Tour of a First Aid Kit

Meet Your First Aid Gear

Green First Aid Kit
Every commercial first aid kit lists basically the same contents. (c) Rod Brouhard

Every first aid kit lists basically the same items on the box. If you find yourself with one of those boxes in your closet, car, RV, or luggage, you may have wondered what you are supposed to do with each item during the very emergency for which it was designed. The following are descriptions and uses of the most common first aid kit contents.

This list is not exhaustive and these descriptions are for informational use only. You should get appropriate training in first aid and CPR before you are called upon to help someone in a time of need with any of the items listed here.

Exam Gloves

Exam Gloves
Gloves come in several sizes, buy something comfortable for you. (c) Rod Brouhard

Exam gloves are non-sterile gloves used for general purpose first aid. Gloves are part of universal precautions and are one example of personal protective equipment.

Exam gloves provide clean fingers for the victim's benefit and provide a barrier for the rescuer's benefit. Exam gloves come in several sizes, so it's a good idea to buy a box and stock your first aid with your own size.

Adhesive Tape

Medical Adhesive Tape
Adhesive tape comes in many different materials. © Rod Brouhard

Adhesive tape is probably the most versatile of all first aid kit supplies. Use it to hold gauze in place or to help splint broken bones. Adhesive tape is also useful all by itself to cover blisters. Small strips of tape can be used to hold lacerations together until the victim can get stitches.


Gauze helps stop bleeding with its porous surface. © Rod Brouhard

Gauze comes from a material similar to cheese cloth. Its porous fibers trap blood and hold it still long enough for clots to form. By promoting clots, it helps stop bleeding.

The most common types of sterile gauze pads are four inch square patches commonly called "four-by-fours." Buy them individually wrapped rather than in bulk for best results.

Heavy duty injuries may require something a little bigger than four inches on a side. Thick five inch by nine inch pads are used in surgery and often referred to as "abdominal pads." Even larger wounds may need "trauma dressings" for complete cover.

Another option is to use roller gauze. Roller gauze can be tied around an arm or leg to control bleeding without using tape to hold the gauze in place.

Elastic Bandages

Elastic Bandages
Elastic bandages are used for sprains and swelling. © Rod Brouhard

Elastic bandages help keep swelling down. Use elastic bandages for sprains and along with splints to help immobilize broken bones.

Most of the time, elastic bandages are used as part of the RICE treatment for sprains, strains and bruises.

Adhesive Bandages

Adhesive Bandages
Adhesive bandages come in all shapes and sizes. © Rod Brouhard

Adhesive bandages are probably the most used component of most first aid kit. Use these small bandages to cover small lacerations and abrasions.

Be sure to change adhesive bandages at least once a day, and always clean the wound before you apply an adhesive bandage.

Scissors and Shears

Trauma Shears
Trauma shears have a special edge that protects the victim. © Rod Brouhard

Scissors or shears are as versatile as tape in a first aid kit. Bandage scissors or trauma shears (pictured) have a specially designed edge that allows them to be used next to the victim's skin without cutting the victim.

Use shears to cut splints, remove clothes, or to cut tape and gauze.

Triangular Bandage (Cravat)

Triangular Bandages
Triangular bandages come with safety pins to help hold them in place. © Rod Brouhard

Triangular bandages are non-stretch bandages used to hold gauze in place or to help splint broken bones.

Triangular bandages are especially useful as slings for broken arms, broken collar bones, or dislocated shoulders.

Triangular bandages - also called cravats - are also useful as tourniquets, which can stop severe bleeding if used properly.


Use tweezers to take out ticks or splinters. © Rod Brouhard

Tweezers come in handy for all types of detail work. Use tweezers to remove ticks or to remove splinters. Tweezers are also good for removing dirt from lacerations.


Moleskin is used to treat blisters. Adhesive bandages can work in a pinch. © Rod Brouhard

Moleskin is used to prevent and treat blisters. In many cases, adhesive bandages can be used in a pinch, so this isn't all that necessary in a first aid kit.

Continue Reading