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First Aid Kit & Medicine Cabinet Drugs

Stocking the First Aid Kit


Updated June 10, 2014

When building a first aid kit, build it for the medical emergencies you expect to see. It's a given that you'll include items for burns, cuts, and scrapes. Depending on the level of injuries you expect, you may even include splints and wraps for sprains or broken bones. It is a much tougher decision whether or not to include medications.

Drugs or Not?

We often forget all about drugs when building first aid kits, even though we have tons of different drugs in the medicine cabinet at home. Whether or not you want drugs in your first aid kit depends on how you plan to use it.

Drugs are so common that we sometimes don't even realize when we're using them. Antibiotic ointment, found in almost every first aid kit, is a drug. Bee sting swabs, used to relieve pain from bug bites, are also drugs. These topical treatments do not usually come with the same ethical dilemma as oral drugs (pills and elixirs).

  • First aid kits intended for organized sports probably should not include drugs. It's better to suggest that participants or parents bring their own. However, it's not as big of a deal for adult sports as it is for kids - adults are generally responsible for their own decisions.

  • First aid kits designed for use primarily by family members will probably be fine with drugs included. There are fewer liability issues and it's easier to keep track of everyone's medication allergies.

  • Travel first aid kits will need some drugs. Travel first aid kits are intended to prepare travelers for potential medical needs and getting drugs may be a problem depending on where you're traveling.

  • First aid kits for the home may or may not have drugs; it depends on whether the first aid kit is part of the medicine cabinet or not.

First Aid Kit Maintainance

Putting drugs into a first aid kit means maintaining the kit more than if the drugs weren't there. Drugs expire. If drugs are not regularly checked and expired drugs replaced, you run the risk of a drug not working properly when it's needed. Get into the habit of checking the first aid kit when you replace the batteries in your smoke alarm. A good rule of thumb is to do both when changing the clocks twice a year.

Avoid Combination Drugs

When stocking a first aid kit or medicine cabinet, avoid combination drugs. Almost anytime a drug claims to treat more than one symptom, it usually has more than one active ingredient. Read the labels and look for drugs with only a single active ingredient. There are several reasons for this:
  • Combination drugs only last as long as the drug that expires first. If two drugs with different shelf lives are combined, they'll expire together when the shorter one is past its prime. If you purchase the two drugs separately, you'll only have to replace one when the expiration date comes.

  • Single drugs are cheaper. Milligram for milligram, combination drugs are almost always more expensive than singles. Combination drugs are also less likely to be sold as generics, a proven way to get cheaper medications.

  • You don't always want all the effects of a combination drug. If you need a drug for fever, and all you have is a drug that combines a fever-reducer with an antihistamine, you may end up feeling drowsy when you didn't need to. Stocking singles means you can combine them when necessary or take them separately.

Assuming you still want to stock your first aid kit with drugs, the following pages examine each type of drug you may or may not want to include. The beauty of building your own first aid kit is that you can customize it any way you like.

Page 1 - Stocking the First Aid Kit
Page 2 - Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers
Page 3 - Allergy Medications
Page 4 - Nausea Medications
Page 5 - Diarrhea Medications

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