What you REALLY need in your family first aid kit

What you REALLY need in your family first aid kit: As new report says many High Street kits are impractical, here’s our guide to the essential items you need to treat injuries at home

  • Report found first aid kits contain items that most people will have little use for 
  • Findings from Consumers’ Association published in the latest issue of Which?
  • Now pharmacist Thorrun Govind helps Good Health find out what to keep on list

Would you know what to do with a foil blanket or a disposable syringe? It’s fair to say that most people wouldn’t.

But according to a report from the Consumers’ Association, published in the latest issue of Which?, many off-the-shelf first aid kits contain these and other items that most people will have little use for.

First aid kits can vary in price enormously, from basic ones costing a few pounds to deluxe versions priced at more than £100.

First aid kits can vary in price enormously, but according to a report from the Consumers’ Association many off-the-shelf first aid kits contain items that most people will have little use for. (Stock image)

Yet, after reviewing a selection of kits, the report concluded: ‘Don’t be tempted to buy a ready-made first aid kit — the pharmacists we spoke to told us that they’re generally poor value.’ 

The authors added that the boxes didn’t contain everyday items that could also be of use in an emergency.

‘A DIY first aid kit which is tailor-made for your family is much better than a ready-made one,’ says Thorrun Govind, a community pharmacist based in the North West of England, who is on the board of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

‘I would rather someone had a ready-made kit than nothing at all, but I usually advise that people buy items individually.’

So what do you really need in your first aid kit — and what can you strike off your list entirely? Thorrun Govind helps Good Health find out . . .

Washproof plasters, 99p for 20, boots.com

A must-have item. ‘Get them in different sizes to cope with both small cuts and bigger grazes,’ says community pharmacist Thorrun Govind.

‘Waterproof plasters are not essential but give extra protection from the elements.

‘Some people are allergic to the glue on fabric plasters, but if you don’t have a problem, they are fine, too.’ 

75p for 32 tablets, boots.com

‘I would recommend paracetamol for standard pain relief for all the family,’ says Thorrun.

‘Aspirin should not be used by under-16s, but children can take paracetamol in lower doses than adults. Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory, can help ease lower back pain and pain from arthritis, but check with a pharmacist if it’s suitable for you.’

10cm x 4.5m, £1.26, sja.org.uk (St John Ambulance) 

This compression-type bandage can help reduce ankle swelling and so is useful for sprains and strains, says Thorrun. 

The pressure limits the build‑up of fluid in the affected area.

Medium blister plasters, £3.03 for five, boots.com 

‘Blisters can become not just sore, but infected, so I would definitely recommend including these in different sizes,’ says Thorrun. 

‘Specially designed to contour round different parts of the foot, they relieve pressure and also absorb excess moisture.  

‘If you don’t have these, an ordinary plaster would do. But they don’t have the padding that a blister plaster does.’ 


Wound closure strips, £1 for pack of eight, tesco.com

‘When a cut is ragged or more than 1 cm long, it can be helpful to close it with adhesive strips. But plasters are fine in most cases,’ says Thorrun.   

Superdrug professional tweezers, £1.99, superdrug.com 

These are helpful for removing debris, glass, dirt and splinters from a wound.

‘Tweezers can also be used to help apply dressings and plasters without having to touch the area or wound,’ adds Thorrun.

Braun Age Precision Digital Stick PRT2000 Thermometer, £15.99, boots.com

A lot of people are checking their temperature now because of Covid-19, but even before the pandemic, it was sensible to own a thermometer, according to Thorrun. 

‘A temperature of more than 38c is an early sign of illness. Buy a digital thermometer that you can put in your mouth or under your armpit.’

£5.99 for 18, boots.com

‘These affect the motility of the gut, slowing bowel movements and reducing the amount of water present in the stool,’ says Thorrun. 

‘They can reduce the frequency of diarrhoea and give quick relief from bouts that last no longer than a few days — if it persists, contact your GP.’

80p for ten, tesco.com

‘I’d definitely have these in your first aid kit — as many as possible. They’re really handy if you aren’t near clean water to wash your hands, and they can also clean wounds,’ says Thorrun.

Hydrocortisone Cream, 1 per cent, £3.49 for 15g, lloydspharmacy.com

This can be used for a maximum of seven days and can be used on children only after consulting a GP. 

‘It can help relieve swelling, itching from insect bites and eczema. You need a pharmacist’s advice to buy this over the counter,’ says Thorrun.

If you’re going to go for the full works

£8.99, sja.org.uk

This seems good value for money with a number of essentials including tweezers, dressings, antiseptic wipes and waterproof plasters. 

The First Aid In An Emergency booklet is also useful — you do need to know how to use the products in such kits so it’s a bonus.

£12.79, lloyds pharmacy.com

This is more pricey than others and contains mainly plasters and dressings but not a lot of variety otherwise. I would be bound to ask, where are the tweezers?

£19.99, boots.com

This is more than double the price of the St John Ambulance kit, but it is much more varied. It includes disposable gloves and an instant ice pack, which can be used to ease many ailments. It also contains a resuscitation face shield, which helps protect you from infection if you are giving CPR. 

This is the best kit to buy if you are looking for a wide range of products.

…and what to leave out 

Antiseptic creams: ‘Water is all you need to clean a wound, or an antiseptic wipe,’ says Thorrun.

Antihistamine cream: ‘For stings and bites — but hydrocortisone cream works on these and is dual purpose.’

After sun lotion: ‘Soothe sun-exposed skin with a flannel soaked in cold water.’

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