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The Important Distinction Between A First-Aid Kit and A Trauma Kit

As a savvy consumer, you need to know, not only the difference between the terms First-Aid kit and Trauma Kit, but also the best practices and strategies related to the use, storage, and deployment of these tools.

Getting the Vocabulary Right – What Is What

A First-Aid Kit: A kit generally meant to address every day common injuries that are non-life-threatening. Generally, First-Aid kits include various sizes of bandages (band-aids), some basic pain killers like Ibuprofen, and maybe a few antiseptic wipes. Advanced, larger first-aid kits may also include burn cream, triple antibiotic ointment (Neosporin), Tweezers, etc.

Generally, the items in a first-aid kit don't require any special training to use and are very low cost to buy and restock.

A Trauma Kit: A kit generally meant to address major, generally life-threatening injuries. Generally, Trauma Kits include items such as tourniquets, chest seals, pressure bandages, gauze, hemostatic dressings, etc.

Both due to lack of experience and inherent risk in a major emergency, items in a trauma kit should ideally be used by someone who has received some degree of training.

Can you combine the two and have a Trauma and First-Aid Kit? Of course, you can, but is that always the best idea?

Should You Separate Them Or Combine Them Into One Kit?

Today, if you went into the main floor bathroom of my home and checked in the cupboard you would find our family's go-to first aid kit. Without looking I can promise you a couple of things: It's a disorganized mess and we are probably low on a few different sizes of bandaids.

Why? Because my kids help themselves to the kit for normal everyday type cuts and bumps and they aren't the best at leaving it as nice as they found it.

That isn't a big deal since the first-aid kit isn't relied upon for major life-threatening emergencies.

However if there is a very serious emergency, like one of my children has an arterial cut and is experiencing a major bleed, I don't want to retrieve the trauma kit and find out the kids have been in there and the tourniquet is missing altogether.

So, in my home where we have space, we keep our first-aid kits and our trauma kits separate. The members of the family know where the trauma kits are and they know not to touch them, open them, or disturb them unless there is an absolute emergency.

This ensures the trauma kit is ready for action when needed.

On the flip side, there are circumstances where it makes more sense to me to combine the first-aid and trauma items into a single kit for the sake of convenience.

For example —

  • When I'm camping and don't want two separate pouches in my bag
  • When I'm at the gun range and I want a single bag/pouch that I can set on the range that every student can clearly identify is for any medical purpose
  • When I'm arranging emergency gear to keep in a vehicle

Shown here are the contents of The Wind River kit from Mountain Man Medical which includes BOTH Trauma and basic first-aid items.

These are examples of situations where, for one reason or another, it makes more sense for me to have a single go-to kit to access for whatever medical purpose from a simple cut to a gunshot wound.

First-Aid kits are a dime a dozen and can be secured for a low price from any big box store or Amazon. They are low cost and by nature of their use I'm not as concerned about ensuring the absolute highest quality of components.

For a personal trauma kit I prefer The Yellowstone from Mountain Man Medical. It includes only name-brand proven components from companies like H&H Medical, North American Rescue, and Dynarex. Also, their price match guarantee ensures the absolute best price for the product.

For those situations where I want a combined Trauma Kit and First-Aid kit and may have need of dealing with multiple injuries, I recommend The Wind River kit from Mountain Man Medical. It has the amount of trauma gear you would generally see in 2-3 individual trauma kits but also the core first-aid essentials mentioned above. Perfect for keeping in my car or taking with me on an outdoor adventure.

When you are building or purchasing a kit consider:

  • The intended use or activity. If your activity implies a high amount of risk of serious injury a trauma kit is probably preferable.
  • The amount of space available. If space is no issue there might be value to separating the first-aid kit from the trauma kit.
  • The kit needs to be easily recognizable and accessible by strangers or 3rd parties. If others are going to be grabbing the kit it may confuse them to have 2 separate bags/boxes that both appear to be for the purpose of first-aid. Perhaps combining them in to a single kit is preferable.

Ultimately, every household should have some sort of medical gear readily available to help any type of situation from mild to severe. It may make sense for you to have a first aid kit and trauma kit combined, or it may not.

Leave your thoughts on this in the comments below.

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