It’s one of those things we know we should have, but before children come along it’s not a priority. In the child-free days, there’s every chance your home first aid kit contained nothing more than some painkillers and an ageing roll of sticking plaster.
Once you’re a parent, however, that changes. You’re suddenly aware of all the ways your little one can be injured, or the illnesses they might pick up. You realise you need to be prepared. You can buy ready-stocked first aid kits straight off the shelf at the pharmacy, of course, but making your own is often more cost-effective. It also allows you to tailor the contents – so you have more of what you do need, and none of what you don’t.
Here’s what we recommend every parent should have in a home first aid kit for babies and young children:
- Bandages. Ideally, keep a selection of different types and sizes. Triangular bandages can be used as a sling or as a pad to control bleeding, for example, while a roller or crepe bandage will secure a dressing in place or support a sprained joint.
- Sticking plasters. A roll of plaster means you only use as much as you need, but pre-cut sizes can be more convenient. Waterproof versions can still allow the skin to breathe while protecting cuts and wounds from infection or dirt. When your child gets older, buy some featuring their favourite toy or cartoon character – it’s amazing how quickly Buzz Lightyear or Moana can dry their tears!
- Infant paracetamol (or similar age-appropriate painkiller). Useful for teething, earaches, headaches, fever, stomach aches, cold symptoms and more. As well as bottles, some brands make single-dose sachets which are great for on-the-go or for treating your baby at night when you’re half-asleep. Never exceed the recommended dose.
- Pipette (or medicine dropper). It’s easier to give your baby liquid medicine in a dropper than on a spoon, and they’re also handy for ear and eye drops, too. Keep at least one in your first aid kit. Remember to wash it out thoroughly between uses and sterilise it until your baby is six months old.
- Thermometer. Digital thermometers are easy to use, and an ear thermometer will give you an accurate reading quickly – great with babies and young children who tend to wriggle. As well as presenting a potential hazard if your child bites down and breaks it, a glass thermometer can also be trickier to use with little ones.
- Disposable gloves. If your baby has an open wound, disposable gloves will help protect against any infection from your skin as well as keep you clean. Latex-free options are available if you or anyone in your family has an allergy.
- Antiseptic cream. Essential for cuts and grazes and can be used on burns too.
- Sterile cotton balls. Good for cleaning wounds and applying lotions or ointment.
- Saline solution. For cleaning and rinsing out your child’s eyes if they’re irritated by infection or a foreign body such as an eyelash.
- Liquid baby soap. Your little one’s skin is sensitive and more likely to react to standard soap – keep something milder handy to clean their wounds.
- Fire blanket. This can be used to wrap around your child to protect them and/or quickly extinguish flames.
- Scissors. Keep scissors in your home first aid kit for cutting tapes and bandages to size quickly. You won’t want to waste time hunting for a pair elsewhere in your house.
- Notepad and pen. There may be times when you need to record symptoms, temperature readings or other information that might be useful to either emergency services or other medical staff if your child needs additional treatment.
- First aid manual. Even if you’ve done a first aid course, it’s easy to forget what to do in the heat of the moment. It will also offer guidance to anyone unsure what to do. Make sure you keep an up-to-date version with your first aid kit.
Once your child is older, you might find it helpful to include the following items in your home first aid kit:
- Bite and sting cream. Especially important in the summer, when your child is more likely to suffer from ant or mosquito bites or be stung by a bee or wasp.
- Tweezers. Still the best option for removing splinters or, if your child likes to play outdoors, you might need them to remove a tick.
- Hot and cold pack. You’ll need to store the ice pack in the freezer. Keep the hot one in your home first aid kit.
- Butterfly adhesive wound strips. Great for closing larger or gaping wounds.
- Antihistamine cream and/or tablets. Make sure whatever you choose is age-appropriate – not all are suitable for young children.
- Gauze pads and medical adhesive tape. As your child becomes more mobile, you might find it easier to dress wounds with these rather than bandages.
- Rehydration salts. Although some brands can be given from a few months, many babies refuse to drink them so you might prefer to wait until your child is older before stocking up. Small children are prone to sickness and diarrhoea, so it’s important to replace lost fluids quickly.
First aid advice
Store your home first aid kit in a cool, easily accessible place, and make sure everyone knows where it is. This includes grandparents, babysitters and anyone who will spend time caring for your child in your home.
It should also be kept out of reach of any children, as some of its contents could be dangerous or cause injury. A transparent plastic tub will make it easier for you to find what you need during an emergency.
Taking a basic first aid course will teach you invaluable skills and will also help you feel more confident about dealing with an emergency situation. You’re more likely to stay calm and panic less if you know what you need to do. Organisations such as the British Red Cross, the National Safety Council, the Canadian Red Cross and St John Ambulance Australia all run courses for home first aid.