How to Make the BEST College First Aid Kit

Sending your kid off to college is exciting, happy, sad and scary, all at the same time! We want them to have “the BEST years of their life” (no pressure, right?) and either do all the fun things we did or perhaps the things we missed out on. As parents, we don’t want to see them hurt- physically or emotionally, and obviously, we want to see them succeed. The truth is that they will stumble along the way, whether that’s a bad grade, a bike accident, the flu (or yes, COVID), mono, test anxiety or heartbreak. It’s not the stumbling that we fear, it’s how they get back up and get back on track, right? We’ve spent 18 years prepping them, and they are ready…mostly. One last gift you can tuck in their bags is a tool box to help them get past these bumps: a fully loaded COLLEGE FIRST AID KIT. Here’s where I come in!

I’m a family physician who after two decades of private practice chose to work part-time in a large university health center. Between having our own kids (and all their extended friend groups) in college, while professionally practicing medicine on a college campus, I feel uniquely positioned to know what these young adults REALLY NEED to know as they deal with injuries, illnesses and anxieties. My book, The ULTIMATE College Student Health Handbook: Your Guide for Everything from Hangovers to Homesickness, is the super-charged version of an instruction booklet that I’ve always included in my homemade first aid kits (my go-to high school grad gift- pics below. No, I don’t sell them but I’m teaching you how to make your own!) We included a bonus DIY kit section in the book with the shopping list below, plus “cheat notes” for a quick scan of when to take what for which symptoms. The publisher won’t let me give everything away, but here is the shopping list to make the BEST College First Aid Kit! I truly hope assembling your kit lowers your own stomach acid a bit 🙂


College First Aid Kit Suggested Contents:

Items marked with an asterisk* may be especially helpful with COVID19

  • Thermometer*: Don’t go cheap here…after the run on thermometers last year, I’ve found the inexpensive digital oral thermometers in the market now are not very accurate. No financial ties, but my current favorite is Dr. Talbot’s no-touch thermometer  which is around $24
  • Pulse Oximeter* (Quickly measures your pulse and oxygen saturation level- worth the $13-$20 on amazon)
  • Band-Aids: Be sure to include the GOOD ones- Blister, Knuckle and Fingertip style
  • Spray Antiseptic Cleanser (such as Neosporin Wound Cleanser Foaming Liquid)
  • Tweezers
  • Cuticle scissors 
  • Ace Wraps (Buy 2- most students don’t have these, so they disappear quickly!)
  • Re-usable Ice Pack (The kind you fill with ice as needed; dorm freezer space is limited)
  • Bulb Syringe (To safely remove ear wax, extra important with increased ear bud use with remote learning)
  • Artificial Tears (Blink, Systane, or Murine (NOT the “get the red out” ones) plus a bottle of saline wash
  • Extra toothbrushes (for use & disposal after upper respiratory symptoms)
  • Box of disposable medical masks* (for your student or perhaps their roommate! Don’t wait till someone thinks they are sick to purchase these- doesn’t hurt to wear one while waiting for test results.)
  • Allergy Medications:
    1. Non-sedating Antihistamine: Fexofenadine (Allegra) or Loratadine (Claritin) or Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
    2. Sedating Antihistamine: Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
    3. Nasal Steroid: Fluticasone Propionate (Flonase) or Triamcinolone Acetonide (Nasacort)
  • Cough/Cold Medications:
    1. Decongestant: Phenylephrine (Sudafed)
    2. Expectorant: Guaifenesin (Mucinex)
    3. OTC (Over the Counter) Cough Suppressant: Dextromethorphan (DM) Liquid or capsules (Delsym liquid or any expectorant with “DM” added – Mucinex DM)
    4. Cough drops of choice
    5. Combo product liquid or capsule “night-time cough reliever” (Nyquil or Robitussin)
    6. Zinc lozenges* (Cold-Eeze)
  • Pain/Fever Relievers
    1. Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin)
    2. Naproxen (Aleve)
    3. Acetaminophen* (Tylenol)
    4. Aspirin
    5. Excedrin Migraine or Bayer Migraine: Combinations of acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine
  • Topical Medications:
    1. 1 % Hydrocortisone Cream (Cortaid or Cortizone)
    2. Triple Antibiotic Ointment (with or without pain reliever)
    3. Aloe and Lidocaine gels (Solarcaine, Alocaine, etc.)
    4. Menthol topical pain reliever cream or patch: (such as Icy Hot or Bengay creams or Salonpas patch)
  • Stomach Medications:
    1. Antacid tablets: TUMS or Maalox (smooth dissolve)
    2. H2 Blockers: cimetidine (Tagamet HB) or famotidine* (Pepcid AC)
    3. PPI: omeprazole (Prilosec) or lansoprazole (Prevacid)
    4. Loperamide (Imodium)
  • Rehydration:
    1. Pedialyte powder packets (better than sports drink powders, but those work too)

If you’re making this kit for your own daughter or son, be sure to add in a copy of your Health Insurance Card (front and back) as well as their immunization record, especially noting the most recent tetanus booster. Ideally, have them take pictures of these items TODAY on their phone, and “favorite” them for easy access in emergencies!

Not sure when to use what? Test your knowledge here: College Student Health Quiz!

BOTTOM LINE: Send your student off to college with The ULTIMATE College Student Health Handbook and a well-stocked college first aid kit to help them take charge of their health!


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