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Should I take Drugs?

When building a first aid kit, build it for the medical emergencies you expect to see. It’s a given that you’ll include items for burns, cuts, and scrapes. Depending on the level of injuries you expect, you may even include splints and wraps for sprains or broken bones. It is a much tougher decision whether or not to include medications.

Drugs or Not?

We often forget all about drugs when building first aid kits, even though we have tons of different drugs in the medicine cabinet at home.

On the other hand, just because you have drugs in your medicine cabinet doesn’t mean you should put them in your first aid kit. Whether or not you want drugs in your first aid kit depends on how you plan to use it.


  • First aid kits intended for organized sports probably should not include drugs. It’s better to suggest that participants or parents bring their own. However, it’s not as big of a deal for adult sports as it is for kids – adults are generally responsible for their own decisions.
  • First aid kits designed for use primarily by family members will probably be fine with drugs
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    Gently apply pressure using a clean bandage or cloth for anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes, preferably while keeping the finger elevated.

    included. There are fewer liability issues and it’s easier to keep track of everyone’s medication allergies.

  • Travel first aid kits will need some drugs. Travel kits are intended to prepare travelers for potential medical needs and getting drugs may be a problem depending on where you’re traveling.
  • First aid kits for the home may or may not have drugs; it depends on whether the first aid kit is part of the medicine cabinet or not.


Drugs are so common that we sometimes don’t even realize when we’re using them. Antibiotic ointment, a staple of first aid treatment, is a drug. Bee sting swabs, used to relieve pain from bug bites, are also drugs. These topical treatments are medications, but they do not come with the same ethical dilemma as oral drugs (pills and elixirs). Questions to consider has the patient got allergies ? Can the patient swallow the tables or simply the issue of content.

First Aid Kit Maintenance

Putting drugs into a first aid kit means maintaining the kit more than if the drugs weren’t there. Drugs expire. If drugs are not regularly checked and expired drugs not replaced, you run the risk of a drug not working properly when it’s needed. Get into the habit of checking the first aid kit when you replace the batteries in your smoke alarm. A good rule of thumb is to do both when changing the clocks twice a year.

Avoid Combination Drugs

When stocking a first aid kit or your medicine cabinet, avoid combination drugs. Almost anytime a drug claims to treat more than one symptom, it usually has more than one active ingredient. Read the labels and look for drugs with only a single active ingredient. There are several reasons for this:


  • Combination drugs only last as long as the drug that expires first. If two drugs with different shelf lives are combined, they’ll expire together when the shorter one is past its prime. If you purchase the two drugs separately, you’ll only have to replace one when the expiration date comes.
  • Single drugs are cheaper. Milligram for milligram, combination drugs are almost always more expensive than singles. Combination drugs are also less likely to be sold as generics, a proven way to get cheaper medications.
  • You don’t always want all the effects of a combination drug. If you need a drug for fever, and all you have is a drug that combines a fever-reducer with an antihistamine, you may end up feeling drowsy when you didn’t need to. Stocking singles means you can combine them when necessary or take them separately.


Assuming you still want to stock your first aid kit with drugs, the following pages examine each type of drug you may or may not want to include. The beauty of building your own first aid kit is that you can customize it any way you like.

Pain relievers and fever reducers are the most basic drugs to put in your first aid kit. These drugs provide relief for many minor aches, pains, and illnesses.

Three kinds of pain relievers are good for first aid kits: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, and topical anesthetic. NSAIDs and acetaminophen can also reduce fevers. All three have distinct strengths and weaknesses.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

This class includes ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. All three are available as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and all three can relieve pain and reduce fevers. All three are also notorious for causing gastric upset in some people.


  • Ibuprofen is generally considered the safest of the three for all ages. It relieves muscle aches and pains, and it reduces fever.
  • Naproxen is very tough on the stomach, but it is a strong pain reliever that lasts for up to 12 hours.
  • Aspirin thins the blood and may cause bleeding problems. It is not for use in kids because it has been linked to Reye’s Syndrome.


This is the only drug in this class. Its action is not fully understood, but acetaminophen reduces pain and fever without reducing inflammation, which means it does not really help with swelling or redness caused by injury. Acetaminophen has also been shown to be very hard on the liver.

Benzocaine or Lidocaine

Topical anesthetics like benzocaine or lidocaine are applied directly to skin surfaces or mucous membranes (such as the inside of the mouth) to cause numbing and reduce pain. These drugs do nothing to reduce inflammation or fever and usually do not last very long. They can easily wash off with water.

They are very useful for quick treatment of minor scrapes, toothaches, and bug bites.

Allergies are common when traveling. If you’re building a travel first aid kit, consider stocking it with allergy medications. The two most common types of allergy pills sold over the counter include diphenhydramine and loratadine. Lotions are also available to treat itching from plants or other skin irritants.


Considered by most healthcare providers to be the gold standard of allergy medications, diphenhydramine provides relief from all types of allergic reactions.

It’s even used by emergency medical services to treat or prevent anaphylaxis.

The biggest side effect of diphenhydramine is drowsiness. This side effect is so common that diphenhydramine is also sold as a sleep aid. Generally, buying it as an allergy medication is cheaper than as a sleep aid, so be sure to read the labels. Remember, there is no difference, so a bottle of diphenhydramine purchased as an allergy medication will also help you fall asleep. For this reason, diphenhydramine is a good drug to have in your first aid travel kit. Diphenhydramine is also available as a cream, often combined with calamine lotion. It’s used on bug bites and poison oak or poison ivy. As a cream, diphenhydramine should not make you feel drowsy.

Be safe, be kind, be nice we are all her to help one another and remember an ambulance is always on its way. #PulseMedic is now working to provide others  emergency lifesaving training to people in London


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ILS went really well thank you. Just to give some feedback, Martin the course trainer was brilliant. I have been on ILS courses before and have found the trainers to be a little full on and not really understand care giving and emergencies outside of acute NHS Hospital trusts. Martin understood the skills (and resources available) of nursing staff working in primary care in independent sectors and the situations that they may face.
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Martin was so nice and lovely he was the best