How to Pack Your Own First Aid Kit!

During these summer months my family is always on the go. We venture out several times a week on family “field trips”, we travel to visit family members, we go camping. And one of the things that I like to have with me in my car is a well-stocked first-aid kit. Because I firmly believe that having one of these with you is kind of like carrying an umbrella in your purse… when you have one it never rains! So if you have the first aid kit…. it helps to ward off all of the injuries that so easily seem to happen to my kids! (Um, okay, and of course it allows me to be prepared when they do happen!) Today one of my blogging buds Dr. Debi Gilboa (“Doc G”) shares her advice on making your own first aid kit (so you don’t have to spend a fortune on one of those store-bought kits that are not nearly as well-stocked as you might think!)

Whether you are headed down the road for the day or out of town for a week, you can be ready for the minor emergencies that happen every summer! Those store bought kits are expensive, and not as useful as we’d like to believe – they’re mostly geared towards adults, and set up for people with first aid training. Here’s the stuff you can actually use.

Grab a Bag… and Go!

Pick a bag that is a disgustingly loud color or print – something you or an older child can find easily underneath all the sports equipment, luggage and junk that will cover it in your trunk. The more pockets the better!

Pack These Items in Your First Aid Kit!

  1. A first aid manual. Knowledge is power, and you need something with easy to access information that doesn’t require a course in Medical Terminology. There are great books like First Aid for Babies and Children Fast, or laminated cards with first aid information grouped by subject.
  2. *Cold packs! The fun character shaped ones that are cold but not frozen, or the practical freezer packs can go in your cooler to keep snacks cold and then be available for small boo-boos, sunburns and mosquito bites, as well as larger injuries.
  3. *Motion sickness bands. For anyone who gets car sick, or goes on one too many roller coasters, or even starts to come down with a stomach bug, these tiny additions to your first aid kit can make the difference between an uncomfortable kiddo and actual vomiting (and all the other kids getting sick from that!). Grab Sea Bands on Amazon or a generic from any pharmacy.
  4. Spray bottle with water. From the cleaning section of any grocery store grab a bottle with a nozzle that can squirt or spray and fill it with water. Put this in the side pocket of your bag and don’t worry about the water getting warm (make sure it’s not HOT when you use it). This is great for cleaning out cuts and scrapes, or getting dirt or other irritants out of eyes. Also fill it with cold water and spray heat-tired kids on the back of the neck and wrists to feel cool fast. Make sure they drink some too! Spraying a burn with cold water will stop the burn from progressing as fast.
  5. *Band-Aids in a bunch of sizes! From round band-aids to regular to extra large, these are great for mosquito bites and cuts, larger abrasions and contact burns (as opposed to sunburns – usually too large for a band-aid to cover. Don’t forget to wash them first!
  6. Size 6 diapers. Even if you’re “out of diapers” at your house, these are (as you probably recall) fantastically absorbent! Hand one to a child who thinks they might throw up – it will absorb any fluid and can be rolled up and disposed of easily. Also grab one to apply pressure to a site that is bleeding more than a tissue could stop. Don’t worry, you can do this with one hand while dialing 911 with the other!
  7. *Baby wipes. Honestly, don’t you love these things? These are excellent for quickly cleaning your own hands before dealing with a cut or any other open skin, and for cleaning up after the emergency is handled. Don’t touch an open cut or scrape or burn with a wipe, though, it will sting!
  8. An old credit card or hotel keycard and tweezers. These plastic cards aren’t just great for scraping ice off a windshield, they are excellent for getting splinters and stingers out. Rub the card across the sticker to bring it up a little before grabbing with the tweezers.
  9. Ace bandage and a bag of rice. A 2” or 3” wide elastic wrap is handy for any sprain or strain, it gives extra support and helps cut down on swelling. Elevate the injured limb and rest it on the bag of rice for a lot more comfort. Also the bag of rice is good to have for cell phone first aid if yours gets dropped in water!
  10. *Medicines. Find or buy a toiletry kit for these meds. Put in an extra supply of any prescription medicines a member of your family needs, in the original bottle. Then get the following over-the-counter meds in the form (liquid, chewable tablet, dissolving tablet, pill) that works best for your group:
    1. acetaminophen (that’s Tylenol) for pain or fever
    2. ibuprofen (also knows as Advil or Motrin) for swelling, pain or fever – great after a burn or sprain.
    3. Diphenhydramine (that’s Benadryl) for an internal or external allergic reaction, like to poison ivy
    4. 1% hydrocortisone cream for itches and burns
    5. After Bite
    6. Gly-oxide for tongue, lip and inside of the cheek cuts or sores
    7. Triple anti-biotic ointment for cuts and scrapes after they’re clean before the band-aid.

