Building a Medical Kit

A medical kit (med-kit) is a bag, box, or other container that is mobile and has everything you need for an emergency situation based on your training and capability.  Just like the efficient handyman or homemaker has their tools or supplies organized by project type or grouped by application, it’s also a good idea to have a single general use medical kit along with other emergency-specific medical kits.

Possible medical kit types include:

This article will focus on building your first med-kit, a general use kit.  I have worked as an emergency health professional for years, and I have seen trauma of all kinds including burns, de-gloving, compound open fractures, dislocations, amputations, gun shot wounds, puncture wounds, and stab wounds, as well as general emergencies.  Building a medical kit is easy for me, and a general use kit is one of the easiest.  I understand that it may not come easy to everyone, so I’ll try to guide you through the supply selection process as we go along.

Building Your Own Medical Kit


Unless it’s coming from one of us, don’t go for those pre-packed medical kits.  The sellers of these kits tout their value by advertising a high number of supplies that come with the kit when, in reality, there only a few really valuable items and too many alcohol swabs and band-aids.

First things first, though.  A med-kit isn’t just a bag or box with medical supplies thrown in.  There needs to be some internal organization.  So, the first big step is deciding which container to use.  I prefer bags, as they are much easier to carry on your back, over the shoulder, or just holding.  You need to pick a bag that has a lot of compartments and some degree of internal organization.

STEP 2: Pick Your Supplies


For a general use kit, there are some staple supplies you will want to include like alcohol swabs, band-aids, tourniquet, and so on (more detail below).  But you will want to stay away from other supplies that wouldn’t be appropriate for a general kit and would tax your organizational approach.  These include dental items and other emergency-specific supplies.

Picking supplies is easiest when you visualize potential emergency situations and think through the steps required to resolve them.  For instance, someone’s been working outside on a generator trying to repair the pull-cord.  The pull-cord snaps loose bringing a piece of metal with it that gashes their forehead.  You now have a laceration to assess, clean, and suture.  What pieces are required to complete this puzzle?  Here’s a short list:

scalp laceration

You would fix your light source (head-lamp or clamping flashlight), don the gloves, and clean the cut with soap and water, alcohol swabs, and then the hibiclens (using gauze pads as needed).  Next, you would draw up 3mL of plain 1% lidocaine into the syringe using the 18 gauge needle, swap the 18 gauge for the 27 gauge, and inject the lidocaine into the tissue surrounding the cut for numbing.  Next, you would use both forceps and the suture line, or just simply the skin stapler, to bring the skin back together.  The short scissors would be for cutting excess suture line.  Last, you would re-clean the area, dry it, and apply the antibacterial balm.

It sounds simple (well, the suturing part maybe not, but I will explain suturing and stapling in a subsequent post).  Your going through the steps of responding to an emergency and resolving it.  That’s the mind-set you take on when picking your supplies.  Here is a list of the supplies I believe should be in a general use medical kit.

LAC Kit Option

Dental Kit Option

STEP 3: Pick Your Medicines

tipMedicines expire and some medicines aren’t necessary for a general use kit.  Medicines also dissolve in water so storing your medicines in a water tight container or in waterproof bags within your med-kit will go a long way in keeping your kit viable if dropped in water, in a flood or river crossing situation, or any other scenario where the kit could be exposed to water.

Like picking supplies, visualizing potential emergencies and there solutions is key to picking the right medicines for your med-kit.  Here is a list of the basic medicines I would always include in my med-kit:

Tablets / Capsules

Oils, Balms, Inhalants, and Syrups

STEP 4: Pack it

The last step is to pack your kit with organization in mind.  If you end up with a lot of space left over (depending on the bag or container you choose), you can then decide to add some of the optional emergency-specific kits within your general use med-kit.

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