A first aid kit is a collection of supplies and equipment for use in giving first aid, particularly in an emergency. Most first aid kits contain bandages for controlling bleeding, personal protective equipment such as gloves and a barrier for performing rescue breathing and Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and sometimes instructions on how to perform first aid.
The American Red Cross recommends that all households have a first aid kit. Typically this is kept in the bathroom of the house. Sometimes the contents of a first aid kit are kept in a medicine cabinet, typically mounted above the sink with a mirrored finish.
First aid kits should be placed in all vehicles with the size and nature of the kit in proportion to the vehicle's range and potential distance from help. Commercial aircraft carry a comprehensive first aid kit often including cardiac drugs.
Every workplace with ten or more workers should have a first aid kit readily available. Larger first aid kits are required based on the size of the workplace and any potential hazards (such as working with machinery). Often the security guard will have or know the location of a first aid kit and be trained in first aid. There is an OSHA standard for the contents of a first aid kit.
The host of any large gathering of people is responsible for responding to any potential medical emergency. This includes making sure that a responsible person has ready access to a first aid kit.
Soldiers carry a rudimentary first aid kit attached to their belt or harness. It often contains a field dressing and powders or ointments to stop bleeding or prevent infection. It is a military rule that you always use the injured person's first aid kit, not your own, to tend to their injuries. You may be needing yours later.
Paramedics, EMTs and other prehospital emergency providers such as combat lifesavers usually carry a comprehensive first aid kit. Often called a "jump kit," this is a large duffel bag, sometimes with a logo on the side. Some of the supplies in a jump kit are beyond the skill of a typical first-aid provider, but common first-aid supplies are also carried.
A generic first aid kit is better than nothing. However, the contents of a first aid kit should be optimized for local conditions. For example, a kit for hikers in snake country should have a snakebite kit. A kit aboard a boat should have medications for seasickness.
One list of items for a first aid kit are as follows:
Adhesive bandage strips
Elastic bandage, 3 inches wide
Hypoallergenic adhesive tape
Sterile cotton balls
Sterile eye patches
Sterile gauze pads, 4 by 4 inches
Sterile nonstick pads
Eye cup or small plastic cup
Instant-acting chemical cold packs
CPR Microshield or other breathing barrier
Antiseptic wipes or antiseptic solution
Antiseptic/anesthetic ointment or spray
Sterile eye wash
Syrup of ipecac
First aid can be performed without a first aid kit. Any cloth can be used as a bandage. Duct tape is also commonly used. Common household items such as a magazine or even sticks can be used for splints. Direct pressure to stop bleeding can be applied with a hand if nothing else presents itself. Obviously it is better to have proper equipment, but improvised equipment has saved many lives.