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It’s difficult to recommend a generalized first aid kit for everyone because different people do different activities and have different risks. There are a few must-haves though, and then I’ll go into how to personalize yours to meet specific needs.

Contents Critical Items for a First Aid Kit
  1. Hemostatic Gauze - makes blood clot faster, stopping bleeding
  2. Israeli bandage - closes large wounds and puts pressure on the bleeding area
  3. Chest seal/Occlusive dressing - treats punctured lungs, neck wounds, and abdominal injuries
  4. SAM splint - stabilizes almost any broken bone

The critical items treat injuries that will most likely kill you or cause permanent damage if left untreated.

Chest seals, israeli bandages, and hemostatic gauze are the core items that every first aid kit needs to be built around. If you have nothing else in your kit, have these items.

SAM splints treat severe injuries, but usually they are only life-threatening while you're away from civilization and ambulance services.

You may wonder why tourniquets aren’t listed. In my opinion tourniquets fall into a special category because even though they can save your life, they can also be completely useless. A tourniquet is for injuries that bleed so bad they can’t be controlled by pressure, bandages, elevating the limb, etc. When you get this kind of injury you can bleed out in less than 1 minute.

Ideally you’d want to be able to take the tourniquet out and apply it in <30 seconds. If it takes you over 30 seconds to realize there is an injury, get to your patient, open your bag, and find the tourniquet, it’s probably too late.

If the injury isn’t quite that bad it can probably be stopped just fine using pressure combined with Quikclot and an Israeli bandage. Also, tourniquets only treat bleeding on your arms and legs, not on your torso, neck, or head. I do cover tourniquets completely here.

Common Items for a First Aid Kit
  1. Surgical Glue - super glue for skin
  2. Leatherman Multitool - because you never know what tools you'll need
  3. Nitrile Gloves - protect yourself from blood borne diseases and gross things like vomit
  4. Medical Tape - good for securing everything from gauze to splints
  5. Povidone Iodine - cleans cuts and protects against infection (can also purify drinking water)
  6. Wound Cream - soothes, protects, and speeds healing of burns, cuts, and bruises
  7. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) - calms allergic reactions, helps motion sickness, sleep aid
  8. Antiemetic Drugs - prevent and treat motion sickness
  9. Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen - reduce fever, pain, and inflammation
  10. Sterile Gauze - good for small to medium cuts
  11. Folding Scissors - collapsible, durable, good for cutting things
  12. Medical Bag - holds and organizes your equipment
  13. Zinc Lozenges - stop the common cold
  14. Tweezers - splinters are small but painful

The common items are for daily issues that most people see in regular life. You may not need all of these because some of the uses overlap, but each has its own benefits.

Both Benadryl and Bonine help motion sickness, but Bonine is less drowsy and Benedryl is more for allergies. Aspirin and Ibuprofen both reduce fever, pain, and inflammation, but they have different contraindications.

You may wonder why band-aids and butterfly stitches aren’t listed. A few band-aids won’t hurt, but in my opinion band-aids are less useful than medical tape with gauze because the cuts they treat are very small and stop bleeding quickly on their own.

In this first aid kit I replace butterfly stitches and band-aids with Vetbond skin glue because Vetbond does everything they do; plus it stops bleeding instantly. Butterfly stitches can be used to complement Vetbond and take the pressure off where the skin pulls tight across the cut like on knuckles and knees.

Optional Items for a First Aid Kit
  1. Tourniquet - stops uncontrollable bleeding in the arms and legs
  2. N95 Mask - protects against respiratory diseases and filters harmful particles out of the air
  3. Leatherman Raptor Shears - a must have multitool for professional first responders dealing with extractions or trauma
  4. Triangular Bandage - used to sling/stabilize fractures or sprains
  5. Ivarest - reduces poison ivy, oak, and sumac symptoms
  6. Mylar Blanket - reflects body heat
  7. CPR Mask - prevents disease transmission from mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
  8. ACE Bandage - pressure bandage that speeds recovery from sprains, strains, and other injuries
  9. Cold Pack - instant cold pack that can pull the heat out of burns and reduce swelling in injuries
  10. Antidiarrheal - controls symptoms of diarrhea
  11. Activated Charcoal Pills - helps treat ingested drug overdoses and poisons

The optional items are most useful in certain situations but may not be useful for everyone. Triangular bandages, Ivarest, and mylar blankets are best for people who hike or camp a lot.

CPR or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation can be performed as compressions-only or mouth-to-mouth in an emergency, so a CPR mask isn't strictly necessary for a normal first aid kit. You may want an N95 mask if you’re likely to encounter TB or spend a lot of time breathing air pollution.

