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The First-Aid Basics a ‘Clumsy’ Person Uses for Just About Anything (From Dog Bites to Neck Cramps)

Photo: Courtesy of the vendors

The other night, I was walking my dog before bed when an errant rusty screw went through the sole of my Birkenstocks and into my toe. I hobbled home — luckily enough, I was just a few steps away — and did what I’ve always done when I’m hurt: I called my mom.

My mom, halfway across the country, instructed me to clean the wound with rubbing alcohol. Unfortunately, I, along with all of the stores in the New York metro area, have been out of rubbing alcohol for weeks. Hydrogen peroxide worked in a pinch, and everything else I needed to safely bandage myself up was in my first aid kit, gifted to me by my mom after a previous mishap. Still, a rusty screw went through my toe. Ordinarily, I’d go to a doctor or a clinic or, if it was really bad, an emergency room to make sure it wouldn’t get infected or cause any long-term damage. (I would have also needed a tetanus shot, had I not gotten one last year after yet another small calamity.)

But since those aren’t really options right now, I treated it myself, which I was able to do with the help of my well-stocked first aid kit. Because I’m clumsy and because I live alone, I always have a whole host of supplies on hand, should I, say, accidentally drop a soy sauce bottle and then step into the shattered glass with both feet. Here’s what I keep stockpiled at all times.


I’m constantly bleeding — from shaving, from catching my arm on the cabinet, from breaking a nail, from hitting my head on the door knob (it happens) — so I have hundreds of Band-Aids around at any given time. This variety box has all the sizes you (or I) could ever need.

Bandage tape

$21 for 6

If a regular ol’ bandage just won’t stick to your injury — like a cut on your toe, a scrape on your heel, even a razor-induced gash on your knee — tape is a must.

Liquid bandage

New Skin Liquid Bandage

I’ve kept liquid bandage on hand ever since the time my dog bit through my septum, producing an unfathomable amount of blood from a place that you can’t easily bandage up. (It was an accident!) That hasn’t happened again, but this stuff — an antiseptic treatment and waterproof bandage in one — is great for blisters and small cuts.


When I stepped on shattered glass from the soy sauce bottle (which was about as messy and painful as you would expect), gauze was the only thing that felt not-awful on the wound. It is, of course, also good for less messy, less painful cuts, too.

Ace bandage

Or, if you need to minimize swelling, you’ll need adhesive bandage. (This also works brilliantly for new shoes that won’t stop rubbing.)

Cold compress

I have a cold compress out of an abundance of caution, but if your freezer is regularly stocked with frozen peas, you don’t need this.

Antibiotic ointment

Neosporin would be my desert-island product, and not just because I would surely hurt myself in a survival situation. This antibiotic ointment has likely prevented hundreds of potential infections on my body, but beyond minor wounds, I also use it on zits to help heal and prevent scarring (this is not an official use recommended by Neosporin, nor is it scientifically proven, but I’ve used it this way since I was a blemish-prone teen).

Hydrocortisone cream

Because you never know when you’re going to wake up with a spider bite or find yourself covered in poison ivy.

Pain-relief patches


Every once in a while — especially during moments of stress, like, say, now — I’ll find myself suddenly, utterly unable to move my neck. Slapping on a few of these patches relieves things swiftly, and they’re less messy than covering yourself in Bengay.

Hydrogen peroxide