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A First-Aid Kit Checklist

How you can help during a health emergency.

Adapted from CDC information

You don’t have to be a health care provider to help someone in the midst of a health emergency. You don’t need special certification, either – although training in things like cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) use is extremely useful. Having the right supplies close at hand will allow you to assist someone in crisis until professional help arrives.

First-aid kit Contents

The following information, adapted from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) blog post, offers a guideline for the kinds of items that a well-stocked and well-maintained first-aid kit should have. They are based on American Red Cross recommendations for a family of four, but can easily be scaled up for workplace use.

Ideally, first-aid kits should be placed at key points throughout a facility, for easy access – and everyone who regularly spends time in those areas should be notified about the locations. For every four people in your household or workplace, stock the kits with:

  • Well-stocked first-aid kits should be placed at key points throughout a facility, for easy access. © rgillen –

    2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)

  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
  • 1 emergency blanket
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  • 1 instant cold compress
  • 2 pairs of non-latex gloves (size: large)
  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets
  • 1 3-inch gauze roll (roller) bandage
  • 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
  • 5 3 x 3-inch sterile gauze pads
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  • A thermometer (non-mercury/non-glass)
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • Tweezers

Note: There are a number of companies who offer ready-made first-aid kits especially designed for industrial workplaces and specific industries.

It is important to perform regular maintenance on your first-aid kit. Remove, throw away, or use and replace any supplies before they expire. Set a calendar reminder on your smartphone to update the supplies in your kit every six months and/or as the healthcare needs of your workforce or family change.

Customize Your Kit

Certain employees or family members may have specific needs, which should also be addressed in a first-aid kit. For example:

Allergies: If someone has a severe allergy, include antihistamine medicine and an epinephrine injector. Antihistamines treat allergy symptoms. For first aid use, they are available as pills, chewable tablets, capsules, liquids, nasal sprays, and eye drops. Epinephrine injection is used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions caused by insect bites or stings, foods, medications, latex, and other causes. It is injected as needed at the first sign of a serious allergic reaction.

Diabetes: If there are people with diabetes on staff or in your family, include a juice box, glucose tablets and gels, and an emergency glucagon injection kit. These are used when a diabetic suffers an insulation reaction and experiences very low blood sugar levels.

Heart Disease: Chewable baby aspirin might help someone who has coronary artery disease, provided the person is not allergic to aspirin. The American Heart Association says to not give aspirin before calling 911; it will not treat a heart attack by itself and is not recommended for someone who has suffered a stroke. The 911 operator – based on information you provide – may recommend an aspirin. If not, it may be administered by the emergency medical technicians or emergency department physicians, if called for.

Write the Building Address on the Kit

If you do need to call 911 for assistance, a simple bit of preparation will ensure that help reaches you as quickly as possible. During an emergency, it might be difficult to remember the address of a large warehouse or manufacturing facility. Having the address written on the outside of the kit itself can give users a handy location reference for 911 dispatchers. Also tell them which entrance to use, and post someone at that entrance who can guide them to the affected person right away. These steps are especially important in very large facilities with multiple entrances.

First Aid as a Practical Skill

A first-aid kit is a tool, but any tool is only as good as the person using it. There are ways to prepare for emergencies that have nothing to do with collecting supplies. They include learning practical skills that you can use to protect yourself and others. Many of these are easy to learn. Some require special certification or formal training. Practical skills include learning how to:

  • Perform hands-only CPR
  • Operate an AED
  • Apply a tourniquet and control bleeding
  • Administer seizure first aid
  • Use the contents of a first-aid kit

First-Aid Training

First-aid training is widely available, from a number of companies and organizations. It can be done in a classroom, on-site, or virtually, although skills like CPR and AED use are best practiced in a real-world setting.

Family, friends, coworkers, and bystanders — not first responders — are often first on the scene in a medical emergency. Having as many people trained in first-aid skills as possible will increase the chances that the individual who has suffered an injury or another type of health emergency will have a positive outcome. A good first-aid kit and the practical skill to use it can help you save someone’s life. WMHS

This article was adapted from the CDC blog, “Must Haves for Your First-Aid Kit,” originally published May 13, 2021. Read the blog at:

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