FlourishAnyway is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and parent with an interest in DIY and health topics.
Help Them Handle Life's Little Emergencies
As your young adults head off to college, you can be sure there will be minor mishaps in the dorm environment: falls, burns, scrapes, fevers, hangovers—I mean headaches. (You know, from all that studying.)
Set your college student up for success by assembling a first-rate first aid kit for the college dorm room. Sure, at first they may balk, but consider this to be another way of taking care of them. Better yet, you're helping them take care of themselves.
Whereas regular first aid kits tend to focus simply on medical emergencies, a dorm first aid kit goes one step further. It should additionally anticipate common non-emergency conditions like allergies, heartburn, and diarrhea/stomach upset.
While standard first aid kits are often inexpensive, they are not tailored to the unique needs of college students. This will be your young adult's medicine cabinet while away from home. Equip your child well!
Include medications that anticipate the common types of situations your college student might face. Consider they may need to use items from the kit to occasionally help roommates, friends, and visitors to the dorm.
Include enough supplies for at least a semester away from home. Here is a list of common medications to include (see table below).
Start Off by Including These Medications
|First Aid Medications & Supplies||First Aid Medications & Supplies|
antiseptic spray, cream, or wipes (e.g., Bactine, Neosporin with pain relief)
oral Benadryl (for hay fever, sudden allergic reactions to nuts or other foods)
sterile eye wash (for emergency flushing of foreign bodies) and eye drops (e.g., Visine - for non-emergency use)
diarrhea medication (e.g., Imodium A-D, Pepto Bismol)
laxative (e.g., ex•lax, Dulcolax)
multi-symptom cold relief
pain reliever of your choice: acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin
ammonia inhalant ampoules
Pain Relief Precautions
Aspirin has an important first aid role in emergency treatment for heart attacks and certain types of strokes, so when it comes to pain relievers, you may want to provide it in addition to any other pain reliever you prefer.1
Depending on what your student is taking a pain reliever for (e.g., headache, cold/flu, an injury involving swelling), they should know that taking acetaminophen (brand name: Tylenol) does not reduce inflammation. Acetaminophen also may involve rare but severe health risks if taken at high doses.
Also, make sure your college student understands that mixing alcohol with any over-the-counter pain relievers—acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin—can increase the risk of liver damage, a rare but serious side effect.2,3
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Add other items to help with treating wounds and assisting with sick care and comfort.
As long as tools don't seem to need the instructions that came with their packaging, you may want to discard their outer packaging to conserve space in the dorm first aid kit. This also saves your student time opening the item at the moment it is needed. Examples of when to discard packaging: tweezers, scissors, and cloth tape.
Since a kit does little good if you cannot find what you are looking for, consider using small Ziploc bags to keep similar items organized together. Also use them to keep items such as cotton balls and cotton swabs clean.
Add These Useful Tools and Supplies
tweezers (for removing splinters)
first aid instruction book
scissors (for cutting rolled bandages)
instant cold compress
variety of adhesive bandages (in assorted sizes)
CPR breathing barrier
rolled bandages with pins (or self-stick)
gauze pads (for larger wounds)
small pack of tissues
digital oral thermometer
Order a First Aid Instruction Book
Supplies to Keep Clean
Assemble supplies that reduce germs and the chance of contamination. Since some people have serious latex allergies, consider latex-free nitrile gloves. Store several pair together in a Ziploc bag.
Alcohol or hydrogen peroxide will come in handy for cleaning used tools before putting them back in the kit (e.g., tweezers, the thermometer). Supplies to promote cleanliness include:
Add These Items to Help Reduce Germs
|Germ Reducing Product||Germ Reducing Product|
disposable exam gloves
rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide
antibiotic hand cleanser
Putting It All Together
Locate a clean box to contain first aid supplies. Ideally, the box should be "emergency red." It must be easily noticed in a dorm room that could be messy.
Ideas for boxes include an inexpensive toolbox, tackle box, or a plastic storage container with a lid. You could also wrap a shoe box in red wrapping paper. (Individually wrap the bottom and top, of course.)
In the bottom of the box, place the following:
- a master list of first aid kit items. You -- or your responsible young son or daughter — will need to check the kit's contents periodically for replenishing.
Next, add supplies to your box, and label it "FIRST AID." Then, attach an index card to the inside lid. The card should feature this information:
- a list of important numbers (e.g., Poison Control, Campus Health Service, University Police, your Emergency Contact Information).
