I have an extensive first aid kit for my home, which fills a medium size duffle bag and overflows to the shelves in my linen closet. Here’s an older post on the contents of that kit, My First Aid Kit for Disaster Preparedness. I’ve added some items to the kit since then. A first-aid kit for the home can be quite extensive. You have plenty of room in your closet, basement, or garage for an extensive kit, one that you might gradually enlarge over time. But what should you include in a compact first-aid kit for your vehicle? What follows is my opinion and suggestions for the seven most useful items for that kit.
1. Gauze, lots of gauze. For a car first-aid kit, I’m thinking that physical injuries are more likely than illness, so your vehicle first-aid kit should emphasize treating wounds. Gauze can be used, still in rolled form, to press into a large wound. Another roll of gauze can be used to hold the first gauze roll in place. For smaller wounds, you can cut off a strip of gauze and make a pad. A box of 4×4 gauze pads is also useful, but not as useful as the rolls.
2. Medical scissors. I suggest this fluoride-coated (non-stick) EMT type scissors, which I also own. The coating keeps it from sticking to bandages, and it can be used to cut away clothing from around a wound.
3. Triangular bandages. Also called ‘cravats’. These triangles of clean white undyed muslin cloth can be used as a sling and swathe, to immobilize an injured arm. It is cut on the bias to allow it to stretch. When folded as a long necktie shape (hence the French term ‘cravat’), it can be used to immobilize an injured leg, by placing a blanket between the legs and binding the legs together (firmly, but not tightly).
4. Blanket. I prefer a real wool blanket, over a ‘space blanket’, which is just aluminized Mylar. A cotton blanket kept dry by being sealed in plastic would also be fine, since high quality wool blankets are expensive. Uses: immobilizing injured leg (see above), keeping an injured person warm, folded square as a pillow, rolled or folded to a few inches in height to support the small of the back of an injured person lying supine.
5. Bottled water: for drinking, for irrigating a dirty wound, for irrigating eyes, to cool a person with heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
6. First Aid Tape, various types and widths. The tape is useful for holding gauze in place. You can use it to make a bandage of almost any size/shape. I would include some 3M SteriStrips along with the more ordinary types of tape. It is useful to temporarily close wounds that will eventually need stitches.
7. First Aid book. I own and would recommend either of these books:
Amercian College of Emergency Physicians First Aid Manual
American Medical Association Handbook of First Aid and Emergency Care
The former is easier to use for quick reference, and has better illustrations. The latter has more in-depth material.
Of course, your vehicle first-aid kit can include many other items: small bandages, triple antibiotic ointment, etc. But the above seven items are the ones that I think are the most useful.