A tourniquet works great if you’re willing to have it ready at all times. ACE bandages and cold packs are useful if you play sports or hike a lot. An antidiarrheal is often good for frequent travelers who are exposed to new diets often.

Bulky Items for a First Aid Kit
  1. Portable Defibrillator - used to restart a person’s heart (cardiac arrest)

An AED is useful in high traffic areas or for people at high risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

AEDs are extremely easy to use, and have step-by-step, usually spoken as well as written and pictographic, instructions on what to do. You do not have to be medically trained to buy an AED. Those who have coronary heart disease and the elderly are most likely to need one[2].

Additional Resources
  1. How to Choose a First Aid Kit Bag
  2. 5 Types of Medical Tapes for a First Aid Kit
  3. Hemostatic Agents - Quikclot vs Celox vs XGauze
  4. Different Tourniquets for a First Aid Kit
  5. How to Use Cyanoacrylate Surgical Skin Glues for First Aid
  6. Chest Seals vs Occlusive Dressings: What's the Difference?
  7. First Aid Kit Checklist
  8. Example of a First Aid Kit for Home and Away
  9. Anatomy of a First Aid Kit
  1. https://www.glowm.com/pdf/PPH_2nd_edn_Chap-16.pdf Accessed 08-03-2016.
  2. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/scda/atrisk Accessed 08-14-2016.
Updated November 21st, 2018 by Peter Oldani
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N95 respirators, commonly called N95 masks, are air filters worn on the face to capture tiny pollution particles before they can reach the sensitive tissue in your lungs. The effectiveness of N95 masks is controversial, and evidence on both sides of the issue is far from comprehensive.

Through my work as a biomedical researcher, I have access to sophisticated air quality measurement equipment, so I ran my own battery of tests to determine if N95 masks are effective medical equipment or a false sense of security.

N95 is an efficiency rating from the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) that means the N95 mask filters out 95% of (N)on-oil particles larger than .3 microns (.00003 cm). The masks are commonly worn to protect users from dust while working and from air pollution in many large cities, most notably in China[1].

Index: Pollution Health Effects

Air pollution has been shown to increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases.

At high levels of pollution, those with asthma can be triggered into having asthma attacks. With air pollution, smaller particles are more harmful because they travel further into your lungs before being trapped.

Particulate matter that is 2.5 microns or smaller (PM2.5) is the most dangerous to our respiratory health because they are small enough to make it all the way into the deepest parts of our lungs.

High PM2.5 concentrations can cause acute symptoms like respiratory irritation, shortness of breath, coughing, sneezing, and runny nose. Those with asthma may be triggered into having an attack.

Long-term exposure to PM2.5 pollution has been linked to increases in cardiovascular and respiratory related hospital and emergency room visits. Studies also suggest links to heart disease, chronic bronchitis, reduced lung function, lung cancer, and death[2].

PM10 is another measure of air pollutants that measure between 2.5 and 10 microns in size. Typically, there are fewer PM10 than PM2.5 particles in the air as the larger, heavier pollution falls out more quickly.

Stations all over the world monitor air quality in real time. To find out the air quality in your area, search for your city on aqicn.org.

What makes a good N95 Mask?
This N95 mask was used to tear out old fiberglass for hours in an enclosed space. It still works very well as a filter, despite appearances. The dirt on the inside of the mask comes from leaks around the edge of the mask, not penetration through the filter.

In order to filter particles out of the air, the air actually has to pass through the N95 mask meaning the mask-to-face seal has to be good.

I discovered that air passing directly through a clean filter is almost completely free of PM2.5 particles (99.95% reduction). Almost all of the dirty air comes through at the mask-to-face seal.

Most N95 masks come with elastic straps that go around your head and an adjustable nose clip to create the best possible seal. The 8511V mask that I recommend takes it one step further and features a soft lip that broadly contacts your face, plugging small gaps in the seal.

N95 Masks Filter:
  • Dust
  • Pollution
  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Allergens
N95 Masks Do Not Filter:
  • Oil based substances
  • Gases
Vented vs Non-Vented

Vented masks are a necessity for comfort, and non-vented masks are only slightly cheaper. The vent is a one-way valve that allows your breath to exit without condensing on the inside of the mask or fogging up your glasses. While it does not make the N95 mask a better or worse filter, it is far more comfortable with the vent.

Buy non-vented masks if you are using it to keep your sickness to yourself. While the masks are not designed to catch stuff coming out of your mouth, they will still filter any air that goes through them. With a vent installed most of the air coming out of your mouth does not pass through the filter.


