First aid tips for adults, children & travel
Swot up on some basic first aid & create a custom first aid kit
Accidents happen from time to time, so it’s best to be prepared with some first aid knowledge and an essential go-to medical kit – check out our top tips to get you started.
How to treat a burn
For burns it’s important to give first aid as soon as possible. Start by cooling the burned area, under running water for at least 20 minutes if possible. It’s important to do this with cool running water, rather than iced water or ice. Never use creams or things like butter on a burn.
Next, carefully remove any items surrounding the burn, such as clothing or jewellery, or baby’s nappy. Never remove anything stuck directly to the burn, as this could cause more damage.
Cover the burn – the best way to do this is with cling film, as it won’t stick to the skin. Be careful not to wrap it too tightly around the affected area, as it’ll need space to swell.
Offer paracetamol or ibuprofen for any pain if suitable (if you’re giving first aid to a younger child with a burn, make sure pain relief is right for their age).
Keep an eye on the situation and seek medical help if you’re worried. For more serious burns always call 999.
How to apply a dressing
Minor cuts and grazes can be easily treated at home. To help avoid infection, always cover a wound with a dressing. Get to know the different dressings in your first aid kit and how to apply them. Some dressings come with adhesive strips and some may need to be tied, so it’s best to have a good idea ready for when you might need them.
Wash and dry your hands before applying a dressing, and wear surgical gloves if you have them.
Apply pressure to stop the bleeding, then clean and dry the wound. Raise the affected area if possible.
Choose a dressing that’s slightly bigger than the wound and apply it directly on top, holding the dressing by the edges.
For adhesive dressings such as plasters, you simply need to peel back the protective strips and place the pad on the wound. Then completely remove the protective strips and press the edges of the plaster firmly in place.
To apply a sterile dressing pad that’s attached to a bandage, hold the bandage on either side of the pad and lay the pad on top of the wound. Wrap the short end of the bandage around the injured area, then wrap the long end of the bandage the opposite way. Tie both ends together over the pad to put slight pressure on the wound.
If the wound is severe, seek emergency medical help as soon as possible.
Putting together a first aid kit
Whether you’re setting out on an adventure or putting together a first aid kit especially for the kids, there’s plenty to consider when it comes to first aid supplies. You need to make sure the essentials in your kit are right for the people using them.
For example, adults might not want a waterproof plaster decorated with cartoon designs, and you might find your pain relief is unsuitable for some members of the family, such as children.
First aid kit top tip: It’s important to keep your kit well stocked, but you should also feel confident using everything in it. If your child is old enough, teach them the basics of administering first aid too. If you want to brush up on your first aid skills, have a look for some courses near you.
First aid for children
Children love exploring the world, and sometimes this can lead to a few bumps and bruises along the way. It’s a good idea to put together a children’s health first aid kit, just in case.
Start with a ready-made kit that has all the essentials, like the Boots Children's First Aid Kit, then customise it with a few extras to suit your family.
Got a little one who likes to get out and about climbing trees and riding their bike? You might want to add a few more ice packs, sterile wipes and bandages for any bumps or scrapes.
A spare thermometer could be useful in case your go-to one gets dropped or breaks. Nervous children might even appreciate a special soft toy in the first aid kit, so they have something to comfort them when they’re hurt.
Research from the British Red Cross has revealed that three out of four parents in the UK wouldn’t be able to help if their baby was choking.* Take a look at our article on first aid for children for some great tips.
First aid for adults
When it comes to filling your first aid kit, we’ve got plenty of choice. Maybe you’d prefer individual stocks of things like plasters and sterile wipes, or perhaps a full kit that comes in its own box or bag would suit you best.
It’s important to keep an eye on the expiry dates of everything in your first aid kit, to make sure everything you’re using is in date and will work properly. For example, sterile dressings that are past their expiry date can allow infection into the wound.
If you’re putting together a first aid kit for the first time and you’re not 100 percent sure what you’ll find most useful, take a look at our recommendations.
It’s also important to keep your first aid kit in a handy place. Make sure it’s kept in a safe spot, away from water and heat damage, and somewhere that’s easy to grab in case you need it in a hurry. It’s a good idea to keep a first aid kit in your car too, for when you’re out and about.
First aid for travel
When it comes to your travel first aid kit, it’s all about balance. Think about what kind of items you might need while keeping it light and portable. And don’t forget your travel health insurance if you’re heading overseas!
Sometimes things happen and a first aid kit just isn’t enough, so it’s a good idea to research the emergency numbers of the place you’re travelling to, just in case.
Check in advance if there are any special health care precautions you should take before you go or while you’re there. That might mean only drinking bottled water during your trip, or getting advice and information on malaria prevention and vaccinations before you travel abroad.
The basics of first aid stay the same whether you’re travelling to a far-off vacation destination or staying at home. Make sure your kit is fully stocked and anything sterilised, such as bandages, is in date.
First aid kit 101: always pack your first aid kit according to your plans, whether you’re taking a trip to the park on a sunny day, going on an adventure or simply having fun at home. That way you’ll be prepared, wherever you are.
*Nationally representative online survey of 2008 adults, carried out in April 2017 by Critical Research.