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What is in a First Aid Cabinet?

The contents of a first aid cabinet, also known as a first aid station, vary. Most come with basic medical supplies, including bandages, gauze, first aid tape, antiseptic, scissors, and tweezers. General, over-the-counter medications may also be included. Some first aid cabinets have specialized contents depending on the type of injuries that can be anticipated. For example, first aid cabinets in a food service setting might have a larger selection of bandaids and burn treatment aids since a variety of cuts and burns are more common in this industry than an office setting. Specialized treatments like emergency eyewash and biohazard or bloodborne pathogen supplies, for industry or medical work where dangerous chemicals or materials are handled, are usually contained in separate sets that are stored nearby a first aid cabinet.

Most first aid cabinets come with a first aid guide and supplies to treat basic medical issues, such as small wounds, including cuts and burns. Examples of these supplies include a variety of bandages, including butterfly bandages and moleskin. Gauze and first aid tape are often included to dress larger wounds. Some first aid cabinets include burn ointment, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes, or alcohol pads for the purpose of disinfecting wounds before dressing them. These supplies are designed to serve treat minor problems or to mitigate trauma until more thorough treatment is available.

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A variety of supplies in a first kit are not things that are applied to the wound but rather tools to provide basic medical care. These supplies might include tweezers to deal with splinters, scissors to cut such things as gauze or first aid tape, and vinyl gloves to prevent the transmission of bacteria or viruses and help keep the wound is kept clean.

Some first aid cabinets also come stocked with medications. If included, the medications are generally oral and over-the-counter, including acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and antacid. Occasionally, cough drops will be provided. The inclusion of more powerful medications, like strong painkillers or epinephrine, may be avoided for fear of misuse.

There is a whole host of first aid supplies that are less universal. These include icepacks, eye pads, and ammonia inhalant, more familiarly called smelling salts. Eyewash, slings, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) packs may also come in some cabinets and not others. Often these items are included when the cabinet is located in a place more susceptible to the types of injuries that these supplies are used to treat.

The amount of supplies included in a first aid cabinet aid is usually determined by the number of people they are meant to cover. The greater the number of people the kit serves, the greater the number of each type of supply the kit should include. Of course, tools included to provide the basic medical care, like scissors or tweezers usually come in singles even if the kit serves a large number of people.

Kit restocking should be performed regularly. The Mayo Clinic recommends that home first aid kits be checked quarterly to ensure that the first aid supplies are properly stocked. For the workplace setting that serves many more people, kit refilling should be done on a more frequent basis.

Though first aid cabinets are typically used in industrial, workplace or public spaces, they can also be used in the home. Home first aid may also come in the form of a first aid kit — which is usually smaller than a first aid cabinet. Alternatively, the medicine cabinet above the bathroom sink may serve as a family's home first aid station. What is included in a home first aid cabinet or kit has a lot of overlap with industrial, workplace or public versions. Home first aid kits, however, may have special supplies dedicated to the special conditions that a family member may have, including antihistamines, a bronchodilator, or asthma inhalers.

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