit. If you and a visitor are at home and something happens to you, you can tell them 'look for the big box with a first aid symbol'. Also, the reflective material makes it easy to find in the dark.

- I was looking at military name plates and stuff yesterday, and noticed that they have plates listing blood types. It may be worthy to affix a sticker with each of your names and your blood types.