The essential first aid items to have at home
It’s hard to know when an accident or unexpected health issue may occur. You could be chopping vegetables and the knife slips. Or develop an itchy rash after pulling weeds. Or maybe twist an ankle at pickleball.
It’s wise to be prepared and have first aid items ready just in case.1 Here are the health care products and remedies that are good to have at home.
What to stock for accidents and injuries
They come in many shapes and sizes and can be used for various injuries. A variety pack of bandages gives you multiple options to choose from. There are also easy-to-use, water-resistant sprays that can seal wounds shut, for places where a bandage may not stick well.
Bandages aren’t always large enough to cover an injury. Bigger wounds may need to be covered with a fabric pad. And you’ll need medical tape to keep that pad in place. Look for a wound care kit that contains everything you need to clean, cover and secure wounds.
Ice bags or instant cold packs may help bring relief when you’re hurt. They can be used to reduce pain and swelling for injuries such as a twisted ankle, sore knee or bruised muscle.
These help prevent infections by keeping minor wounds clean. Isopropyl alcohol is available in a bottle or in presoaked handy wipes. Hydrogen peroxide is another commonly used topical antiseptic.
Hand sanitizer and gloves
It’s important to avoid germs when treating injuries. Hand sanitizers can help kill germs on your hands quickly, if you’re not near a sink.
You can also keep your hands protected from germs and body fluids with disposable gloves. Gloves should fit comfortably. If you’re sensitive to latex, choose a latex-free version. Always dispose of gloves properly after using.1
Creams and ointments can help with a lot of common injuries and ailments. Some examples include:
- Antibiotic ointments. These over-the-counter (OTC) medicines help prevent minor cuts, scrapes and burns from getting infected.
- Itch-relief creams. A skin cream with hydrocortisone reduces swelling and relieves minor itching. Calamine lotion can also treat itchiness from bug bites or sunburn.
What to have stocked for minor illnesses
Some OTC medications interact with conditions like high blood pressure. Others interact with prescription drugs. So before choosing an OTC remedy, talk to the pharmacist or provider about any possible drug interaction between medications. And ask their advice about which is the right one for you.
There are several different kinds of OTC pain medications that treat minor ailments ranging from headaches to sore feet. For general pain, you can choose from:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
- Ibuprofen (Motrin®)
- Naproxen sodium (Aleve®)
Pain relievers also come in gels, sprays and patches to target joint and muscle pain.
If you suffer from seasonal allergies there are several medicines to keep nearby:
- Fexofenadine (Allegra®)
- Diphenydramine (Benadryl®)
- Loratadine (Claritin®)
- Cetirizine HCI (Zyrtec®)
- Fluticasone (Flonase®)
These OTC medicines all help relieve allergy symptoms, such as sneezing and itchy eyes. People often have a personal preference about which medication they feel works best for their symptoms.
GI issues can respond quickly to OTC medicines. Try antacids for acid indigestion and heartburn. They are designed to neutralize an acidic stomach.
It’s also smart to have antidiarrheal medication on hand, such as bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol®) or loperamide (such as Imodium® A-D).
There are also different medications that relieve pressure and bloating from gas. They may have an ingredient called simethicone. It may make sense to have a laxative or stool softener at home too.
Cough and cold medications
Viruses swirl around every year, so be ready with OTC cough, cold and flu treatments. Try a nondrowsy cold and flu medicine to help you get through the day. The nighttime version of the same product may help you get a good night’s rest so you can get better more quickly.
A fever may be a sign of infection or disease, so it’s smart to check your temperature if you think you have one. Thermometers come in different varieties, so it’s better to pick the kind you’ll be able to use most easily.
- Noncontact infrared thermometers measure the temperature near your forehead
- Digital thermometers take your temperature in your mouth, armpit or rectum
- Tympanic thermometers measure the temperature in your ear canal2
Of course, some injuries and illnesses may require a trip to an urgent-care center or the provider’s office. But having these items on hand may get you through everyday cuts, scrapes, colds and other minor mishaps.