In an emergency situation you may have to act quickly, so it’s important to be familiar with your first aid kit and know what to use for different injuries. First aid kits are usually in a green box with a white cross and should be easy to find.

The contents of first aid kits in workplaces or public places should be guided by your first aid needs assessment. For more information about what should be in your workplace first aid kit, please read our Workplace first aid kit buying guide.

For your home or car, you can buy a first aid kit or put the items together yourself in a waterproof, clean container.

 

The following items are the basic contents of a first aid kit, with explanations of what to use when:

Sterile dressings

Wound dressings

Dressing pads attached to a roller bandage are the most useful bandage. They are easy to apply and so are ideal for an emergency.

Types of wound dressings include:

  • sterile wound dressing
  • sterile eye pad
  • sterile pad
  • fabric plasters
  • waterproof plasters.

Adhesive dressings or plasters

These are made from fabric or waterproof plastic and can be applied to small cuts and grazes. If you work with food, you’ll be required to use blue plasters. Gel plasters can be used to protect blisters.

Types of adhesive dressings or plasters include:

  • clear plasters
  • blue catering plasters
  • gel blister plasters.

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Bandages

Roller bandages

These are used to support injured joints, limit swelling, maintain pressure on wounds and secure dressings in place.

Types of roller bandages include:

  • conforming roller bandage
  • open-weave roller bandage
  • support roller bandage
  • self-adhesive bandage.

Triangular bandages

These are made of cloth and can be folded to make bandages or slings. If they are individually wrapped and sterile they can also be used as dressings for large wounds and burns.

Look for a folded triangular bandage.

Tubular bandages

Gauze tubular bandage is used to secure dressings on toes and fingers and is applied to the injury with a special applicator. Elasticated tubular bandages can be used to support injured joints such as the elbow or knee.

Look for a gauze tubular bandage and applicator.

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Protective items

Disposable gloves

If available, gloves should be worn whenever you dress wounds, handle bodily fluids or other waste materials. Latex-free gloves should be worn where possible as some people are allergic to latex.

Protection from infection

A plastic face shield or pocket mask can help protect you from cross infection with the casualty when giving rescue breaths.

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Additional items

  • Cleansing wipes: to clean the skin around the wound
  • Gauze pads: to use as padding, or as swabs to clean around the wounds
  • Adhesive tape: to hold dressings in place or to hold the loose end of bandages
  • Scissors: used to cut bandages or sticky tape or someone’s clothing if you need to get to a wound.
  • Pins and clips: to fasten loose ends of bandages
  • Aluminium blanketused to help retain body heat in survival, emergency and first aid situations.

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Did you find this information helpful?

Related advice

Workplace first aid kit buying guide

Find out which kit is right for your workplace and what to put in it.

The role of the first aider

First aid is the help given to someone who is injured or ill to keep them safe and to cause no further harm. Learn what to do as a first aider.

Workplace first aid rooms or areas

Find out what your workplace first aid room should include.

St John Ambulance volunteers providing support