The Survival Doctor's First-Aid Kit and Beyond

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This survival-medicine website provides general information, not individual advice. Most scenarios assume the victim cannot get expert medical help. Please see the disclaimer.

The Survival Doctor’s First-Aid Kit and Beyond

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

What items would I suggest for a first-aid kit? I get that question a lot. Well, first, it depends on a lot of things.

  1. Is this for home storage or for on the go? If on the go, the items need to be lightweight. It’s great if one thing can be used for multiple purposes. Breakage and leakage becomes an issue.
  2. How many are you packing for? You, your family? Do you expect to be treating others?
  3. What’s your expertise? IV supplies are bulky. If you haven’t ever started an IV, they’re pretty useless to you as well.
  4. And, of course, everyone has different needs. I’m pretty blind without my glasses, so I better pack an extra pair. Don’t go off and leave your prescription medicines. Store them in an easy-to-locate space, safe from water spillage and extremes in temperature. If you’re prone to indigestion, pack extra antacids. If you’re allergic to bees be sure to have an EpiPen handy. You get the idea.

Learn the best ways to use your supplies—and makeshift substitutes—in The Survival Doctor e-books!

For specifics, I’ve started a page of general medical supplies I’d suggest you carry. In a disaster, you may not be able to get home. Have a small bag in your car and at work. Also, you’re going to need a lot more supplies than just medical, so for travel, I start with a small, light bag of essentials. The bigger the space you have, the more suggestions I make.

After you’ve looked over the page, would you please come back here for comments and suggestions? The list is an ongoing project and may change as I get other ideas.


Photo by Marshall Segal on Flickr.

  • ZombieFactor USA

    So true! The First Aid Kit is always a must for households. At least one
    household member should also know CPR. It is important for
    life-threatening emergencies such as heart attacks. We should always be
    prepared for emergencies and disasters.

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Thanks, ZombieFactor.

  • Tim

    Does anyone actually have a comprehensive list of what animal medicines can be used as alternatives in cases where you can’t get human meds? And what the different ones will treat?

  • Trent Puckett

    Great blog, great posts and great responses! From a retired Army Medic point of view, the one thing I add to the above list in all of my bags is a kit to treat life threatening allergic reactions. Although uncommon, I’ve seen a couple of these both in the field and in the ER. I saw where someone recommended having an Epi-Pen, but I don’t like these – as they are expensive and have a relatively short shelf life. I like the standard Ana-Kit, with a prefilled multidose syringe of epinephrine and an oral antihistamine – I’ve seen both diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine in the Ana-Kits I was responsible for issuing to my Soldiers with allergies. Learning to use these and to teach non-medical people to use these is pretty straightforward. And to my own medic bag I add additional injectable epinephrine, injectable diphenhydramine, and supplies for an emergency surgical airway – for both needle and surgical cricothyrotomies. Again, awesome site, Dr. Hubbard – I look forward to reading and contributing here!

  • sassy

    I have used Ivermectin in regular lotion to put on itchy ? scabies or something and it worked well.

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Thanks, Sassy.

  • Liadan

    How do you get extra medications, such as antibiotics, pain killers, etc? Doctors and pharmacies don’t out extras, and insurance doesn’t pay for it. How long will these last and still be effective? How are they stored to keep?

    • Harri

      Feed stores often sell them for animal use. Most common is FishMox (amoxi for fish); read the unit measure and do math for human dosages.

    • James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.


      You can ask your doctor for a refill, or a little extra, and save it, or you could go the fish antibiotic route.

  • renee

    we also keep bendydrl and generic allegra in our kit

  • renee

    we also keep benydrl, and generic allegra in our kit

    • James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

      Renee, good ideas. Thanks.

  • C.O.W. (crazy old woman)

    A great list of things to have, which most of, luckily I have on hand already. My oldest brother had a TPN line to be fed when he became ill, he passed recently. I still have a lot of his medical supplies. Tubing, single sterilized small gauge needles individually wrapped, plus the empty sterile syringes. I have half a case of alcohol wipes, 2 full boxes of saline solution in the syringes for irrigation, plus numerous boxes of odds and ends. I kept them all for some reason and now I am happy I did. Ive also set up three what I call road bags. Small black backpacks with everything medical I could including some of the needles, syringes, and saline solution syringes. Is this a good idea or did I save them for nothing?

    • James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

      C.O.W., Sure I’d save them. You never can tell when you might need them.

  • Gas Girl

    First of all, these are fabulous suggestions! I am always looking for things to add to my “no-longer-fits-in-a-backpack” medical kit, useful with hard headed family members who refuse to go to the doctor!

    Some things I would add:
    Saline solution for contacts – wound and opthalmic irrigation.
    Bubble wrap – works beautifully for splinting small joints/joints on small people and animals
    Glucometer and supplies
    Urinalysis strips – SO many clues from this!
    Luer lock syringes with varying needle sizes – multiple uses.
    Large alcohol wipes – not the pads, but the wipes, available in most drug stores. About the size of a wet wipe, and I used mine last week to clean gravel and grass from a skinned knee before irrigation.

    Thank you so much for helping us think ahead and be ready!

    • James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

      Thanks, Gas Girl.

  • nursemike

    My dad was a veterinarian: in the fifties, he made his own iv fluids in a saucepan on the stove, using resterilized tubing and 12 ga hypodermic needles to treat cows with tetany. Ether anesthesia, too. never got to use this in my er nursing career, but seems adaptable to last resort medical situations-thoughts?

    • James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

      Interesting, Mike. Maybe in a worst case, otherwise lose a life scenario.