Car First Aid Kit Checklist - 14 Things You Must Have
Car accidents can occur at any time, and a well-stocked first aid kit will allow you to treat both minor and serious injuries before emergency medical assistance arrives. Feeling prepared to handle injuries and medical emergencies while driving can boost your confidence and give your passengers greater peace of mind.
The first step to ensuring that you are prepared for a car emergency is to put together a first aid kit checklist. You can then assemble these items yourself or buy a pre-assembled kit from most large pharmacies or online.
Essential Items to Keep in Your Car's First Aid Kit
Typical first aid supplies that every car kit should have include bandages, medical tape, gauze pads, and antiseptic wipes. Other items to include in your car's first aid kit include preferred or prescription medications, depending on your medical needs. For instance, if you or a family member has asthma, having an emergency inhaler in the first aid kit is a good idea. Car first aid kits should be stored conveniently in your vehicle for easy access alongside a first aid manual.
Here are 14 items that every first aid kit should have:
Bandages are staples that should be included in your car's first-aid kit. There are several types of bandages, including classic, triangular, and elastic bandages. Buy a few different bandages in different sizes to accommodate different kinds of wounds. For example, small adhesive bandages like Band-Aids are great for minor scrapes and injuries, whereas elastic bandage wraps are better for more significant injuries.
(2-4)Gauze, Medical Tape, and Cotton Balls
Sterile medical gauze is a basic item that every first aid kit should have. Gauze pads are used to apply direct pressure to bleeding wounds. While there are other sizes available, 4”x4” is a fairly standard size. High-quality hemostatic gauze can be used to stem bleeding in a junctional or truncal injury that is gushing or spurting blood. Cotton balls and medical tape can be used to clean, cover, and prevent infections in minor wounds.
(5-6)Antibiotic Ointment and Antiseptic Wipes
First aid kits for cars should always include antibiotic ointment and antiseptic wipes. Some antibiotic ointments, such as Neosporin, can help prevent infection by killing bacteria and promoting healing. The American Red Cross recommends having five antibiotic ointment packets (1 gram each) and five antiseptic wipe packets per first aid kit.
In an emergency, gloves can shield you and others from bodily fluids like blood. To prevent contamination, include a few pairs of nitrile or other non-latex gloves in your car's first aid kit. Even though medical gloves are not a 100% reliable barrier against contamination, they significantly reduce the risk of disease transmission.
(8-10)Scissors, Safety Pins, and Tweezers
Scissors and tweezers are essential tools in a car first aid kit and will be highly useful in various medical emergencies. Scissors can be used for cutting gauze to size and for cutting medical tape. Scissors can also be helpful when you need to cut away clothing to reveal injuries before beginning treatment. Tweezers are practical for removing fragments or other foreign objects beneath the skin, and safety pins can be used to fasten a bandage after it has been wrapped around a wound.
(11-12)Instant Cold and Hot Packs
Both hot and cold packs are designed to provide immediate relief and are excellent first aid items to have in your car first aid kit. Pain from sprains and strains can be relieved with an instant cold pack, while hot packs can be used to increase blood circulation to a specific area or relax muscles after exercise (please note that hot packs should not be applied to injuries that are inflamed or swollen).
When stocking your kit, double-check the expiration dates of the packs you're including, and don’t use any that are damaged or expired as they could fail you when you need them most.
Since body temperature is frequently used as an indicator of health, knowing someone’s exact body temperature in cases of fever or heat stroke can help determine the severity of their condition. An oral thermometer can also aid in detecting illnesses or infections and help you determine the most appropriate first-aid measures. The American Red Cross suggests keeping a non-glass, non-mercury oral thermometer in your first-aid kit.
If you or a family member has a chronic condition, it's a good idea to add prescription drugs (marked with your name) to your car's first aid kit. In an emergency, this can help you, bystanders, or first responders to administer medication correctly. It can also be helpful to specify—on a note taped to the medicine container—how often these medications should be given and the correct dosage.
Highly Recommended Items
While a basic first aid kit includes items such as adhesive bandages, wound dressings, and antibiotic ointments, there are additional items you should consider keeping in your car first aid kit. These include things like bleeding control kits, sting and bite treatments, a tooth preservation kit, and emergency blankets.
A bleeding control kit contains the supplies you need to stem life-threatening bleeding in the case of an emergency. Severe blood loss can lead to death within minutes, which is why it’s critical to stop the bleeding rapidly.
Well-equipped bleeding control kits contain essentials like a tourniquet to stop blood flow to the upper and lower extremities, gauze to bandage wounds, and a survival blanket to conserve body heat. A fully stocked bleeding control kit will also include an instruction card that offers detailed directions on applying tourniquets and making the most of the rest of the kit's contents.
Emergency blankets, sometimes called survival blankets, minimize the loss of body heat and can be a lifesaver against hypothermia in certain situations, such as after an injury or if you become stranded in cold weather. Emergency blankets can be found at your local drugstore and in many outdoor and wilderness stores, and are included in our bleeding control kits as mentioned above.
Medication for Bites and Stings
Bugs are a part of life, and even though you may not think to add medicine or ointment specifically for treating stings or bites to your car’s first aid kit, these items are a valuable addition. Consider adding hydrocortisone creams, itch relief sprays, and calamine lotions (to treat poison ivy) to your first aid kit. If you or a family member is allergic to bee stings, keep an emergency epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen® and others) on hand because a severe reaction could result in anaphylaxis.
Flashlight and Batteries
At night or when you have limited visibility, a flashlight can provide illumination, allowing you to assess a situation, locate wounds and medical supplies, and begin to apply first aid. A flashlight can also be used to signal for help or alert passing vehicles that you are in trouble. Keep a spare set of flashlight batteries on hand in case the batteries that are currently in the flashlight stop working.
Tooth Preservation Kit
A tooth preservation kit can be used to preserve and store a knocked-out adult tooth until it can be re-implanted by a dentist. Teenagers and adults can often hold a knocked-out tooth in position in the socket it came from (which is the preferred approach). However, for children, these kits can be invaluable.
Phone Chargers and Emergency Contact Lists
Including a phone charger and a portable power bank in your car's first aid kit can assist in keeping your phone charged even when everything else fails. You should also have a list of emergency numbers programmed into your phone, such as roadside emergency, 9-1-1, poison control, and even your doctor's office. In case your cell phone dies or there is no service, keep a paper list of emergency contacts in your car's first aid kit that you can use to make calls from another cell phone or a public telephone.
Extra Items for Young Children and Pets
If you are a parent of a human child or a four-legged friend, you will likely want to prepare your car’s first aid kit with additional items for them. For example, if you have young children, keep extra diapers, ointments, and child-safe insect repellents in your kit. A liquid pain reliever containing paracetamol or ibuprofen is also a good idea. For pets, you could prepare an extra small kit containing items such as a collar, leash, rectal thermometer, and the phone number and address of your pet's veterinarian.
Prepare Ahead for Roadside Emergencies
When it comes to a car first aid kit, it's better to be over-prepared than underprepared. Having a well-stocked first aid kit ensures you will be ready to handle minor injuries or even provide immediate and life-saving assistance during a traumatic event.
Bandages, gauze, and antibiotic ointments are some essential items that should always be in your kit. A bleeding control kit is also highly recommended for stemming blood flow after a traumatic injury. In addition to the basics, keep items in your car that are personalized for your situation and that you believe will be useful in an emergency. Stay safe and happy travels!