What is a First Aid Kit?
If we were to look up the dictionary definition of a first aid kit, the likely answer would be something like ‘a collection of equipment and supplies which is used to give medical treatment.’ Can’t argue with that; however, you could claim that that definition could as easily be applied to a pharmacy or even a hospital.
So, we need to go a bit deeper to determine what a first kit aid is, and what it can be used for, because it is obvious that our simple definition does not explain it properly.
The whole point of a first aid kit is essentially contained in the name… it is FIRST aid. In other words, following an accident, a first aid kit should allow you to administer medical help to either yourself or another person immediately.
Often the nature of these injuries is minor, and the treatment given will be all that is required. However, in a lot of cases, the injuries may be serious and even life-threatening. In those scenarios, treatment may be administered to stabilize the patient until the emergency services arrive, or in the most extreme cases, used to prevent the loss of life.
Although there is no single agreed list for the items that should be in a first aid kit, there are a number of core items that no first aid kit should be without.
The most common sorts of injuries that these core items will treat are those where a fall, trip, or some other sort of accident has led to someone cutting, scraping, or grazing their skin.
Whenever this happens one of the most important things to consider is the risk of the wound becoming infected, or infection being transferred to the person treating the wound. To reduce the chances of either these happening, a first aid kit should contain sterile gloves which can be worn whilst any treatment is being administered.
In terms of treating these sorts of wounds, your first aid kit should come with sterile cleaning wipes, gauze pads, and an assortment of bandages and dressings to protect the injured area. Pads and patches to deal with more specific injuries such as an insect sting, an eye injury, or foot blister are also commonly found in first aid kits.
Injuries which cause pain, but not necessarily lead to any bleeding, such as bruises, sprains, and twists, should also be able to be treated from the items in a first aid kit. Generally, this will involve minimizing the movement of the affected area. For this reason, elasticated bandages should be part of the inventory, and it should also have a triangular bandage so that a sling can be made.
The better first aid kits are also likely to have an ice pack or cold pack, which can be applied to impact wounds in order to reduce swelling or inflammation, which in turns reduces the pain being felt by the injured person.
With all these accidents likely to cause pain, you might expect to find painkilling tablets in your first aid kit but given the regulations regarding the distribution and prescribing of certain medicines, this tends not to be the case. However, this does not prevent you from purchasing a small quantity of painkillers and adding them to your first aid kit, along with any other medications you think you might require.
Some first aid kits also include small tools to make using it easier, and more hygienic to use the medical items when treating someone. These can include stainless steel scissors and tweezers and safety pins,
Unfortunately, some accidents can be serious, and a decent first aid kit should enable you to deal with some of these. Severe bleeding is one such injury, where a tourniquet or trauma pad can be used. In extreme circumstances where resuscitation is necessary a CPR mask will allow you to do so safely.
Although most first aid kits are designed to deal with the consequences of an accident, many of them also include items which are designed for survival purposes. In fact, there are some first aid kits targeting those who take part in outdoor activities such as camping, where there are as many survival items as there are medical ones.
In these kits, you’ll often find items which are designed to attract attention, even if no actual injury has occurred. These include the likes of whistles, glow sticks and even mechanical torches. Other items that a first aid kit of this sort may have that do not really have any medical purpose, include compasses, folding knives, flashlights, and tool cards.
Whatever the contents of a first aid kit, and no matter what location they may be used, all of them should ensure that everything inside is kept clean and sterile for as long as possible. To this end, any decent first aid kit, will have a proper closing mechanism such as a zipper, and more importantly, everything inside should be in sealed packets or wrappers.
Some of the better first aid kits consider that not everyone who uses them is going to be a medical expert. To help those who are unsure how to treat wounds, there may be a first aid manual or booklet to explain what items and treatments should be used. Another feature that a first aid kit may have is to label the compartments so that groups of items are easily identified.
First aid kits are normally small and portable; therefore, they can be used literally anywhere. They are kept at home or in an office, and often in the glove compartment of cars.
The point is, anywhere that the possibility of an accident happening exists, is a place that you should have a properly stocked first aid kit, ready and available.
Finally, you will find that first aid kits come in all sorts of different cases and carriers. The most common are water-resistant soft cases or bags, which ideally have a carrying handles, and are small enough to be placed in backpacks. Some these have enhanced features such as additional belt loops and Velcro-type patches, so they can be attached to bicycle seats and rucksacks.
