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First Aid Kit Essentials and Medicine Cabinet Must-Haves

As a mom, usually a Band-Aid and a kiss can make any child’s ouchie better, but it’s still important to be ready for any of life’s ups and downs, sprains and strains—no matter your age.

That’s because unintentional injuries happen all the time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2016 unintentional injuries accounted for 39.5 million doctor visits and 24.5 million emergency department visits.

Being prepared with a first aid kit and appropriate medications for injuries, minor cuts, scrapes, burns and sprains can make all the difference.

We spoke with Tracey Fejt, RN, a trauma outreach and injury prevention coordinator at Banner Children’s at Desert in Mesa, AZ, about what essentials you should include in a first aid kit and other medicine cabinet must-haves.

First Aid Kit Essentials Infographic

First aid checklist

Unfortunately, injuries, accidents and illness happen, but you can be prepared. Many drugstores and pharmacies sell ready-made first aid kits, but you can add and tailor based on your specific needs or activities, such as for sporting events, camping, etc. Here’s a general list of items that you might include:

  • Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
  • Rolled sterile gauze, gauze pads and adhesive or paper tape
  • Instant cold packs
  • Scissors, tweezers and gloves
  • Pain reliever such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen
  • Antihistamines like diphenhydramine for allergic reactions
  • Antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, burn cream or aloe vera and hydrocortisone cream for a rash or bug bites
  • Additional medications specific to your family’s needs

Special considerations

If you’re a new parent or caring for an aging loved one, you may also want to consider additional items—such as a nasal aspirator and rectal thermometer for babies and butterfly closures or transparent film dressings for older adults with thin skin.

Or maybe you’re planning a trip to the lake or the beach? Don’t forget to bring items to protect you from the sun and heat. Check out “Your Summer Safety Shopping List” for suggested items to include in your kit.

Maintain your kit and cabinet

Check your kit and medicine cabinet regularly for expired items, such as personal and OTC medications, and replace as necessary. Update personal and emergency contact numbers. And remember: In cases of emergency, always call 911. In cases of accidental poisoning, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

Take a course

Whether a caretaker or soon-to-be babysitter, it’s important to be prepared in the unfortunate event of an accident or injury. “Making sure you’re prepared by having supplies is important but having the knowledge of how to use them is more important,” Fejt said.

Look into taking a general first aid class for the basics, a Stop the Bleed® course that teaches about wound care and a CPR class. To find a training near you, visit or

Additional reading:

Infographics Wellness Safety Wound Care