Streamline your booboos: Building a mini first-aid kit

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Sarah
Photos from MorgueFile.com

When I first left my parents' house and moved into a college dorm, I was PREPARED. I had bedding, pillows, and clip-on lights for late-night studying. I had quarters for the laundry machine. I had my clothes, books, and office supplies organized by color and category. I had fifty feet of parachute cord, just in case. And I had the first aid kid to end all first aid kits.

I was ready for everything. Ibuprofen. Tylenol. Allergy meds. Bug spray. Gauze pads. Lozenges. Athletic tape, even though I wasn't athletic. Two dozen condoms, even though I had never had sex. I was ready for everything short of a sucking chest wound, and if I ran into one of those, I could always break out my duct tape.

Fast forward six years and I'm out of college, out of school, much less organized, and still hanging on to that damn enormous first aid kit. It lives under my bathroom sink, usually with tons of makeup, shower supplies, Q-tips, and extra toilet paper rolls sitting on top of it. Getting into it is a huge pain in the ass.

I don't take medications very often, and when I do it's because I'm sick. Trying to remember where the cold medicine is, or digging out the last tiny Benedryl from under a mountain of cotton balls is frustrating, especially when I already feel crappy. Keeping first aid supplies in a hard-to-reach or poorly organized place is also a potential biohazard. Have you ever sliced your own finger cutting vegetables and had to dig your first aid kit out from under pounds of toiletries one-handed? In a word, MESSY.

So, after a round of stomach flu, I spent $5, and streamlined my first aid kit into something a little more accessible.

Perspective shot.
Meet my mini-kit. D'AWWWW, aren't you adorable?

This is my mini first aid kit. I stocked it with medications and supplies I use frequently and don't want to have to dig through the big daddy first aid kit to find, as well as things I would need to access fast when I needed them at all. (Pro-tip: If you have an explosive case of stomach flu, make sure your anti-nausea medication isn't buried in a cabinet or under a box. Ask me how I know.) I also store some things which I'll use frequently but are too big for the mini-kit (like bottles of peroxide and iodine) on the caddy next to the kit.

I also labeled each container and drawer to make it easier for visitors to find what they needed and for me to remember which meds went where. Organization has always been an uphill battle for me, and labels really help.

Labeled drawers.

NOTE: I live in a home with no children and no nosy animals (just a sassy tuxedo cat). This kit is clearly not childproof, nor did I intend it to be. If you have kids or hungry pets in your house and want to use this idea, please store your kit high up or behind a child-latched cabinet door.

Let's take a closer look at this bad boy:

Top container: "I'M BLEEDING!"

Top container of the mini first aid kit.
Anything worse than a Band-Aid can fix needs a trip under the sink.

This container has band-aids and Neosporin. It's in the flip-top container because I wanted all this stuff to be accessible one-handed, in case you were using your other hand to hold a compress on a bleeding cut. In the caddies behind it, I keep Chinese curing pills for upset tummies, tweezers, nail clippers, tea tree oil for scrapes and zits, and a homemade massage oil for working out sore spots.

Second drawer: "My [body part] hurts!"
Middle drawer.This is my favorite drawer — it holds all the nice drugs that make sore muscles and body aches feel better. I have lozenges for sore throats, Orajel for toothaches and sore gums, and my BFF, ibuprofen. The larger containers for these are in the master first aid kit under the sink.

Third drawer: "I have a cold/allergies/I can't sleep!"

Bottom drawer of the mini-kit.

A lot of the medications I take for the common cold can also be cross-purposed as sleep aids, so I lumped all of that into one drawer. Dayquil, Nyquil, antihistamines, and Benedryl all live here.

I put the mini-kit together about a month ago and let me tell you, this little guy is MIGHTY. I've saved a lot of time and annoyance just trying to find a dab of Neosporin or 400 mgs of ibuprofen. I imagine it would be a great idea for organizing vitamins, herbs, or birth control, too.

My take-aways from this whole adventure are:

  • Think about what you use most frequently. There's no point in making a mini-bag of a prescription you took two years ago.
  • Think about how you'll feel when you'll need it. Avoid containers with tricky latches and don't store them too far out of reach. You may be sick, exhausted, or bleeding when you need your kit–save yourself some stress and make it easy to use.
  • Prioritize multi-use items. Advil PM can work for a headache before bed and insomnia. Tweezers can be used for splinters and plucking cotton balls out of new medicine bottles. Try to make sure everything in your kit has more than one function–it'll mean going into your main first aid kit less!

Thanks for reading! Here's a picture of my cat.
DJ is dissatisfied.

  1. What a brilliant idea! I wish this post was a little sooner though, I recently had a friend over who managed to slice her finger open after I'd gone to bed, and being too polite to wake me, ended up using toilet paper and tape as a temporary bandage.

  2. My favorite part is your organization / labeling technique. 🙂 I do somthing similar with my pantry shelves. "Making something dessert-like" (sugar, cinnamon, honey, flour, cake mix), "making stuff savory" (pretty much every other spice), and "things to be made savory" (pasta, rice).