- known allergies or other important medical information for each roommate, if available.
Add a Personal Touch From Home
If room permits, you may also want to add a personal touch to the dorm first aid kit by including a copy of a photo of your child when they were younger. Perhaps he broke his arm when he was 12 years old or she had a memorable bicycle accident when she was 8? Do you have a photo to pair with some encouraging words?
A first aid kit that reminds your child where they've been and how much they're loved—a first aid kit that is customized to their needs and the dorm environment by the person who knows them best—is surely one that will set them up for success. No standard store-purchased kit can do that.
1Thai, MD, Khanh. "Aspirin: Heart-attack first aid." The Delaware Gazette. Last modified October 27, 2011. http://delgazette.com/2011/10/aspirin-heart-attack-first-aid/.
2George, Shannon. "Advil And Alcohol Effects On The Liver." LIVESTRONG.COM. Last modified May 17, 2011. http://www.livestrong.com/article/444422-advil-and-alcohol-effects-on-the-liver.
3MedicineNet. "ACETAMINOPHEN - ORAL (Panadol, Tylenol) side effects, medical uses, and drug interactions." Accessed April 6, 2013. http://www.medicinenet.com/acetaminophen-oral/article.htm.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2013 FlourishAnyway
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 08, 2016:
DormDoc - Great point. Thank you for your comment.
DormDoc on August 07, 2016:
As a pharmacist who started a college first aid kit company five years ago, I do usually steer away from combination products.
However, in our kit we elected to go with a multi symptom cold prep, since it did not seem wise to pack individual doses of Sudafed PE in a college kit. We did of course include strong Tylenol warnings in our instructions.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on September 11, 2014:
Sunshine625 - Glad they didn't need to use it. Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a comment.
Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on September 11, 2014:
Excellent list of emergency essentials for college students! I gave my daughter and her BFF a palm size can of mace also, luckily they never needed to use it!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 20, 2013:
turthfornow - Thanks for stopping by. I hope this proves helpful as college kids venture off on their own. You never know what you may need.
Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on November 19, 2013:
Very much needed for those in college. It is awful when you need something and you don't have it. Great job.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on November 19, 2013:
ologsinquito - Thanks for pinning and for visiting. There's so much they need to know!
ologsinquito from USA on November 19, 2013:
I'm pinning this to my Affording College board. It's close enough.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on September 22, 2013:
Thanks, Crafty! I appreciate the kind words. I hope the listing helps anyone who wants to assemble a first aid kid for their college age child venturing out away from home or for any other use. Thanks for reading and commenting.
CraftytotheCore on September 22, 2013:
This is excellent advice, not just for college, but for under a bathroom sink. I love the presentation of this Hub!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 02, 2013:
UNicQue - Glad you found this useful. Good luck to your sister in her new adventures at college!
Nicole Quaste from Philadelphia, PA on August 02, 2013:
This is perfect. My little sister is going to college in the fall, and I'm in the process of putting together a big going away basket for her. Thank you! :)
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 21, 2013:
Thanks, Kasman, for the read, comment, and share. Yep, Boy Scout motto. You never know when you or someone else might need the help.
Kas from Bartlett, Tennessee on May 21, 2013:
I keep a first aid kit on me no matter if I'm driving or hiking through the wildnerness.......you just never know when you're going to need it. I think you're right about going one step further by adding all the diarrhea and stomach problem stuff into it. Not all kits include this! I think that our kids need to be prepared for everything, BOY SCOUTS! That's what I was taught anyway. Great Job on the details flourish! Voting up and sharing!
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on May 05, 2013:
Thank you, Peggy, for the read and comment. It sure is better to be prepared than sorry!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 04, 2013:
This is smart thinking to provide your son or daughter going off to college with a first aid kit. It may come in handy for them or for some of their college classmates who were less prepared. Up and useful votes.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 30, 2013:
Thank you, moonlake, for the read and comment. You can never be too prepared!
moonlake from America on April 29, 2013:
Great list. I also believe college students should take those fold out ladders for the windows in case of fire. Voted up and more.
FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on April 26, 2013:
I appreciate the read, comment and vote, Rajan!
Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on April 26, 2013:
It is absolutely imperative to have a first aid kit to tide over emergencies especially when living away from home as well as for times a doctor may not be available right away.
Thanks for putting up this fine and very useful list.