A first-aid kit and a trauma kit are both designed to provide emergency care. However, they have different purposes and contents. It is important to understand the difference. A first-aid kit is designed for treating minor injuries, such as cuts, scrapes, burns, sprains and stings. However, a very comprehensive first-aid kit can have some lifesaving components. A trauma kit is designed for treating life-threatening injuries, such as severe bleeding, penetrating chest wounds and shock. Some comprehensive trauma kits may also contain some first-aid components.
Why Should Everyone Carry a Trauma Kit?
A first-aid kit and a trauma kit are both important to have in case of an emergency. However, they are not interchangeable. Each fulfills a different role. A first-aid kit can help with minor injuries, but it cannot save a life in a critical situation. A trauma kit can help with life-threatening injuries, but it is not designed to treat minor injuries. It is advisable to have both types of kits available and accessible in case of an emergency. But if you opt to carry only one with you, carry a trauma kit. Minor injuries can wait, life-threatening injuries cannot.
Everyone should carry a trauma kit or, at the very least, a tourniquet along with nitrile gloves for protection from blood-borne pathogens. As responsible citizens, we’re not prepared if we don’t. No matter how fast the response of emergency medical services (EMS), bystanders will always be first on the scene. And in an active shooter or terrorist incident, emergency personnel won’t reach victims until the threat has been neutralized. The simple fact is that you’re your own first responder. You need to be prepared and able to treat life-threatening injuries. Your goal is to stabilize the patient until EMS arrives. Time is life.
IFAK vs. Trauma Kit
An individual first-aid kit or IFAK, is a specialized medical kit designed to manage traumatic injuries in combat situations. A military tool, an IFAK is meant to be carried by members of the military in combat and during training for use on themselves or their teammates. IFAKs differ from traditional first-aid kits and, while not a substitute for professional medical care, can save lives until help arrives.
A trauma kit and an IFAK are essentially the same thing, containing items that can help save lives in emergency situations. Although basics remain the same between kits, the components can vary, depending on the intended use and the level of training of the person who carries it.
Selecting an everyday carry trauma kit involves making compromises without neglecting essentials. It needs to be lightweight, compact and easy to use. It needs to be convenient to carry on your person. Having a trauma kit in your vehicle or range bag, while a good idea, isn’t enough.
An everyday carry trauma kit should include essential lifesaving medical supplies that are easy to carry and can be quickly deployed in emergency situations. The following are recommended at a bare minimum:
- Hemostatic Gauze
- Pressure Bandage
- Chest Seals
- Nitrile Gloves
Training to Use a Trauma Kit
Having the necessary tools is only part of the equation. Basic emergency medical training should cover the entire spectrum of lifesaving skills. And like shooting, these skills are perishable. We all know the importance of regular firearms training, but medical training is often neglected. You are more likely to need to use medical skills than you are your firearm.
Medical skills are essential for dealing with emergencies that may arise in everyday life. Emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere and to anyone. They can be caused by accidents, injuries, illnesses, natural disasters or violence. Some emergencies are life-threatening and require immediate action to save lives and prevent further harm. Others are less urgent but still need proper care and attention to avoid complications or infections.
Having medical skills can help you to recognize the signs and symptoms of an emergency, assess the situation and the needs of the affected person, provide first aid or basic life support, and call for professional help if needed. By having medical skills, you can be more confident and prepared to handle any emergency that may come your way. You don’t need to be a doctor or a nurse to learn these skills. Anyone can benefit from having some basic medical knowledge and skills that can make a difference in an emergency situation.
First Aid Resources
You need look no further than the USCCA and its Emergency First Aid Fundamentals course. The course equips you with basic first aid and lifesaving techniques to be used in the event of a medical emergency. You will learn how to properly assess a patient and how to handle significant issues, including venous and arterial bleeding, compromised airway, head, chest and spinal injuries, broken bones, burns, heart attacks, seizures, strokes, and more. Finally, students will learn how to build their own first aid/trauma kit.
The American College of Surgeons’ STOP THE BLEED® program is also an outstanding training resource. Hemorrhage secondary to traumatic injury is the leading cause of death of Americans from one to 46 years of age. Up to half of the deaths resulting from hemorrhage occur before reaching definitive care.1 According to published research, EMS units average 7 minutes from the time of a 911 call to arrival on scene. In rural areas, the median time for EMS personnel to arrive is more than 14 minutes, and almost 10 percent of the cases have to wait for nearly 30 minutes.2 Someone who is severely bleeding can bleed to death in as little as five minutes.3 It is the most preventable cause of death in compressible injuries. The only thing more tragic than a life lost is a life lost that could have been saved.
The STOP THE BLEED program is a national initiative that aims to train people in basic bleeding control techniques and equip public venues with bleeding control kits. The program is based on the lifesaving lessons learned from military medicine and research. By taking a STOP THE BLEED course, you can learn how to use your hands, dressings, and tourniquets to stop life-threatening bleeding in an emergency situation. Since its inception, the STOP THE BLEED campaign has trained over 2.6 million people worldwide on how to control serious bleeding.
- Donley ER, Munakomi S, Loyd JW. Hemorrhage Control. 2022 Nov 16. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–. PMID: 30571014.
- Mell HK, Mumma SN, Hiestand B, Carr BG, Holland T, Stopyra J. Emergency Medical Services Response Times in Rural, Suburban, and Urban Areas. JAMA Surg. 2017;152(10):983–984. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2017.2230.
- American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma. “Learn More.” STOP THE BLEED®, 4 November 2023, https://www.stopthebleed.org/learn-more/.