Jun 07, 2020

The Essential Supplies You May Not Have Known You Needed for your First Aid Kit and Medicine Cabinet

By Joyce Venezia Suss

When your head hurts or you have a toothache, you need pain relievers. If you think your child has a fever, a thermometer is essential. Now, more than ever, it’s important to have a well-stocked medicine cabinet and first aid kit. In the early days of the recent pandemic, many people had trouble finding basics like thermometers and medications for cold/flu symptoms. Lessons learned – be prepared!

Here are recommendations for basic supplies, with more details for special items needed for children, and a mobile kit for your vehicle.


The Absolute Basics

Every location should have first aid supplies and general medications. This includes your home, office, dorm room or a vacation kit for travel. Basic items include:

  • Adhesive bandages in various sizes and shapes
  • Antibiotic ointment or cream (Neosporin, etc.)
  • Antiseptic solution like hydrogen peroxide
  • Pain-relieving medications (Tylenol, Advil, etc.)
  • Antacids like Tums, for indigestion
  • Anti-diarrheal medications (Imodium, Pepto-Bismol, etc.)
  • Digital thermometer and probe covers
  • Tweezers for splinters and ticks
  • Rubbing alcohol for sterilizing wounds and first aid items
  • Gauze pads for cleaning abrasions and wounds, and non-adhesive pads or gauze rolls for covering wounds, using adhesive tape
  • Aloe vera and/or Vaseline for minor burns
  • Cough syrup and/or cough drops for sore throats
  • Decongestants for colds or allergies
  • Antihistamines (including non-drowsy varieties) for allergic reactions or itchy conditions. If appropriate, an Epi-Pen for those who get severe reactions.
  • Calamine lotion to relieve itching
  • Non-latex exam gloves
  • Baby aspirin, for heart attack or stroke symptoms


Add these items to cover even more health or emergency issues:

  • Elastic ace bandages for minor strains and sprains
  • Safety pins in various sizes to close bandages
  • Cotton balls and cotton swabs
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Hot/cold packs
  • Absorbent compress pads to stop bleeding (sanitary napkins also work well)
  • Moleskin for blisters
  • Eye drops, to wash away irritants
  • Activated charcoal for accidental poisoning
  • Scissors
  • Saline spray, for nasal congestion
  • CPR pocket mask, to safely give rescue breathing


Add these to a kit for your vehicle or vacations, especially if traveling in remote areas:

  • A supply of personal medications
  • Antiseptic wipes and hand sanitizer
  • First aid guide, in case you are out of internet range
  • Non-perishable food like granola bars
  • Flashlight or glow sticks
  • Blanket (lightweight space blankets made of Mylar hold in heat)
  • Hats and gloves
  • Cigarette lighter, for sterilizing instruments or to start a campfire
  • Sanitary napkins and/or diapers
  • Triangular bandage, for a sling or tourniquet


More Recommendations

If you already have supplies, it’s important to check that none are missing or broken. Make sure medications and ointments have not expired or are empty. Every six months is recommended.

If you have children, your medications must include child/infant versions, including a syringe for administering them.

Medications must always be kept out of the reach of children.

Ironically, the medicine cabinet in your bathroom is not the best location, because humidity reduces the shelf life of many items.

Already-stocked first aid kits are available at pharmacies and online. Some are designed for specific activities such as hiking or boating.

At work, find the location of your first aid kit, in case of future emergency.

When in doubt about any illness or injury, call a doctor. If it’s serious or critical, call 911.

Consider taking a Red Cross first aid training class, either in person or online.

For basic first aid care, the Mayo Clinic has free online information to guide you through a variety of scenarios.