An organised and properly stocked first aid kit can give you peace of mind in a medical emergency. Being prepared could help you save a life.
Doing a first aid course is recommended to give you the knowledge and skills to provide capable first aid assistance.
Buying a first aid kit is a convenient option.
First aid kits are sold in different shapes and sizes and for different uses.
A basic first aid kit checklist
You can customise your first aid kit depending on the activities you do. A basic first aid kit checklist might include:
- crepe bandages of varying widths
- hypoallergenic (skin) tape
- triangular bandages
- adhesive dressing strips (such as bandaids) in different sizes
- gauze swabs
- combine dressing pads (10cm x 10cm)
- non stick dressing pads (7.5cm x 10cm)
- sterile eye pad
- alcohol swabs
- stainless steel scissors (sharp/blunt) 12.5cm
- disposable gloves
- stainless steel pointed splinter forceps (tweezers)
- shock (thermal) blanket
- safety pins
- notepad and permanent marker
- sterile saline tubes/sachets
- disposable resuscitation face shield
- antiseptic skin swabs
- stop itch cream
- first aid booklet.
How do I customise my kit?
Once you have assembled a basic first aid kit, you can customise it according to its intended use. For example, if it is:
- for use at home, add extra items according to the number of people in your home and their age, such as thick crepe bandages if you have older children who play sport or for use as a pressure immobilisation bandage
- for the car or caravan, add a highly reflective (day/night) safety triangle and vest as you may be near a road and traffic
- for camping, add heavy crepe bandages, instant cold packs, disposable poncho, plastic bags, whistle, compass, torch and glow stick
- for use on a boat, add a disposable poncho, plastic bags, whistle and glow stick. If you are boating in waters where marine stingers are present, include vinegar to pour over potential stings
- for babies, add extra items such as a digital thermometer, basic pain reliever medications (such as paracetamol or ibuprofen) and plastic syringes for accurate dosing
- for known medical conditions, add extra items, such as medicines and or equipment you normally use to manage the condition.
When you have gathered all of the items for your first aid kit, it’s time to buy a bag or container to keep them in. It doesn’t have to be expensive or designed especially for first aid supplies, but it should be:
- large enough to contain all of the necessary items
- identifiable as a first aid kit
- made of material that protects the contents from dust, moisture and contamination.
Where should I keep my first aid kit?
Keep your first aid kit in a safe, dry and accessible place, and make sure everyone in your family knows where it is. First aid kits for cars, caravans or boats should be secured so they don’t become ‘projectiles’.
How do I use the items in my first aid kit?
You must know how to use the items in your first aid kit before you need them.
- combine dressing pads cover and pack bleeding wounds
- non-adherent dressings cover wounds and burns
- shock blankets help manage body temperature
- crepe bandages provide light support for sprains and strains
- heavy crepe bandages immobilise joints and provide support
- triangular bandages can be used as a sling to immobilise injured limbs, or as a pad to control bleeding or protect injuries
- disposable resuscitation face shields provide personal protection during mouth to mouth resuscitation
- sterile saline tubes or sachets are used to flush debris from eyes and clean minor cuts and grazes.
If you are not sure what the items in your first aid kit are used for, you can:
- read your first aid booklet
- take your first aid kit to a pharmacy and ask the staff for advice
- take a first aid course.
How do I maintain my first aid kit?
Well-maintained first aid kits are always ready to use. Make sure you:
- replace items as soon as possible after they are used
- check the kit after each use or if not used, then once every 12 months
- check that items are in good working order, have not deteriorated and within their expiry date. Ensure that sterile items are still sealed.
Should I do a first aid course?
Yes. The best way to know how to use the items in your first aid kit, and to know what to do in an emergency, is to take a first aid course.
St John Ambulance Australia and the Australian Red Cross offer a variety of first aid courses all around Australia. There are fees associated with these first aid courses.
For information on courses, go to:
- St John Ambulance Australia’s website, or call them on 1300 360 455
- Australian Red Cross’s website, or call them on 1300 367 428.
First aid kits for the workplace
Safe Work Australia launched a new First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice in 2012. The Code provides guidance on the number of first aid kits and the contents required for different workplaces. For more information on the new workplace requirements, go to the Safe Work Australia website or call them on 02 6121 5317.
St John Ambulance Australia offers a range of services to help businesses comply with these guidelines, such as an online first aid risk assessment checklist, first aid kits and resources, and first aid training. They will also restock your first aid kits. For more information go to www.stjohn.org.au/getcompliant/ or call 1300 360 455.
Last reviewed: October 2016