First aid kits are one of those things you only think about when you truly need one. In those situations, a first aid kit might make the difference between living and dying, but not just any will do. Having the right kit is essential.
First aid kits come in several classifications, each differing by size, mobility, intended use, and contents. Within those classifications are different options for different settings.
Let’s go through these classifications so you can decide exactly which kit you need.
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First Aid Kit Classifications
Let’s memorize a rule: “Class” tells us what the kit is best used for, while “level” or “type” tells us whether the kit is mobile.
Class A First Aid Kit
A Class A kit is a simple first aid kit for dealing with the most common minor injuries. This includes minor burns, cuts, scratches, and bruises, or in other words, things that will heal in a few days and you’ll forget all about.
The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) dictates that every Class A kit must have the following:
- Adhesive bandages and tape
- Breathing barrier
- Burn dressing
- Burn treatment
- Cold pack
- Eye covers
- Eye and skin wash
- Hand sanitizer – make DIY hand sanitizer
- 2-inch roller bandage
- Sterile pad
- Trauma pad
- Triangular bandage – uses for a triangular bandage
- First aid guide
As you can see from this list, all these things can treat most minor injuries, which is why Class A first aid kits are usually found in homes, offices, apartment complexes, and other places where serious injuries rarely occur.
If you don’t have a Class A first aid kit at home, I definitely recommend getting one.
Class B First Aid Kit
There are two major differences between Class A and Class B kits. First, Class B kits have a few additional supplies, and second, they have more of everything.
There are three things found in Class B first aid kits that you won’t find in Class A kits: a tourniquet, a splint, and a four-inch roller bandage. On top of that the quantity of everything is greater.
For example, Class A kits come with a minimum of 16 adhesive bandages, while Class B kits come with a minimum of 50 adhesive bandages. There are 10 burn treatment ointments in Class A kits and 25 of those same ointments in Class B kits.
Aside from eye covers, scissors, and first aid guides, all first aid equipment comes in greater quantities. As you might assume, this means that Class B kits are much bigger than Class A kits.
These kits were designed for use in areas where more traumatic injuries are expected, such as factories, construction sites, hiking routes, or any other place where there’s a danger of falling, something falling on you, something biting you, or any other type of serious injury.
Most of these places are mandated by law to have Class B kits available at all times. Some places sell incredibly expanded Class B kits that have enough equipment to treat dozens of wounded at the same time. These kits are usually used by massive factories and industrial complexes where large-scale accidents can occur.
First Aid Kits by Type
As a reminder, where the class tells us how well equipped the kit is, the type, or level, tells us how mobile and durable the kit is.
There are four types of kits:
- Type I: Type I is not portable, and it’s designed for indoor use, so the box itself is usually not very durable. They’re usually the cheapest first aid kits, often Class A.
- Type II: Type II is also designed for indoor use, but it’s portable, which is the only difference between it and Type I.
- Type III: Type III is water resistant and somewhat resistant to impact damage. It’s intended for use in the open, and it may take some abuse from the environment (for example, you may find these kits in natural parks where they may be exposed to the elements). It’s not entirely portable, but it can be mounted.
- Type IV: Type IV is extremely resistant to environmental factors and it’s entirely portable, making it the most durable type of first aid kit to exist. It’s built for rough handling, and aside from water resistance, it’s resistant to corrosion and impact.
Dangerous workplaces, such as lumber yards, mountain ranger bases, and oil rigs, often have Type IV Class B first aid kits.
A Type IV Class B kit, however, isn’t even close to a full kit. There are first aid kits available that are even more well equipped, as well as some highly specialized kits, and we’ll take a look at them too.
1. Vehicle First Aid Kit
As the name implies, vehicle first aid kits keep you covered in case of a traffic accident or something happening by the side of the road.
Believe it or not, you’re not required to have a first aid kit in your vehicle in all countries (the UK, for example, doesn’t have that requirement), but many countries insist on it.
Even if it’s not required by law, it’s highly recommended to have at least a Class A first aid kit in your car — you never know when something might happen.
If you buy a Class A kit for your car, I’d suggest buying a tourniquet and adding it to the kit. Tourniquets are not part of Class A kits, but they’re arguably the most useful piece of first aid equipment when it comes to severe bleeding.
2. Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK)
IFAKs were first designed as military first aid kits that each combatant would wear, but civilian versions quickly followed because these tiny kits are immensely useful.
They were designed, first and foremost, to prevent the two leading causes of death on the battlefield: hemorrhaging and a shut-down airway. The most important thing about their design is how compact they are — a soldier wears the pouch at their right hip, they don’t feel it, and it doesn’t get in the way of anything.
IFAK pouches usually include these items:
- Trauma dressing
- Elastic bandage
- Regular bandage
- Adhesive tape
- Airway kit
As you can see, it’s not as well equipped as a Class A kit, but it was designed to be compact and for specific uses, not to fix every possible injury. You can find different models online, and some of them include additional items, such as a survival blanket, hand sanitizer, or even an SOF tourniquet.
Most modern militaries use SOF tourniquets now. I used one during my time in the military, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it. They’re very easy to use, they’re much more effective than elastic bandages, and they are, in my humble opinion, one of the most useful pieces of first aid gear out there.
An IFAK is a great kit if you work a slightly dangerous job or if you’re going into the wild, even for a short time, since you never know when disaster might strike.
3. Trauma Kit (Bleeding Control)
Trauma kits specialize in controlling bleeds. Aside from a rebreather for CPR and a survival blanket for warming up the injured person, all the gear focuses on bleeding.
There are different trauma kits out there, but most of them use compressed and hemostatic gauze, a tourniquet, a disinfectant, a pressure dressing, and a chest seal.
Some trauma kits also include hemostatic agents, but these shouldn’t be applied by anyone who isn’t a medical professional (unless the situation requires it).
Trauma kits aren’t as common in the civilian world and they’re usually found in ambulances or with search-and-rescue units.
4. Burn Kit
Burn kits are small kits you can fit in a bag with your large med kit. They’re used to treat burns, and they usually come with an instruction sheet explaining exactly how to determine burn level and what to do next.
Class A and Class B kits have some burn equipment, but this kit takes it to a whole new level with cooling wraps, burn dressings, burn gels, and plastic strips.
There are also chemical burn kits, which some workplaces (those that work with hazardous chemicals) are required to have.
5. Fracture Kit
Fracture kits are highly specialized kits and I highly doubt you’ll ever see them. They’re only used by EMTs and search-and-rescue teams. However, if you ever go on a trip with a mountaineering or hiking group, you might see someone in the group carrying one.
This is because the most common hiking and mountaineering injuries are fractures and sprains.
These kits are large in comparison to other kits, and they contain a neck pad, a bone immobilizer, leg splints, arm splints, and sometimes a stretcher (requires assembly).
As with any fracture, immobilization is the most important thing, and that’s what this kit is equipped to do. It’s unlikely you’ll run into a fracture kit much bigger than this small one unless you’re a professional.
6. Portable Defibrillator (AED)
Finally, we have the portable defibrillator, officially known as the AED (automated external defibrillator).
This is, quite possibly, the best first aid invention of all time. This device can treat arrhythmias, ventricular fibrillation, and ventricular tachycardia. In simpler words, it can treat the most dangerous heart conditions that often result in death if left untreated.
The best part about it? You don’t have to be a medical professional to use a portable defibrillator. They have instructions on them, and all you have to do is follow those instructions and let the machine do its job.
Today, you can find AEDs in public, usually in very crowded places such as malls, airports, bus and railway stations, etc.