I recommend asking your doctor if each of these are OK for your kids, and for the weight-correct doses for each child for a, b and c. Then put that info on an index card inside the toiletry kit.

*Great items to tuck into your purse or diaper bag for when your first aid kit is out of reach! 

Dr. G (Deborah Gilboa, MD) is a family doctor, mom of four and founder of, a resource for parents and educators with child development or behavior concerns. You can find her and ask her questions on her site, on twitter, or facebook, or even Google Plus!

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  1. michelle says

    Hi Sharon,

    I wanted to thank you for your website and all the great summer ideas for kids. I am the mom of six also (new baby included), and we had so much fun last summer with many of your ideas! When I saw your post about “making your own first-aid kit” with the picture of the doctor, I thought, I need my own first aid kit for the kid’s doctor’s appointments. I kinda made the mistake of researching vaccines, and now I am having a hard time worrying about all the possible “side effects”. You know how protective mommies can be! I just wondered if you had experienced this worry with your little ones, or if you just went with the doctor’s recommended schedule? Did your babes have any problems with their shots? I know it is a controversial subject, and I respect everyone’s decisions. Moms with big families have it a little more tricky, since we usually have little one’s who need to be protected from the big ones! Do you worry about germs – the kind that Chuck E. Cheese is full of? I didn’t used to worry about this stuff at all until I had kids. Thank you for any insight you may have.

    • says

      Hi Michelle-
      I’m so happy to meet a fellow Momof6! I am glad that you enjoyed the summer camp activities last year too!
      In terms of vaccines, I have a great relationship with our family pediatrician, and he firmly believes that the benefits of vaccines outweighs the risks associated with them. And with our children whom we adopted from China, we had their blood titers taken when we returned home with them to evaluate their immunities vs. the record of vaccinations that we received, and in some cases, our children needed to be re-vaccinated so as to achieve the proper level of immunity. So I would tell you, that I am in favor of vaccinating your children.
      And yes, places like Chuck E. Cheese are definitely FULL of germs- with so many kids touching the same gams controls over and over. But my kids are past the age of where they put everything into their mouths. So as long as they wash their hands on our way out the door- I’m fine with it>
      Thanks for leaving a comment today! I hope to hear from you again soon!

      • says

        Sharon, what a thoughtful and thorough reply.

        Michelle, I know you were asking Sharon’s opinions (a smart thing to do!) but I hope you don’t mind my two cents as well.

        It is scary for parents to put immunizations into their precious, healthy babies. The research you have done is a great way to learn more and be an active participant in keeping your kids healthy. I have four kids myself, and have researched the heck out of this!

        What I want to tell you is this. In my 12 years of practice as a doctor I have seen kids very ill or tragically die from each of the diseases that we vaccinate against. We are really lucky to live in a country and a century in which these diseases are mostly preventable.

        If you have specific concerns, talk to your doctor about them, and if you feel you’re not getting thorough answers, you might need a new doc!

  2. says

    I am definitely a fan of toting first-aid kits around with my family. I leave one in the car, one at home, and take one when we travel. I love your idea about the old hotel key! Clever! I’ll have to add that to our kit. I also think if you have kids, packing band aids decorated in the kids’ favorite cartoon character works like a charm to stop the tears. Plus, kiddie band aids peel off easier. I’ve found some adult band aids pull the skin when you try to take them off, often hurting kiddos more than the boo boo itself. Anyways, great post! Thanks for sharing!


    • says

      Kristina- I completely agree on using kid bandaids vs adult ones on the kiddos….. I too have created a bigger “boo-boo” my ripping off the bandage!

    • says


      That IS a great point about grown up band aids. Here is another suggestion for getting off band aids with no ouchy at all – baby oil. Put some on your finger and use it to rub off the band aid. I have a couple of kids who are old enough to scorn the little kid band aids but young enough to scream bloody murder when it’s time to take them off. That trick (credit to my mom, not med school) works every time for taking off anything sticky from skin. Not limited to band aids, this helps with poorly placed stickers, tape, you name it!

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