Yesterday, the company I work for had an "emergency preparedness fair". I applaud the company for having this fair, but it got me to thinking about first aid kits.

The company gave out a keychain type first aid kit, and while certainly better than nothing, it is really a "boo-boo" type kit.

What do I mean by a boo-boo kit?
A boo-boo kit is really a first aid kit that is meant for minor cuts, scratches and the like.

Let's look at the contents of the kit they gave out


Now, this isn't a bad little kit, but it's really meant for small cuts, scrapes and the like, which are the most likely injuries you will run across.

The problem is, this type of kit is almost a 'comfort' type kit. Just about everything you can treat with this kit can, well, wait. Yes, you might be uncomfortable, but you're probably not going to be in any serious risk

Now, when we discuss 'First Aid' kits, we have to ask the next question, what is the purpose of the kit?
A first aid kit for minimal carry, such as the kit mentioned above is going to be a very different kit than a kit you have in your car, which will probably be different than what you have in your home, and should be quite different than the kit you keep in your workshop (if you have one)

NOTE: I will NOT be discussing what drugs I think you should carry in your kit. There is too much liability, and it's too much of a personal choice. I will say that you should carry a minimum of 1 day of whatever prescription drugs you take with you even in your carry kit, and go from there.

Training

Probably the most important thing you can do is get a bit of training. Contact your local Red Cross, and take their CPR with First Aid class.

Carry Kits

Let's think about the little kit above, and how we can make it better, without making the kit too big to carry, and with very little expense.
The first thing I'd add would be at least one, and preferably two '4x4' gauze bandages. Now, I've used a lot of 4x4s over the last few years, and I've found that some are very lose weave, and can hold almost no fluid, and others are great. I happen to like the Johnson & Johnson brand Gauze Pads. They are about as thick as two 'normal' gauze pads.
Obviously, you're going to have to add a bit of tape to hold the bandage on. 3M makes sheets of pre-cut tape strips for doing this, or you can get a roll of tape, and stick a few strips on a clean piece of hard plastic.
Believe it or not, this one simple change makes your kit a lot more versatile. The 4x4 can cover a large scrape, it can cover a cut larger longer than say 1/2 inch, and just has so many uses.

House/Car kits

Let's start with the general idea that you have no training. What you really need is a larger version of what is in your carry kit.

In a car kit, I personally also like to have some sort of trauma bandage. I can remember as a young teen, I was the first person to get to the scene of a fairly nasty car accident, and having something beside a rag to put over the guys wound to apply direct pressure sure would have been nice.
You'll note that I don't mention things like suture kits and the like. If you're NOT trained, don't do it. Just DON'T. It's way too easy to trap things that will cause infections in there. If you're NOT a backwoods hiker, you're probably going to be in the ER fairly quickly, let the pros handle it.

Shop Kits

Kits for the home workshop are really just bigger/better home kits, basically with the idea that something VERY bad can go wrong, fast. Fingers can get amputated, cuts bad enough to require stitches happen a lot more often than you think. Some sort of trauma type bandage should be in there, be it a 'bloodstopper', or what they call a battle bandage.

Other thoughts

There are a lot of GOOD first aid kits out there.Redflare sells some good kits on his site. On other sites, I've seen lot of kits that are nothing more than expensive, large boo-boo kits.

One great place to learn about first aid kits, and other disaster preps, without it being a 'survivalist' site is Equipped to Survive (Disclaimer - I am the Urban Preparedness section moderator)