Beards are the enemy with any respiratory mask, but particle reduction is the name of the game. An N95 mask does not have to block all particles, so even if there is a poor seal, any air flowing through the filter means cleaner breathing for you.

How Long Can I Use the Same N95 Mask?

The N95 masks seem to be disposable considering they are lightweight and come in packs of 10, but there are no instructions for duration of use.

I measured the air velocity and filtration effectiveness before and after running 4000 cubic feet of dirty air through a piece of mask the size of a penny. The mask was black with dirt, but the air flow rate only slowed a little and the filter was still catching over 98% of PM2.5.

These N95 masks clog with dirt and wear out VERY slowly, so even if they are black and nasty the filter will still work.

Although the filter is still good, the main source of leakage is through the edges of the mask. As dirt is trapped by the mask, the air passes through the filter more slowly, forcing more air in at the seal. Due to the way that the filter traps dirt (see below), the N95 mask doesn't clog quickly, but it does clog.

When dirty air comes through at the seal it leaves build ups of dirt on the inside of the mask. If you're going to reuse the mask, brush out the inside so you don't accidentally inhale it.

N95 Up Close and In Depth

For those of you wondering what exactly is going on at the microscopic level, I took an up-close look with a Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope (FE-SEM). If you're not sure what that is, it's a really powerful microscope that can make things look up to 80,000 times larger.

Dirt particles (lighter grey) being captured by an N95 Mask Filter.

I used it to look at the dirty N95 masks to see how they trapped particles.

Many filters work by having holes that are smaller than what they want to filter out. Since the N95 mask is used to filter out extremely tiny particles and it's not necessary to filter out every single speck, it takes a different approach.

The filter is a tangled mass of jumbled up fibers laid on top of each other. As air passes through it, the particles in the air have a good chance of bumping into one of these fibers. When they do, they get stuck.

Because the N95 works this way, the filter does not clog easily and will still work nearly as well even when it's dirty.

N99 Respirator Masks

If you're thinking that 95% is not quite good enough, there are other masks that filter even better. N99 respirators filter 99% or more of non-oil-based particles, but they also have a few downsides. To have a better filter, the masks use denser material and have a better seal which reduces air flow making your lungs work harder. This is especially noticeable if you are wearing the mask during physical activity like cycling or working in dusty environments.

The other issue is the cost. For that extra 4% N99 masks will cost more, sometimes quite a bit more.

I purchased 3M's 9332+ N99 mask to test out while I cycle to work after I read some high praise from My Family Health Guide on Quora. It was noticeably more difficult to breathe than an N95 mask but not prohibitively. As with the N95 mask, I could still smell things like car exhaust and diesel fumes. Since N99 is not resistant to oil, the pungent oil-based particles in gas and diesel will still go right through.

The mask actually worked very well for a while, but after a week of twice daily riding the nose seal stripped off. Not a huge deal since it still worked, but after 2 weeks the head strap broke.

At upwards of $15 per mask, it seems they could have used sturdier elastic. The filter still works perfectly, but they want you to buy more.

The 3M N99 mask that I tried was far too expensive to justify purchasing it. If you want to upgrade to N99, I suggest the Amston 1811 N99 mask.

P100 Masks

The N in N95 mask means that it filters out (N)on-oil-based particles. The P in P100 means that the mask is oil (P)roof. A P100 mask will filter out 99.9% of any and all particles .3 microns or larger no matter if they're oil-based or not.

So what particles are oil-based? The majority of common particles you want to protect yourself from are non-oil based. Things like contagious diseases, dust from wood, sanding, insulation, etc. are non-oil based, but diesel and gas fumes from vehicles have a large oil-based component.

One thing I noticed immediately while wearing the P100 in traffic is that I couldn't smell the exhaust fumes anymore. It stopped me from feeling like I was breathing out of a tail pipe on my bicycle ride to work.

The major downside of a P100 mask is that it is very uncomfortable while breathing hard. The mask really needs a couple stiff bands in it that hold it away from your face because every time you breathe it collapses onto your face.

The P100 mask's seal is made of a wide strip of rubberized foam that really stops any leakage around the edges, but also doesn't let sweat escape. As a consequence, the mask feels hot and stuffy to wear.

NOTE: Many P100 respirators are permanent masks with replaceable filters. I did not test the replaceable filters, only the cloth masks.

The Bottom Line

The 8511 vented mask is the best N95 mask I have found, and one of the top rated N95 masks on Amazon. The filters work well for catching dust, pollution, bacteria, and viruses. They also stay effective despite long, intense usage. If you are purchasing a mask to prevent others from catching a sickness that you have, make sure you buy a mask without a vent.

