Fractures, bruises, muscle strain, and dislocations, these are just a few of the most common injuries Americans end up in emergency rooms for and the numbers of visits are not small at all.
Lots of articles will give you the basics of a first aid kit (FAK for short) or for an individual FAK (IFAK for short). None of them will go that extra mile and tell you what each item is for AND how to use it. As you can probably imagine, in a medical emergency, you won’t have that much time to Google. And if it’s a SHTF event, you may not have Google. At all.
Keep in mind that I’m just a prepper. I’m NOT a doctor and thus, my advice being is intended for information purposes only. Let’s start with the things to keep in mind when you assemble your DIY first aid kit. By the way, did I mention that it’s actually cheaper to make your own kit than to buy those pre-packed ones?
Where Should You Store First Aid Kits (FAKs)?
Ideally you’ll want more than one kit. You’re gonna need them in places such as:
- in your bug-out bag
- inside your safe room
- as part of your everyday carry kit (EDC)
- at your workplace
- in your bunker
- at your bug-out location
- and, of course, in your car
What Types of Medical Issues Can a First Aid Kit Help Fix?
First aid kits are just for administering temporary first aid relief, and are not meant to fully treat a condition. But they do help with:
- puncture wounds
- nasal congestion
- issues with your skin
- respiration problems
- and various conditions such as allergies that you or your family members may have (if you’re smart enough to prepare for)
Your First Aid Kit Essentials
Enough talk, let’s see the full list of things to consider when you’re building your FAK…
Band-aids and Bandages
There are lots of bandages because there are lots of types of wounds. Wounds are unpredictable and you don’t know what size it’s going to be, how deep, or the part or parts of your body it will affect.
This is probably the biggest problem with first aid kits. They have bandages, but not enough. Rest assured you’re going to use to bandages A LOT, especially while bugging out or in a post-collapse society where hard physical labor is going to be the norm and not the exception.
This is why it’s a great idea to have as many bandages as possible from the list below:
- triangular bandages
- H bandages
- pressure bandages
- tensor bandages
- 4×4 and 2×2 bandages
- a couple of eye bandages, just in case
You’re also going to need some adhesive or medical tape to hold those 4×4 and 2×2 bandages in place, by the way. The band-aids already have that.
Before you use your band-aids, you need to make sure the wound is clean to prevent infection. Be sure to include the following items in your kit to clean and sterilize wounds:
- alcohol wipes
- baby wipes
- antibiotic ointment (this is also good against burns)
- saline pads
One thing you don’t want to use to disinfect wounds is hydrogen peroxide. It’s intended for external use only.
If you’re affected by a house fire or a wildfire and there’s no doctor, burn dressings such as these might save your life until you’re taken to a doctor to be given proper treatment.
You’re gonna need at least a couple of pairs of gloves, but the more the better. Forget latex gloves, some people are allergic to them.
You’re gonna need these to stop the severe bleeding so make sure you get them in several sizes. Here’s a quick video on how to apply one:
Scissors and Trauma Shears
These two items are a very important addition to your FAK because they protect the victim’s skin when you use them. Use them to cut gauze, tapes and even clothes, to gain access to the wound.
Tweezers will come in very handy when you have to remove dirt, splinters, glass or even stingers from a bee.
As the name suggests, you use finger splints to take care of broken fingers. Here’s a video on how to apply a finger splint:
A CPR Mask
Of course, the prerequisite is that you know how to give CPR. A lot of the times, performing chest compressions is enough but a CPR mask can be helpful.
A SAM Splint
SAM splints take up very little space and can be a lifesaver when it comes to broken limbs, for example. Here’s how to use them:
A Couple of Thermometers
You’re gonna need at least one oral and one rectal thermometer. If you can get more, that’s even better. These will surely have barter value post-collapse because it’s just not something people can make at home( and the DIY alternatives need to be calibrated, anyway).
Lightweight and cheap, you use tongue depressors for examining someone’s throat. Get as many of these as you can because they’re disposable, so you can only use them once.
Instant Cold Packs
These are a great replacement for ice, which will be unavailable if the grid collapses and your fridge stops working.
