When emergencies arise, having a well-stocked first aid kit, kept in an easy-to-reach place, can help you spring into action at a moment’s notice. Sure, you can purchase a ready-made kit from your local drugstore or buy one online, but building your own lets you customize and might even save you some money.

Gauze

Sterile gauze is probably the most important item to keep in your kit. The material is multi-use, and can help clean the area around a wound, be used to apply pressure to a bleed and be packed into a deep cut to help control bleeding.

Saline solution

This salt and water mixture comes in handy for more than dry eyes; it can be applied directly to a wound to help clear out dirt, or be used to help flush debris from eyes and other areas of the body.

Clean towel or cloth

In an emergency, it can be tempting to reach for the nearest bit of absorbent material, but using a dirty rag can introduce bacteria into a wound. Instead, keep a clean and dry towel or cloth in your convenient kit. It can be saturated with water or sterile saline solution and used to clean an affected area, or it can help stop a serious bleed.

Adhesive tape

Another drugstore steal is medical grade adhesive tape. In the event of a burn or scrape, medical tape can be used to adhere gauze to the skin, which can be especially helpful if you find yourself without traditional bandage, or a large patch of skin needs to be protected.

Tape should be secured firmly on the affected area without restricting circulation to any part of the body. If you have a weak or previously injured ankle, wrist or knee, you can use medical tape prior to activity to help prevent future trauma.

Elastic bandage

Elastic bandages compress a specific part of the body and stabilize an injury, like a strain or sprain. They're also reusable. An elastic bandage will do the trick until you can get your injury checked by a doctor, but there are other ways to help reduce pain and swelling, too, like rest, elevation and ice. Instant cold packs can be purchased and stored in your first aid kit, to be used when an injury occurs.

Single-dose pain reliever packets

Pain relievers can ease joint pain and swelling associated with arthritis, menstrual cramps, headaches, toothaches and backaches; they can also help reduce fevers. These drugs can be purchased inexpensively over the counter, often for less than five dollars a bottle. Some stores also sell single-dose packets, oftentimes with two pills per foil pouch, which can be stashed in your kit.

Some pain relievers aren't safe for everyone, so remember, it’s always best to call your doctor before ingesting any drugs.

Blunt edge scissors

Depending on the type of injury, clothing may need to be cut away from the body. So, it helps to keep a pair of scissors handy. They're also useful for trimming bandages, gauze and medical tape.

Purchase a pair with blunt or rounded edges. First aid kits are designed to help in the event of an injury, not to be the cause of one! A dull pair of scissors is especially important around kids, since they're less likely to cause harm, should a child find his or her way into the kit.

Equipped with the right supplies, your emergency bag can help patch a scraped knee, wrap a sprained ankle and so much more.