N99 masks are useful if you notice that N95 masks are not working well enough for you, but try an N95 mask first. If you do end up choosing the N99, Amston 1811 masks are very good and only slightly more expensive than an N95.

P100 respirators can protect against oil-based particles like exhaust fumes, but are also uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time or while doing hard labor.

Additional Resources
  1. Air Quality Index
  2. A Guide to Air Quality and Your Health
  1. "Ambient (Outdoor) Air Quality And Health". World Health Organization. N. p., 2017. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.
  2. "Fine Particles (PM 2.5) Questions And Answers".Health.ny.gov. N. p., 2017. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.
Updated November 21st, 2018 by Peter Oldani
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Updated November 17th, 2018 by Peter Oldani

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes and is not intended as a substitute for an actual training course. Find a CPR class near you.

Contents CPR Basics

A person needing CPR will be collapsed on the ground, completely unresponsive, not breathing, and have no pulse.

  1. To determine if a person needs CPR the first thing to do is go over and slap them on the shoulders to try waking them up. Be forceful; make sure they aren’t simply unconscious or semiconscious.
  2. If they don’t show any sign of life immediately call 911, then check to see if they’re breathing.
  3. Tilt the person's head back by lifting their chin, and put your ear close to their nose and mouth to listen for breathing sounds. As you do this look at their chest to see if it rises and falls. Do this for no more than 10 seconds to make sure they’re not breathing.

It is unnecessary to check for a pulse for 2 reasons.

  1. The pulse can be weak or difficult to find.
  2. The person may be unconscious due to choking. In this case the proper treatment is CPR. See the section on choking below for more information.
How to Perform CPR

Before giving CPR check for severe bleeding. If the patient has major bleeding, CPR will only push more blood out of their body. Hemorrhage must be controlled before starting CPR.

  1. After determining that the person needs CPR, roll them onto their back and begin chest compressions by kneeling to one side of the torso and placing the heel of one hand in the center of their chest right between the nipples.
  2. Place the heel of your 2nd hand on top of the first one and interlock your fingers.
  3. Lock your elbows straight and position yourself so you’re pushing straight down. Push hard and fast, keeping a pace of at least 100 beats per minute (bpm). For reference, the choruses to Stayin' Alive by the Beegees and Another One Bites the Dust by Queen are both 100 bpm.
  4. Give 30 chest compressions counting out loud and pushing at least 2 inches deep on every compression.
  5. Stop compressions to give 2 rescue breaths.
  6. Tilt the head back, and lift the chin up.
  7. Pinch the nose so that the air goes into their lungs and blow into their mouth for about 1 second making sure that the chest rises. If you have a disposable face barrier, place it as shown by the pictographic instructions on the barrier. If you have a pocket mask, you don’t have to pinch the nose since the mask covers both the nose and the mouth. 5 cycles of breaths and compressions should take 2 minutes.

Repeat the cycles of compressions and breaths until one of these things happens:

  1. The person shows signs of life, like breathing.
  2. Another trained responder shows up and takes over.
  3. An AED is ready to use.
CPR for Choking Victims

If the patient is conscious and choking, perform the Heimlich maneuver. See here for more details.

If the patient is unconscious due to choking, CPR can clear their airway. Administer compressions and breaths as normal until the person shows signs of life, a trained responder shows up and takes over, or an AED is ready to use.

If the patient drowned, it may also be helpful to lower the head below the lungs to drain the water while you perform CPR.

CPR Theory: What’s going on inside the body?

The goal of CPR is to artificially keep a person’s heart pumping and their lungs breathing until a defibrillator can be used to restart their heart.

Chest compressions use the rib cage to physically compress the heart and squeeze blood throughout the body as if the heart was still beating.

The average person’s heart beats about 1-2 times per second, but you breathe about 12 times per minute. That’s why 30 chest compressions are needed for every 2 breaths.

The rate of compressions simulates a normal heartbeat. A normal resting heartbeat is between 60 and 100 bpm, but that’s not the reason 100 bpm is recommended. Theoretically, faster compressions up to about 180 bpm would be ideal, but good quality compressions, where the rib cage is allowed to fully recoil, are more important than speed.

Your own endurance is also a major limiting factor. After about 2 minutes compression quality starts to get much worse regardless of your level of fitness.

At higher compression rates you will tire even faster. If there are several people who can rotate in to do compressions, then go ahead and speed up a bit.

How to Use a Portable Defibrillator

Portable automatic external defibrillators are so simple to use that 6th grade students with no training were able to defibrillate patients within 90 seconds[1]. They are used in conjunction with CPR.