How Much Does a First Aid Kit Cost?
It is little wonder that given the huge range of prices you will find when looking at first aid kits, people become confused as to what first aid kit to purchase and what price they should be paying for it.
To help make some sense of it all we are going to categorize these prices into 4 different price ranges. The first is budget which goes up to $10, next we have standard which is from $10 up to $50, third we have high which ranges from $50 to $100, then premium which is any first aid kit priced over $100.
Starting with the lowest we have the budget first aid kits which go up to $10. As with any product at the bottom end of the price range, these are going to be the most basic first aid kits available. This is not to say they are not suitable for administering first aid, but the number and quality of the items in these kits are, in most cases, going to be lower than kits which cost more.
A lot of them will be termed a ‘travel kit’ which is small enough to be put in a handbag or hold all, whilst traveling. These will have the essentials such as bandaids, sterile wipes, and a few assorted bandages.
The budget first aid kits with more items will also include, scissors, tweezers, medical tape, PBT bandages and may even include medical gloves and an emergency blanket.
What you will find is that the budget kits priced under $10 with only 12 to 20 items will tend to be of a better quality, than similarly priced kits, which have over 50 items. The choice, therefore, is whether you wish to go for quality or quantity.
Moving up to the next level we come to those first kits which have prices ranging from $10 to around $50. These tend to be the most common given that many carry a good range of items, and of course, the price is still relatively low.
The number of items you will find in standard priced first aid kits can vary greatly, with some having a few as 30 items and others having over 200 items in them.
It is also within this price range that you start to see many first aid kits including survival items in addition to the core medical ones. In fact, there are several which have been specifically put together for outdoor activities such as camping and hiking and where the inventory is a 50/50 split of medical to survival items.
The sort of survival items we are talking about will vary from kit to kit, but the most common are a compass, a glow stick, and an emergency whistle. In addition to these items, the first aid kits which are targeting outdoor pursuits can also come with multi-tool pliers, knives, fire starters, torches, and other special tools such as a saber card.
On the medical front you will have a much bigger selection of cleansing and dressings, and some items which are designed to treat more serious injuries such as a tourniquet, or CPR mask. These kits are also likely to feature specialist bandages such as triangular bandage which is used to form an arm sling.
You can also expect to find that the cases for these first aid kits are better quality and often have special loops and clips, so they can be carried easily, or attached to other bags.
Within the next category, which are first aid kits priced between $50 and $100 you will start to see an increase in the quality of the items within the kit. These kits are also the type that many amateur first responders or designated first aiders will use.
The number of items in these kits will likely be more than 100 and often can be as many as 200 in the larger ones. Unlike the kits priced between $10 and $50, you shouldn’t expect to find many survival tools in these. The reason for this is these kits are designed very much for medical use, rather than outdoor activities.
You can expect the medical inventory to be comprehensive, and plentiful. The numbers of dressings, wipes, and bandages will be higher as will the number of uses they are designed for. In other words, whereas cheaper first kits tend to have general use items, these kits have medical items which are for a specific purpose.
The number of treatments for more serious injuries which a high priced first aid kit can treat will be higher also. They may have specialist inhalants for those with breathing difficulties or even glucose for situations where someone’s blood sugar levels have dropped to a very low level.
$100 and above
The final price category is for those first aid kits which cost over $100. At the upper end of these, you will find kits that sell for as much as $700.
These kits are undoubtedly designed for experienced and qualified first aid or medical personnel and are not really the sort of kit you would need for the likes of hiking trips or for use around the home.
Nevertheless, if you want to purchase one, here is what you can expect. Firstly, the bags that these come in are more like a rucksack. They are large, due to the number of medical items they contain.
The bags for premium kits also come with excellent organization inside and clear labeling so that whoever is using it, isn’t delayed trying to find a specific item.
There will be advanced equipment even for simple injuries like cuts, such as blood stop sprays, as well as an incredible range of bandages, and dressings for every sort of wound.
For serious scenarios, where someone has a neck injury, for example, you will find a neck brace, and there may even be life-saving apparatus in the kit such as a small oxygen bottle and mask to help someone breathe.
As you can see there is a lot of choice in terms of the quality of first aid kits you can buy, and the amount of assistance it can be to you should you ever need to administer first aid. Whatever your budget may be, the wisest move is to choose the best possible first aid kit that you can afford. You never know, that choice may enable you to save someone’s life one day.