If you’re trying to find a guide on how to make a first aid kit, look no further. We’ve outlined everything you need to know about why first aid is important, where you can learn it, and how to build your kit.
First aid is one of those things that you never think you need until you actually do. However, having even a basic knowledge of field dressing and emergency care can go a long way. One of the essentials of this type of treatment is understanding how to make a first aid kit. We’ve got all the details of how to do exactly that.
As well as looking at the basics of what first aid is and why it’s essential, we also cover everything you need to know about what goes into a first aid kit and how you can get started making your own. To help you build your knowledge, we’ve even picked out some useful courses that can get you started.
What is first aid?
Before we look at how to make a first aid kit, let’s start off by exploring what first aid actually is. A simple definition is that it’s the immediate (first) assistance (aid) given to those suffering from either a minor or serious injury or illness.
In some situations, first aid could simply mean taking care of something minor, such as a cut, insect sting, or minor burn. Here, the first aider would aim to clean the wound, relieve pain, and prevent any escalation.
However, in other scenarios, the first aider could be providing initial support in an emergency situation. In this case, they would aim to help the casualty survive until professional medical help arrives.
Why is it important?
Knowledge of the principles of healthcare and medicine is always useful. Whether you’re interested in a career in the field or not, you can learn some valuable skills that could one day benefit you as well as other people.
In serious situations, first aid could potentially help to save someone’s life. However, a 2018 study by the British Red Cross found that only 5% of people would feel knowledgeable, confident, and willing to act if someone was bleeding heavily, unresponsive and breathing, or unresponsive and not breathing.
Clearly, having an understanding of the fundamentals of basic first aid can make you an everyday hero.
What are the main aims of first aid?
Even a trained first aider isn’t a medical professional. As such, the scope of first aid is limited to a few essential practices. Depending on whom you ask the main aims of first aid boil down to 3-5 main points. Similarly, these may depend on the severity of the situation.
Below, we’ve outlined these aims and what they mean:
For minor injuries like scrapes, cuts and stings, the first aider can give basic care to treat the situation. However, when the case is more severe, and there is a threat to the individual’s life, treatment is likely beyond the knowledge of basic first aid. In such situations, the first aider must preserve the life of the patient until a medical professional arrives.
This point is linked to the one above. A person performing first aid is unlikely to be able to solve a serious medical condition. However, they can take steps to make sure the situation doesn’t get any worse, keeping them as stable as possible until an ambulance arrives. For example, they wouldn’t stitch a deep wound on the scene, but they would help slow or stop the bleeding for as long as necessary.
The ultimate aim of a first aider is to make sure the injured or ill person gets better, whether by their hand or by another’s. Usually, this means using the available supplies to either tend to a minor wound or stabilise a serious one. This is why it’s essential to know how to make a first aid kit. You might also want to learn about topics such as the basics of anatomy and psychological first aid to make sure you’re as informed as possible.
As well as protecting the life of the injured or ill person, a first aider must also think about any immediate dangers to the person, the people nearby, and themselves. If a person is unconscious, this can mean removing them from harm’s way or making sure their airway is open.
Why is a first aid kit important?
Whether you’re at home, in the workplace, or travelling somewhere new, a first aid kit of some kind is essential. Having one means you’re prepared for any potential injuries or illnesses that may arise. This is especially applicable for those who have particular pre-existing medical conditions that may need emergency intervention, such as asthma, diabetes, or allergies.
When you’re learning how to make a first aid kit, you can make it as complex or simple as you like. However, the key thing is that it meets the needs of the situation it’s being used for. The size and contents will vary, but the purpose remains the same.
In the UK, the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 law means that employers must provide their workplace with a first aid kit. Additionally, they have to make sure there are appropriate facilities and trained staff members.
What should be in a first aid kit?
So, one of the crucial things we need to know when learning how to make a first aid kit is what you should include in it. As we’ve highlighted, this really depends on the situation it’s being used in.
You should ask yourself a few questions before you start assembling your kit:
- Who will you treat with it? Is this a kit that you’re going to use for your own needs, or is it for people in your care? How many of them are there? Remember, medication should rarely be given to others without the advice of a medical professional.
- What injuries might you encounter? In an office setting, you’re less likely to encounter things like cuts and sprains, and more likely to encounter breathing difficulties and chest pains. When outdoors, you might experience more injuries related to the environment.
- What environment is it being used in? Will you be somewhere that’s particularly hot or cold? Will you need to have a waterproof or crushproof container?
To make matters slightly easier, we’ve outlined some of the items that all first aid kits should include, as well as some specific examples of where you may want to add extras:
Every kit should have a reliable and plentiful supply of the following items:
- Bandages. You can use these to support injured joints, as well as limit swelling and keep pressure on wounds. They’re also used to secure dressings in place. Try to have a mix of roller bandages, triangular bandages, and tubular bandages.
- Disposable gloves. Whenever you’re tending to or dressing wounds, you’ll want to wear disposable, latex-free gloves.
- Mask. A face covering can help reduce cross infection with the casualty. This is particularly applicable in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Plasters. Make sure you have a variety of different shapes and sizes available and decide whether you need waterproof ones.
- Cleansing wipes. You’ll use these to make sure the skin around a wound or graze is clean.
- Gauze pads. Again, you can use these to clear around the wounds, as well as for padding.
