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    How to Build an Emergency First Aid Kit from Scratch

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    How to Build an Emergency First Aid Kit from Scratch

    A Comprehensive Guide to Assembling a “Total” First-Aid Kit.

    It’s standard practice for many people to assemble a 72-hour bug out bag. Part of that bag always includes a small first aid kit. But there’s a problem. It’s small, and while it can deal with most simple cuts, scrapes, and minor burns, it’s mostly a collection of bandages, ointment, and maybe some medical tape.

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    The medical challenges that many people can face in a dire emergency or the collapse of the supply chain can be severe. This is especially true if stores are shuttered or destroyed by a natural or manmade disaster. And if you think about it, we often don’t follow through on stockpiling medical supplies the way we might stockpile food or other supplies.

    Serious Times Call for Serious Planning

    There are many injuries and illnesses that require significantly more than a bottle of aspirin and a box of Band-Aids:

    • Severe second and third-degree burns
    • Deep wounds
    • Severely sprained or broken limbs
    • Injuries to the eyes
    • Poisoning
    • Allergic reactions
    • Skin conditions from bee stings to sunburn to fungal infections

    It’s unfortunate and quite possible that you or someone in your family may end up with one or more of these conditions. Our typical response is to rush them to an urgent care facility or hospital emergency room. But if you’re on your own and there are no doctors or dentists to turn to, you’ll want to have the equipment and supplies you need.

    Don’t Forget to Pack Some Knowledge

    Now’s the time to do your homework by exploring first aid subjects on the Internet and carefully assembling a small library of medical books for future reference. In dire circumstances, you may not have Internet access, but you’ll always have your books. Don’t forget to read them first as part of your homework.

    Here are some good titles and Internet links worth considering.

    First Aid Books to Consider:

    Internet Resources to Explore:

    As you continue to learn more about the treatment of various medical conditions, you will probably start to add supplies and equipment to your kit. That’s the best way to assemble a complete and total first aid kit, but we’ll cover a checklist to get you started.

    You might also want to consider attending some first aid classes at your local community college or local chapter of the Red Cross.

    Bundling Your First Aid Kit

    Before we cover the list of equipment and supplies, you need to think about the situations you may encounter in an emergency. It would be nice to collect all of your equipment and supplies in a dedicated cabinet at home, and you probably should. But you also have to think about mobility.

    That’s why so many of the pre-packed first aid kits available on the Internet come in backpacks. It’s the grab-and-go mentality that drives this approach.

    You could assume that you’ll have time to pack, but there may be many other things to do before you go. That’s why you should pre-pack your backpack so that all you need to add are your prescription meds and any other items you might need for your medical condition if any.

    The best backpacks have multiple compartments. You should also think about bundling materials in stuff sacks. This will make it much easier to find the things you need in a medical emergency. The way you pack or stuff supplies into sacks should be driven by medical conditions.

    Here’s one way to think about it in terms of compartmentalizing specific supplies and equipment:

    • Burn kit and other supplies needed to administer first aid to someone with severe burns
    • Wound care including a suture kit and the supplies needed to deal with wounds from the simplest to the more severe
    • OTC meds
    • Prescription meds
    • Supplies for sprained or broken limbs
    • Dental kit
    • Eye care kit with eye-specific meds
    • Supplies for poisoning and allergic reactions
    • Supplies for various skin conditions
    • Vital signs equipment
    • Supplies for specialized conditions like diabetes if needed

    Clearly Label Compartments and Stuff Sacks

    Don’t depend on your memory to identify contents. In an emergency, you may feel a bit panicked and could be easily frustrated. Use a marker to label bags so you'll know the contents.

    You could also consider color coding to flag the severity of a condition. Pack supplies for treating severe burns in a red stuff sack, supplies for treating a skin condition like a bee sting in a yellow stuff sack, and supplies for treating a dental condition in a green stuff sack. We all know what those three colors from a traffic signal, and it could help you to quickly narrow your search as you root through your first aid backpack.

    First Aid Checklist

    Wound Care



    Sprained or Broken Limbs

    Eye Care

    Dental First Aid

    Allergic Reactions

    Skin Conditions

    Vital Signs

    Over-The-Counter (OTC) Medicines

    Prescription Medicines

    • Amoxicillin or Cipro for infections
    • NORCO for pain
    • Medicines for anyone with chronic conditions
    • Insulin if Diabetes plus glucose test kit
    • High-blood pressure meds like Lisinopril
    • Blood thinners like Plavix
    • Epinephrine for severe allergic reactions
    • Diuretics like Bumetanide

    Slowly Build Your First Aid Kit

    It could be quite expensive to try and assemble all of these items at the same time, but if you consistently add to your kit over time you can make steady progress. You can also buy one of the pre-packed kits to get started and add to it as you go.

    The most important thing is to have the knowledge of how to use your first aid supplies so that when needed – you’re ready. Here are some articles to get you started:

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