Military First Aid Kits: Shouldn’t We Use Similar Items

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Military First Aid Kits:  Shouldn’t We Use Similar Items


There are fundamental differences between first aid kits that hikers and campers use and those given to combat soldiers.  Obviously, civilians and soldiers tend to face different threats that contribute to what items are included in their medical kits.  However, civilians are just as vulnerable of sustaining injuries that are similar to what soldiers can encounter in battle.  Consequently, it may be a good idea to consider adding some standard items found in combat first aid kits into our own.  Let’s take a look at a few examples that can better illustrate what we’re trying to say.


The two most common and immediate, life-threatening injuries that trauma victims face involve blood loss and the inability to breathe on their own.  Soldiers get injured from weapons of war in most cases whereas civilians get injured from accidents or acts of violence.  However, the end result is often the same– the victim is suddenly thrust into a fight for their lives, and their first aid kit needs to contain items that can reduce this risk.

Consequently, a first aid kit full of blister pads, insect repellent, tweezers and some bandages and tape simply won’t cut it.  While it’s important to have those items on hand for run-of-the-mill injuries and misfortunes in the field, it’s equally, if not more important to have a trauma kit on hand as well.  This is where the major differences between a first aid and trauma kit come into play.

Common Items in Military Trauma Kits

Different branches of the service provide soldiers with different supplies since they face different conditions.  However, they also contain common items that can be used to stabilize a trauma victim until they can be rescued or evacuated to a place where they can have access to definitive care.  These items include a tourniquet, airway kit or breathing tube, suction dressings, Israeli bandages, combat gauze and tape, an assortment of bandages, quick-clotting material, gauze, shears for quickly removing clothing and a trauma tag and sharpie marker. 

The trauma tag is used to label what treatments were given to a victim as well as their classification in terms of the severity of their injuries.  In a mass-casualty situation, tagging a victim is the most efficient way to direct limited medical resources to those who need it the most at the time.  Israeli bandages and combat gauze or tape are designed to be durable in harsh conditions.  They are also designed to help compress wounds and control blood loss.

The airway tube is also a key component, and it’s important to not only have one on hand, but to know how to use it if the situation ever arises.  There are a number of reasons why someone can find it difficult to breathe or stop breathing altogether, and opening up the airway so they can receive oxygen is one of the first things that EMTs and first responders learn, and so should we.

General Examples, Room for Improvisation

These are just a few general examples of common items found in field trauma kits carried by most soldiers.  They are different than the ones that medics carry, and are intended to provide immediate care until a medic can arrive and help to assess and stabilize the patient.  However, these basic items play a tremendous role in keeping patients alive after receiving a traumatic injury, as they provide a bridge until more advanced measures can be taken.

In terms of our own preparedness, there are a million and one different ways in which we can suffer similar traumatic injuries in the field.  Accidental shootings while hunting, falling and sustaining serious wounds or becoming impaled by a foreign object are just a few examples.  It’s important to design your first aid kit around common problems that you expect to encounter.  However, it’s also a good idea to include some items to deal with trauma as well, and looking at what the military provides soldiers is a good example to follow.  Take a good look at your first aid kit, and improvise as necessary in order to make it more suitable for treating minor as well as serious injuries in the field.  The more equipped you are now can make a difference in the outcome of a life-threatening emergency later.