No matter how closely parents watch their children, accidents and unexpected medical curveballs are unavoidable. From scratches to splinters to allergic reactions, we want to be prepared for any situation — and that's why it's so important to have first-aid items in the house.
Putting together the most thorough first-aid kit can be a daunting task, but don't despair if you're not sure where to start — we've got you covered.
1. Triple-antibiotic ointment
Cuts and scrapes are a normal part of childhood, so it's always handy to have some triple-antibiotic ointment (like Neosporin) around.
"Kids will always find a way to injure their skin, which happens to be the body’s largest organ and our first line of defense against infection," Dr. Ashanti Woods, attending pediatrician at Mercy Medical Center, tells SheKnows. Although the majority of these cuts heal without complications, there's always the possibility of infection — and some children are at greater risk for bacterial infections.
"To prevent these infections, Neosporin or any triple-antibiotic ointment should be applied to the skin following a moderate to severe skin injury," Woods advises.
Allergic reactions in children can potentially be life-threatening, so Woods says that an antihistamine that's safe for children (like Benadryl and it's generic versions) is definitely an essential item to have on hand at all times.
"In the event a parent suspects their child (or a visiting child) is having an allergic reaction to something, the first step should be to give a healthy dose of Benadryl," he advises. If an allergic reaction is severe, parents should call 911 and an epinephrine injection should be administered.
3. Adhesive bandages
If you think of items essential for any first-aid kit, adhesive bandages are probably first on the list. Dr. Rachel Dawkins, a board certified pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, tells SheKnows that it's important to stick with the basics. "Band-Aids are great for minor cuts and scrapes," Dawkins says. "Also, kids love putting Band-Aids on — even when their injury is small or nonexistent."
Because children go through adhesive bandages quickly, Dawkins recommends buying in bulk or getting the novelty ones at a dollar store. "You could also consider putting gauze, nonstick bandages and an elastic [ACE] bandage in your kit," she adds.
As a pediatrician, Dawkins says she thinks having a working thermometer is the most important tool to have in your first-aid kit, noting that it's common for children to feel like they have a fever when they don't.
"The most accurate temperature is a rectal temperature and is the preferred way to take an infant’s temperature," Dawkins explains. "Temporal artery or ear thermometers are fine options for older babies and children."
If you're lucky enough to be sprouting chin hair, you probably already have a pair of tweezers sitting around, but it's probably a good idea to get a pair specifically for your first-aid kit.
"Tweezers are an essential tool for removing splinters and stingers," Woods says. Once the splinter or stinger is removed from a child's skin, the symptoms almost always resolve quickly, and typically no medicines are necessary, she adds.
6. A small flashlight
Dawkins recommends keeping a small flashlight on hand for those times when you need to remove something small from your child's skin and need better lighting. She also notes that you could use the flashlight on your phone.
7. ACE Wrap
Because children are so active, it is not uncommon for them to get a bump, bruise, sprain or strain in their daily activities, Woods says. "These injuries involve an overstretching of muscles and ligaments near the big joints, [which] cause quite a bit of pain," she explains.
The most common way to treat a sprain or a strain is RICE: rest, ice, compression (that's where the ACE wrap comes in) and elevation, she adds. With this type of treatment, Woods says you can typically count on your child being back to running around after three to seven days.
8. Ice packs
Dawkins recommends keeping some form of ice pack in the freezer just in case. If you don't have one, she suggests using a bag of frozen vegetables or a wet sponge that has been frozen in a freezer bag. "Alternatively, wrap ice in a paper towel or put it in a freezer bag," she says.
"The usual rule of thumb when using ice on an injury is 20 minutes on then 20 minutes off," Dawkins continues. "I also recommend putting something between the ice pack and your child’s skin to prevent injury to the skin from the cold."
9. Medications & creams
Your home first-aid kit should contain a couple of medications and creams, Dawkins explains, and suggests the following (in addition to the ones mentioned above):
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and/or pain
- Hydrocortisone cream for itchy insect bites
- Hydrogen peroxide for cleaning wounds
- Aloe for use on sunburns
In addition to these first-aid items, Dawkins suggests that parents keep emergency numbers handy and in an easily accessible location. These numbers include their pediatrician's office, poison control (1-800-222-1222) and a couple of emergency contacts.
Chances are you probably have a lot of these items already in your house — you might as well take the next step and assemble them in an easy-to-reach kit to make treating your kids' minor injuries and pain easier the next time they occur.