What should an Australian first aid kit have?

A well prepared first aid kit can be life-saving

Australia has it all: Venomous animals, tropical storms, heatwaves, the list goes on. While it sounds like the perfect cocktail for accidents and emergencies, a well prepared first aid kit can go a long way in preventing the worst.

Kits can be readily bought or you can opt to assemble your own, but either way, you’ll want to carefully consider it’s content to meet the needs of yourself and your family/community.

When buying a first aid kit off the shelf, you’ll want to make sure not to only focus on the content. A high quality, durable bag that offers plenty of space for customisation and future additions is key. You want your first aid kit to be portable and keep any water or dirt out. When an emergency happens, your first aid kit should be ready to go and in the same condition as you left it in.

If you are looking to buy your first aid kit online, St John Ambulance and the Australian Red Cross have great options available (plus they are non-profits, so the money goes towards a good cause!). If you are the type of person that prefers to browse in person, you can find first aid kits in pharmacies, service stations, retailers, motoring organisations and charities.

First aid kit content checklist

Healthdirect has compiled the following checklist:

  • crepe bandages of varying widths
  • hypoallergenic (skin) tape
  • triangular bandages
  • adhesive dressing strips (such as bandaids) in different sizes
  • gauze swabs
  • combine dressing pads (10cm x 10cm)
  • non-stick dressing pads (7.5cm x 10cm)
  • sterile eye pad
  • alcohol swabs
  • stainless steel scissors (sharp/blunt) 12.5cm
  • disposable gloves
  • stainless steel pointed splinter forceps (tweezers)
  • shock (thermal) blanket
  • safety pins
  • notepad and permanent marker
  • sterile saline tubes/sachets
  • disposable resuscitation face shield
  • antiseptic skin swabs
  • stop itch cream
  • first aid booklet

Source: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/first-aid-kits

This checklist covers the basics and a kit fitted this way will have a wide range of applications. If you know in which situations you are most likely to use your first aid kit, we can easily make some improvements.

Customising your first aid kit

Common places where you’ll want to keep a first aid kit include your home, vehicles and boats. You might also want to bring a first aid kit when going camping, or keep a specially fitted kit for babies.

Home first aid kit

Your home first aid kit should account for the common activities and hobbies of the household. This is the kit that will be used when someone comes home with a sport-related injury etc. We recommend keeping thick crepe bandages, pressure immobilisation bandages and pain-relieving patches. Some pain-relieving patches are best kept in the fridge, so adding a reminder note to your first aid kit can be a good idea.

Vehicle first aid kit

Keep a retro-reflective high visibility vest and safety triangle in case of a breakdown as you are likely to be in proximity of traffic.

Boating first aid kit

You’ll want to bring a whistle and glow stick, as they are the best ways to call for help when there is limited or no network (or your phone runs out of batteries!). Packing vinegar for marine stingers is also a good idea.

Camping first aid kit

Same as when out on a boat, you’ll want to bring a whistle and glow stick. Heavy crepe bandages and instant cold packs are also advised. If camping at the beach, bring vinegar for marine stingers.

Hayfever & allergy relief tablets can also save a trip.

Baby first aid kit

You’ll want to pack a thermometer and baby paracetamol (with measuring syringe). It will help with fever, teeth ache etc.

First aid kits should be kept in accessible areas and easily identified. Make sure the kit stays away from moisture, dust and other sources of contamination.

Knowing how to use the items in your first aid kit

Even the best first aid kit in the world won’t be very useful if you don’t know how to use its content.

The first step should be reading the first aid booklet that comes with the kit. If you are assembling a kit by yourself from scratch, you’ll want to familiarise yourself with the instructions on each individual item.

The next step would be to complete a first aid course. Not only will an experienced trainer teach you how to best use your first aid kit, you will also learn to provide critical first aid procedures such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), how to place someone in recovery position and more.

At a minimum, you want to familiarise yourself on the following:

  • how to use dressing pads to cover and pack bleeding wounds
  • how to use non-adherent dressings to cover wounds and burns
  • how to use shock blankets to help manage body temperature
  • how to use crepe bandages to provide light support for sprains and strains
  • how to use heavy crepe bandages to immobilise joints and provide support
  • how to use triangular bandages as a sling to immobilise injured limbs, or as a pad to control bleeding or protect injuries
  • how to use disposable resuscitation face shields to provide personal protection during mouth to mouth resuscitation
  • how to use sterile saline tubes or sachets to flush debris from eyes and clean minor cuts and grazes

Maintaining your first aid kit

Well-maintained first aid kits are always ready to use. Make sure you:

  • replace items as soon as possible after they are used
  • check the kit after each use or if not used, then once every 12 months
  • check that items are in good working order, have not deteriorated and within their expiry date. Ensure that sterile items are still sealed

Should I do a first aid course?

Yes. It is the best way to learn and practice how to use your first aid kit. You’ll also gain extra skills such as providing CPR, how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) and more.

When choosing a course, you’ll want to make sure that the provider is a registered training organisation and delivers accredited, nationally recognised training.

To help ypu get staryed, here is a list of providers for Brisbane and the Gold Coast

Workplace first aid kits

Employers in Australia have to follow the Code of Practice and workplace requirements outlined by Safe Work Australia. They must also have enough trained first aid officers available for their workforce. You can find out more about it here: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/first-aid

Most first aid providers will offer services to help businesses with compliance.