- Adhesive tape. This tape can be used to make sure dressings stay in place, as well as to hold the ends of bandages.
- Scissors. For cutting bandages or tape, as well as for clothing if you need to get to a wound.
- Safety pins. For securing loose ends of bandages.
When it comes to how to make a first aid kit for home, as well as all of the essentials mentioned above, you should include:
- Thermometer. To check temperatures for those suffering from a fever. A forehead one is preferable.
- Sterile tweezers. For removing small splinters and other precision tasks. You shouldn’t remove anything else other than these small, easy-to-remove splinters.
- Sterile eye dressings. These can be used for wounds to the eye, as well as for small dressings for babies and toddlers.
- Instant ice pack. These packets use a chemical reaction for instant cooling. Useful for reducing swelling and pain from strains, sprains and bruising.
- Burn relief gel. Can be used to help cool down minor burns.
- Antihistamines. For minor allergies and insect bites, provided you know they are safe to use.
- Painkillers. Paracetamol, aspirin, and/or ibuprofen. Remember to only use these when you know it’s safe to do so.
- Cough medicine. For minor coughs.
- An epi-pen. For severe allergic reactions, especially if you have someone at-risk in your home.
In your car
Many people like to have a small first aid kit with them to keep in their personal car. Again, it can have many of the elements mentioned so far, as well as things like:
- Foil blanket. These NASA-designed blankets are used to help people stay warm.
- Sterile eye drops or eye bath. This can help you rinse out your eyes.
- Sunscreen. If you might end up outside for a prolonged period, sunscreen can help protect you from sunburn.
- Fresh drinking water. If you get stuck with your vehicle, this can be a lifesaver.
- Anti-nausea medication. For those who get travel sick.
Although not strictly part of your first aid kit, you may want to keep things like a flashlight (with batteries), an extra blanket, hats and gloves, extra glasses (if you use them), and some non-perishable food.
People often wonder how to make a first aid kit for travelling, and the answer depends somewhat on where and when you’re going. Along with your essentials, consider bringing:
- Medicines you regularly take at home. Make sure you have enough of your prescription to last, as well as a little extra in reserve.
- Antacid medicine. For treating indigestion.
- Laxatives. For treating constipation.
- Antidiarrheal agents. Travellers’ diarrhoea is common, and these, along with oral rehydration, can help manage mild to moderate symptoms.
- Water purification tablets. If reliable drinking water isn’t universally available, these can help make water safe to drink.
- Hand sanitizer. To make sure your hands stay clean and free from bacteria.
- UVA/UVB sunscreen. Excessive sun exposure can be damaging, so make sure you have plenty of sun protection.
- Medical alert jewellery. If you have a condition such as diabetes, this jewellery can alert medical professionals and first aiders.
Your workplace should already have taken measures to ensure there is a first aid kit and someone trained to use it on site. You can read more about the HSE’s requirements that outline the legal duties that employers have when it comes to first aid.
How to make a first aid kit
So, now that we know what goes in one, let’s look in more detail about how to make a first aid kit. Of course, you could simply purchase a pre-made one. Although these are useful, once you’ve diminished the supplies, you’ll need to replace them. So, it’s helpful to know how to assemble your own. If you are buying one, look for the British Standard (BS) 8599 ones.
Below, we’ve outlined some of the steps you’ll need to take when making your own first aid kit.
- Assess your needs. The first thing you want to do is think about the purpose of creating your first aid kit. Will it be for your home or for travel? How many people will it be used for? What type of environment will you keep it in? All of these points will inform the next steps.
- Gather your materials. Once you know the circumstances your first aid kit will be in, you can start gathering all of the items you’ll need (check out our lists above). Make sure you have enough to last for a while.
- Choose the right container. Now that you’ve assembled the contents, you’ll need to find a suitable container to house them. Here, you’ll want to think about practicality and environment. For example, a travel first aid kit should be small, durable, but not rigid. One used in more challenging environments may need to have a hard case and be waterproof.
- Organise. You’ll want to make your kit organised and potentially even labelled. Ideally, you want to make sure that, no matter who is using it, they can find everything easily. Store related items together and use pockets/compartments to keep things separate.
Maintaining your first aid kit
Now that we know how to make a first aid kit, it’s worth mentioning how to maintain it. Whether you end up regularly using your kit or not, you’ll still want to check it from time to time. As well as looking for items that need replenishing, you should also consider anything that’s expired or damaged.
How to learn first aid
It’s one thing having a first aid kit on hand, but it’s another thing knowing how to use it. Although minor injuries take only a small amount of effort and knowledge to tend to, a serious situation requires far more training. So how can you learn first aid?
There are a few ways you can go about building your first aid knowledge, as well as your general understanding of healthcare. Here are some of the options available:
- An online first aid course. We linked our basic first aid course earlier on, and we’ve included it again here. This 2-week course gives you information on some of the basics of how to recognise and manage emergencies. Topics include what to do when someone’s choking, helping someone who has passed out, and helping someone with a severe cut.
- An in-person course. If you’re hoping to get qualified for first aid in the workplace, organisations such as the British Red Cross and St John Ambulance provide in-person courses.
- Other online courses. At FutureLearn, we offer a range of courses and programs related to healthcare and wellbeing. With something like our nursing courses, you can learn about all kinds of care and medical situations. If you’re more interested in general wellbeing, we also have plenty of options.