A standard first-aid kit typically contains supplies that are perfect for minor cuts and abrasions. With a few more items, however, you can turn your first-aid kit into an all-purpose emergency kit. On a tight budget? Altogether, these 10 items cost only $25.*
In an emergency, there’s no substitute for calling 911 (or the equivalent for your your community). But until emergency services arrive, you and others may need to rely on what’s available. Consider keeping these items on hand.
1. Bottle of low-dose aspirin ($3.49). Only administer aspirin when directed to by an emergency operator or medical professional—some people can have an allergic reaction to the medication, which will make matters worse. Do not administer aspirin for a stroke.
2. Latex rubber tubing ($1.50). Can be used as a tourniquet to slow blood loss from a wound. Most home improvement stores sell tubing by the foot. You’ll need at least a three-foot piece for your kit.
3. Bottled water ($0.50). Use bottled water to clean a wound, cool the skin of someone suffering heat stroke, or treat mild dehydration. Note: Severe dehydration can lead to death and needs immediate medical treatment. Review the symptoms of dehydration.
4. Baking Soda ($0.50). If an extinguisher is unavailable, baking soda quickly can douse flames from grease or electrical fires. Toss the soda onto the fire, taking care to stand as far back as possible. To alleviate pain from insect bites, mix baking soda with water to create a paste.
5. Plastic wrap ($2.50). In an emergency, plastic wrap (like the kind used to cover food) can help keep a burned area of skin clean until medical help arrives. First, use cool (not cold) water to bring down the temperature of the burn—never put ice or butter on a burn.1 Gently lay the plastic on top of the wound. This technique should only be used for thermal burns from a flame, hot steam, or hot objects.
6. Hard candy, honey stick, or packet of sugar ($0.25). Give to someone suffering from low blood sugar, but only if the person is conscious. Otherwise, it could be a choking hazard. Learn the signs of a person suffering from low blood sugar.
7. Air horn ($6.99). Air horns are not just for sporting events. In an emergency, the loud sound can disrupt an attacker, warn others to implement emergency procedures, or signal distress. Inexpensive versions are good for single use, while more expensive versions are refillable.
8. Glow sticks ($3.27). Glow sticks can be used during a power outage when emergency lighting or flashlights are not available. A stick also is an effective way to signal your location to emergency responders.
9. Duct tape ($2.97). Books have been written about duct tape’s many uses, especially in emergency and survival situations. It is an essential component of your kit.
10. Whistle ($2.99). A whistle can signal your location to emergency responders or quickly alert others to an emergency situation.
11. Gas / water shut-off tool ($11.52). Store this tool at every gas or water valve location. It acts as a universal key and supplies the leverage needed to turn off a gas or water main. Look for a version of this tool that can pry open a meter cover, too. Note: If you suspect a gas leak, close the valve and leave the building immediately. If you’re experiencing a power outage, do not use an open flame, such as a candle or lighter, to illuminate the area.
* Prices are based on generic versions and best value. Prices in your area or online may vary.
1 Hudspith, Judith. “First aid and treatment of minor burns.” U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine, June 19, 2004, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC428524
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