Having a first aid kit on hand during an emergency can be a lifesaver, which explains why they’ve been around for more than 130 years, since the “first-aid cabinet” debuted in 1888. And although the essentials within have changed over time, the kits are just as handy as ever.
Is your first aid kit equipped with everything you need to handle an emergency? If you’re unsure, it’s time to take stock. Read on for five essential items you need to include in your first aid kit—and potentially save yourself a visit to the ER.
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Given that the global use of smartphones is expected to reach 6.8 billion users by 2023, it’s surprising that portable phone chargers aren’t an essential item in most first aid kits. Say you’re out in the bush or on a mountain trail when suddenly you have an emergency on your hands—but your phone battery is dead. A portable phone charger enables you to recharge your smartphone in case the unexpected occurs, allowing you to call or text for help, flick on a flashlight, or use GPS tracking to navigate your way back to safety. Don’t hesitate to include two or more of these in your bag, in case one loses its charge.
We’ve all used duct tape in ways outside its intended design (duct tape wallet, anyone?), but who knew this household staple could be a helpful addition to a first aid kit? Surprisingly, duct tape can be used in several ingenious ways during an emergency. It can be used as a sling, a splint for broken bones, a bandage for bleeding wounds, to help remove splinters, and even to help prevent frostbite. So next time you’re packing your first aid kit, toss in a roll of duct tape. You never know when it’ll come in handy.
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If you or your child have ever suffered a severe allergic reaction, you may already carry an EpiPen with you at all times. EpiPen is the brand name of an auto-injectable device that delivers the drug epinephrine—a medication used when someone goes into anaphylaxis (a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction). When an anaphylactic emergency arises, whether from food or an insect bite, your immune system goes into shock, and you may have only a few minutes to administer epinephrine. Therefore, neglecting to include an EpiPen in your first aid kit could be fatal.
“One thing I always end up adding to a first-aid kit is an EpiPen,” says Drea Burbank, MD, CEO at Savimbo. “[This could] literally save your life out in the field, unlike most cuts and bruises which are scary, but not ultimately life-threatening.”
Super glue is more than a junk drawer item that only gets busted out when one of the kids breaks a vase. According to the Mayo Clinic, keeping super glue in your first aid kit is a wise decision, since it’s similar to the glue used by emergency responders. Super glue is a painless, non-intrusive adhesive that can close up more minor surface lacerations that don’t require stitches. (Just avoid picking at the glue after it’s applied, as this can cause the wound to reopen.)
“Medical super glue can work wonders to get a smaller cut or laceration to close and stop bleeding, at least until it can be looked at by a professional,” explains Janice Johnston, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Co-Founder of Redirect Health. “People commonly forget that medical super glue exists, and [instead] opt for bandages to stop bleeding.”
Your household super glue may not be the best option, however. Johnston cautions that regular super glue has harmful chemicals that can be damaging to the skin. “It’s important to use medical-grade super glue to include in your first aid kit,” states Johnston.
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If you’ve ever had an eyelash stuck in your eyelid, you know how uncomfortable it can be to have a foreign object glued to your eyeball. Now imagine getting dirt or a piece of wood in your eye while in a remote location away from a sink. Without the convenience of running water that we’re all accustomed to, including a squeeze bottle of cleansing eyewash in your first aid kit is a no-brainer. You’ll be able to squirt a steady stream of water into your eye and flush out the discomfort in no time. Just be sure to use a cleansing solution designed specifically for the eyes.
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you’re taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.