  3. I'm an avid lurker-who-never-comments but can I just say that apart from the excellent first-aid-station ideas (way cool for the organization), I think all posts should end with a "Thanks for reading here's a picture of my (cat/dog/gerbil)." That is so awesome. Also your cat is adorable.

    • I appreciate the compliment, but please keep them to a minimum. My cat is home alone while I'm at work, and he spends WAY too much time on the internet. I don't want him to read this and get an even bigger ego.

  4. Our first aid and medicine supplies are conveniently located in the cupboard above the sink. The cupboard opens upwards so I can literally vom/bleed/ooze in the sink while scrabbling for the correct item without banging my head on anythign. Very handy indeed

  5. This post is amazing, but of course I have a naysayer tip:
    The best place to store a first aid kit is outta the bathroom (if it's a full bathroom.) I know EVERYONE does it and that's where it seems to make the most sense, but your shower disagrees. All that steam is out to ruin your hard work! It shortens the shelf life of your medicines and can cause some serious gunkuppage. (It seems totally wrong, right? The "medicine cabinet" is in there! But my pharmacist told me specifically–don't put any medicine in that thing!)
    If you don't have a shower or tub in that bathroom, it's less of an issue. Just think about whether your mirror ever steams up in your bathroom to determine if it's a good storage place.
    For a lot of homes, I think the kitchen is a smart storage spot for a first aid kit. A lot of home layouts have it quickly accessible from external doors. Most of my first aid needs involve the outdoors.

    • Dude, that's a great tip! Thank you! I think I'm okay, because my bathroom has both a fan/heat ring (which dehydrates the room) AND a window (which sucks out hot, wet air), but yes! People of the world, HEED THE DOOTSIE! In this, as in all things!

      • That sounds like you probably are okay!
        Y'know those little silica packets that come with shoes and stuff? If it's a big concern, you could probably chuck those into your kit whenever you get them. Some OTC meds come with little humidity-absorbing thingos, so those would be good to keep around, too. If there's a ton of humidity, though, it's not going to help.
        Also, you're awesome. And your labeling system makes my heart smile.

    • The kitchen is definitely the best place for a first-aid kit! Especially if you're like me and have very sharp knives but terrible hand-eye coordination 😛

    • Another potential issue with the bathroom is if you need to get in there right away, and someone is taking a shower, or using the facilities in another way, you may be locked out for awhile, when you need a bandage or pepto now!

    • Excellent point, but alas, kitchens aren't always the best either. I thought I had my frequently-used pills all kept in a heat-free area in my kitchen, but when I needed an Advil Liqui-gel one day and discovered a few had popped and they had all melted together 🙁 Turns out the heat from my stove travels in strange, baffling directions!

      So just beware of heat sources everywhere!

  6. This post cracked me up and provided great advice all at once! I keep first aid stuff in little bins in my bathroom closet. One bin for medications, the other for bandages/ointment/etc. They're right at the front of the closet so they're easy to dig through in times of distress. For bigger wound-fixing needs, I can easily grab the whole bin and bring it out onto the table.

    Keeping things organized and consolidated helps a lot. I go through them periodically to consolidate half-boxes of Band-Aids, toss expired meds, etc.

  7. I am now pondering how to build a kit, label it hilariously, and find a way to put it in the kitchen. Right now we have stuff in the medicine cabinet above the sink but the cute labels would totally make this worthwhile. And helpful for guests although they'd need to be warned if it was not in the bathroom.

    • I have been deliberately keeping this unread in Google Reader for 2 weeks because I keep thinking it says "Streamline Your Bobos" and it gives me a chuckle. But I'm glad I eventually read it because it's awesome.

  8. Where did you get the cool box with the flip-up top? Such a logical layout for "ack, I only have one hand to hunt for bandages!"

    • I got the container at Big Lots, in the school supply section. It's probably technically a desk organizer or something like that. 🙂 It was like $3.

  9. As a pharmacy technician, I wouldn't advise storing medicines in the kitchen or bathroom. They should be stored somewhere dry between 8-25 degrees centigrade. Kitchens tend to get a bit warm. Also, keep an eye on the expiry dates of medicines, especially if the blisters have been taken out of the packet (as in the pictures). Drugs are best kept in their original packets with the patient information leaflet – if you are handing out medicines to friends and family you want to check whether they interact with any regular medications, etc. Even over the counter medicines can be harmful if used incorrectly!

    • When I've occasionally put medication in a separate container that doesn't have an accurate label on it, I'll put on my own label ("regular Advil, expires 11/2013") so I know when I need to discard it. If you're keeping the original bottle and it's just not in your emergency kit, your visitors can then ask to refer back to it if they're not sure whether they can take something, but I'd guess that most people know whether they can take most OTC meds.

  10. What a great kit. I especially love how your organized your items. When a teenager or hubby isn't feeling well they don't need to run to mom to figure out what they need. Help yourself. I also recommend having a simple first aid kit in every vehicle. Those items will differ a little from the house but you will be glad you have it when you need it. My favorite tip to everyone is keep a band-aid in your wallet. Yes even the guys.

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