If you can assemble a first-aid kit that can keep you both cold AND warm, your kit will be much better and more advanced than anything else on the market. These hand warmers will last beyond their expiration date but, to make sure that happens, you should seal them in airtight containers to prevent the air from entering the package. You can put them in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. They should last you 5+ years with no problem.
Purell is a great choice.
Useful for stopping blood flow from an extremity for a short period of time. Recommended: New Military Issue Combat Application Tourniquet. Here’s how to use a tourniquet:
You need an anti-inflammatory in your first aid kit and Ibuprofen is the best choice you can make. For about 20 bucks you can get 300 tablets on Amazon here.
Benadryl (DIPHENHYDRAMINE HCL)
Benadryl is useful for allergies, rashes, colds. I won’t go into all the details, you can find out more about it here.
Anti-Diarrhea Pills and Laxatives
These two “opposing” problems are going to be very common when SHTF, so it’s best to be prepared. Speaking of which, you may want to check out another article on toilet paper alternatives for survival situations.
Aspirin typically lasts longer than its two-year shelf life and you can maximize that if you can store it in a cool, dark place.
Other Items To Consider
If you have the room, you’re going to want to stockpile some of the following items as well, you just never know:
- birthing kits
- dental kits
- bandage scissors
- a first-aid instruction book or booklet to have it on hand (although training and experience are much more important)
- superglue (it works to close some wounds but it’s far from being ideal)
- an emergency surgical and suture kit (some people think it’s better not to have something in your FAK unless you know how to use it but what if you run into someone who does?)
- operating scissors
- alcohol pads
- 3-0 and 5-0 black nylon sterile suture
- stainless steel surgical instruments such as forceps, scalpel, handles etc.
- staples and staple remover
- and so on
- mole skin
- a spare flashlight or a headlamp (you might need to treat someone or yourself in the dark)
- eye drops for lubrication
- assisted breathing masks
- a survival blanket
- (sterilized) cotton balls
- paper bags (for hyperventilation)
- sticking wrap tape (you can tear it without the use of scissors)
- finger ring cutter
- a bite kit
- a sewing kit
- aloe vera
- water-jel burn relief
- sting-kill wipes
- surgical thread
- antacid tablets
- Iodine tablets
- …and so on and so forth.
The First Aid Kit Pouch
Now that you know what you should have in your DIY first aid kit, the question is, where will you store everything?
Medical bags are expensive but there are alternatives such as Ziploc bags, Pelican cases, resealable sandwich bags, oven bags, even tightly sealed kitchen containers. The one important thing is that they’re waterproof.
The size of the bag is determined by where you intend to keep it. If you’re keeping it inside your home or at your bug out location, you’re looking at a static FAK but if you keep it in your car or your bug out bag (BOB), then you’re looking at a mobile first aid kit.
Of course, not all first aid kits need to be stored inside a bag. If you want, you can just ditch the idea for a FAK bag and start stocking up in your medicine cabinet.
Where Should You Buy All of These items?
You don’t have to look any further than the obvious places to get all the stuff you need to assemble your FAK:
- specialized websites such as Medex Supply, Chinook Medical, and Rescue Essentials
- from places like Wallmart or Wallgreen’s
- at your local drug store
- and even at your local hospital (If you know someone there, that person can help you get stuff that expires and will be thrown away, anyway. Of course, not everything that expires is good.)
Let’s Keep These in Mind as Well
The most important thing to note is that assembling a first aid kit is just the beginning. Let’s also keep in mind that:
- Having basic medical knowledge is just as important, if not more important.
- Having the skills (by taking classes) and learning to apply all of the items is even more important.
- Try to avoid latex because many are allergic to it.
- Wash and sterilize things like thermometers and tweezers after you use them.
- You should check your first aid kit for expiration dates and replace the items accordingly.
- Keep in mind that storing your FAK in the bathroom will decrease the shelf life of some of its items due to humidity. A better place to keep it for everyday emergencies is in your kitchen or wherever you and your family spend the most time.
- Make sure you have a cell phone or alternate means of contacting a doctor, should one be available.
The information in this article is provided “as is” and should not be mistaken for or be a substitute for medical advice. Always consult your physician before trying any of the advice presented on this page. Seek medical assistance when assembling your first aid kit. Neither the author nor www.SurvivalSullivan.com or the company behind the website shall be held liable for any negative effects of you putting into practice the information in this article.