A fully-stocked first-aid kit is the Swiss army knife of parenting. Having one within close reach at home is important—you’ve probably gone through enough Frozen-themed bandages to know this—but having one in your car is just as crucial. For each tumble on the monkey bars or mystery bite acquired while camping, you and your little ones will be grateful you have a wisely-packed first-aid kit nearby.
Chances are, your car is already brimmed with car seats, discarded granola bar wrappers, a dozen books, and who knows what else to entertain the kiddos. No need to clutter your car any more, so pare back your vehicle's first-aid kit to just the essentials. Luckily, Heidi Schwarzwald, MD, pediatrician and deputy chief medical officer at Aetna Medicaid, has some advice on what to pack in your first-aid kit and where to keep it.
As for the kit itself, opt for a waterproof one. (Wouldn’t want a spilt juice box to add a sugary topcoat to everything.) Then make sure it fits in an area of your car that stays relatively cool and out of direct sunlight, since heat and sunlight can degrade products like creams and ointments. You’ll also want to store your kit somewhere that’s easily accessible for you—so you can grab it and go when boo-boo emergencies arise—but not so easily accessible for your little ones.
“All of these items should be kept out of the reach of children, particularly if young children are in the car,” Dr. Schwarzwald says. The glove compartment is always a good choice.
As for what goes inside, read on for Dr. Schwarzwald’s top 11 first-aid essentials every parent should have in their car.
11 first-aid kit essentials every parent should have in their car
When an afternoon on the playground goes awry, be sure to have hydrogen peroxide or another type of wound wash on hand. “The most common injuries faced when out with your kids are cuts and scrapes,” says Dr. Schwarzwald. “The first step in caring for these is making sure the wound or scrape is clean, especially if it is deeper.” Either hydrogen peroxide or a wound wash works well, but if you don’t have either product handy, thoroughly rinse a wound with water.
When blood is present, and it usually is, be sure to have gauze pads within reach. “Gauze pads are useful for holding pressure for bleeding scrapes or bloody noses,” says Dr. Schwarzwald.
Don’t treat your kiddo’s bloody nose like our parents did for ours, though. “Remember, with a bloody nose, pinch the bottom and hold the head straight for 10 minutes,” she says. “We no longer recommend tipping the head back, like we used to.”
Parents—Can you ever have enough bandages on hand? We’re voting no. “Bandages are a must anywhere you are traveling with children,” says Dr. Schwarzwald.
Before ripping open a bandage, though, she reminds us: “Again, you should wash any scrape out before covering it,” she says. If they happen to have your kids’ favorite movie character, or cute ice cream cones on them like these Welly bandages, that always seems to help.
It doesn’t matter if you choose antibiotic ointment with or without pain relief, says Dr. Schwarzwald, but it does matter that you have it nearby when your kids take a tumble. “This antibiotic ointment is good for putting on any scrape, scratch, or cut to keep it from getting infected,” she says. Neosportin is a solid bet, but off-brand ointments will do the trick, too.
When a wound veers into,“Uh oh, does this need stitches?” territory, you’ll be glad you had butterfly closures on hand. They’re rarely needed, said Dr. Schwarzwald, but are helpful for wounds that are more open and may need stitches. “It is very important to clean the wound thoroughly before using this item,” she warns, “because closing a dirty wound can cause infection.”
Ace wraps and ice packs
After cuts and scrapes, “the next most common malady a family wants to be prepared for are twists and sprains,” says Dr. Schwarzwald. “The key to caring for a sprain is ‘RICE’—rest, ice, compression, and elevation.” Just in case soccer practice ends in a twisted ankle, she suggests having ace wraps close by. If you keep a cooler in your car, consider keeping ice packs on hand, too.
Sunscreen is a must-have no matter your age. It’s also a must-have no matter if you’re headed to the beach, a baseball game, or grandma’s backyard. “This is good to keep in the car so that you’re protected from the sun, even if you forget to apply before leaving the house,” says Dr. Schwarzwald.
Need a rec? Supergoop! is your one-stop shop for safe sunscreen that will keep your kiddos happy and healthy. It’s formulated without any weird chemicals that might disrupt your children’s skin, and it’s water- and sweat-resistant up to 80 minutes, so whether they’re playing in the pool or playground, they’ll be burn-free.
The last thing you want to be left with after a minor scare is old bandages and bloody gauze pads. (You already have a distraught child to deal with.) Dr. Schwarzwald recommends keeping a trash bag or plastic bag in your car to store those items so you can immediately toss them once home. These adhesive bags from RuGuo are a no-brainer—they stick onto the back of your car seat, so you have a perfect portable trash can everywhere you go.
Bug bite spray
To spare yourself whimpers of “it itches!” from the backseat, Dr. Schwarzwald recommends keeping an after-bite spray or wipes in your car. They will help relieve the itch from bites, and relieve your ears from whining. For $10, a bottle of Dermoplast is a good idea. It’s formulated with fast-acting ingredients (benzocaine, menthol, aloe, and lanolin) that soothe the area in minutes. And the no-touch applicator is a game-changer for keeping your car clean from spills and drips.
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