CPR alone will not save a person’s life. When attaching the AED do NOT stop CPR if possible. Turn on the portable defibrillator and follow the spoken step-by-step instructions.

  1. Open the person’s clothing to expose the bare chest.
  2. Place each pad on the spot indicated by the picture instructions. At this point stop CPR and the AED will analyze the patient’s heart rhythm.
  3. If the AED says “Shock Advised,” make sure nobody is touching the patient and press the shock button.
  4. If the AED says “No Shock Advised,” begin CPR again unless the paramedics take over or the patient shows signs of life.

On the Philips Heartstart Home/OnSite Defibrillator there is a blue informational button that will instruct you how to perform CPR and give you a metronome to keep pace for compressions.

After a while the AED will tell you to stop CPR, and it will analyze the patient again. It’s normal for the AED to deliver multiple shocks to the patient before the heart is restarted. Even if the AED works and the patient shows signs of life, do NOT remove the pads from the patient. The AED will continue to monitor their heart rate in case there is a problem.

AED Theory: What's Going on Inside the Body?

Your heart is a pump that circulates blood throughout your entire body. The power behind that pump is the heart muscles, but there's also a metronome that keeps the heart beating at a certain speed and rhythm. This metronome is an electrical pulse that tells your heart when to beat.

The electrical pulse is caused by a cluster of cells called the sinoatrial node at the top of the heart. When the sinoatrial node fires, an electrical pulse spreads out like a ripple from the top of the heart to the bottom causing the heart muscle fibers to contract as the pulse reaches them.

During a cardiac arrest, the electrical signal might be scrambled. This means that instead of getting regular electrical pulses that ripple from the top of the heart to the bottom, you have random electrical signals happening all over the heart all the time.

When this happens the heart quivers but doesn't contract properly because all the little muscle fibers are no longer working together. This is called fibrillation, so the machine used to resuscitate people is called a defibrillator.

By shocking the heart a defibrillator resets the timing and allows the sinoatrial node to take over.

An AED can only help when the heart is fibrillating. If the heart is completely stopped, for instance, a portable defibrillator will not help. That's one reason why the defibrillator will say "analyzing rhythm" during CPR. It's checking for fibrillation.

Cardiac Arrest: What to Expect

CPR is not a gentle procedure; it’s pretty normal to break the patient's ribs, especially if they’re older or suffer from a disease like osteoporosis. Good, hard compressions are more important than possible broken ribs.

When a person’s ribs break there will be a snap or popping sound and the chest won’t rebound as strongly as it did. You won’t feel as much resistance on each compression. If someone needs CPR and you break their ribs they’ll probably still thank you for it, but make sure they actually need CPR before you start pounding on their chest.

Often times people vomit during CPR. A common reason is because pressure is being put on the stomach during chest compressions. If this happens, roll the patient's whole body to the side, so he can vomit without choking, then use a finger to clear anything lodged in his mouth. Once his mouth and airway are clear, begin with rescue breaths and resume CPR.

You will know when the AED shocks the patient because the patient will spasm. In this video you can see a person being shocked with an AED about 5 seconds in from where the video starts.

Real Life Examples of CPR

Example 1 This video is a good example of solid CPR compressions. Notice the speed and depth of each compression.

ENGINE 5 in Rochester NY, Revives man after heart attack. caught on camera 911 - YouTube

The firemen already have the AED pads on the patient when the video starts, but 1 minute into the video it cuts to an earlier clip that shows the team actually putting the pads on the patient.

When they put the AED pads on the patient the guy doing compressions never stops. He only stops to let his partner do rescue breaths and when the AED is analyzing the patient's heart rhythm. After they start compressions the patient vomits, so the team rolls him on his side and clears his mouth so he doesn't choke.

Example 2: In this case the CPR lasts for a long time. Several people switch out doing compressions as they get tired.

Lifeguards give CPR Mouth to Mouth to Surfer at Huntington State Dog Beach - YouTube

Notice the 1st guy doing compressions is counting out loud so that the guy doing rescue breaths is ready when he's done with each set. The 1st guy does good, deep compressions even if they are a little slow.

The 2nd guy is faster, but his compressions aren't as deep. When he pushes down his elbows bend causing his compressions to be sloppier. The girl (3rd person doing compressions) has weak compressions that aren't deep enough. With CPR it helps to be big and heavy, so you get good deep compressions.

CPR Tips
  1. New research shows that raising the legs during CPR causes increased blood flow to important organs like the brain, increasing the chance of survival[2].
Additional Resources
  1. How to choose a CPR manikin or dummy
  2. The 4 Best Portable Defibrillators and Which to Buy
  3. Cardiac Arrest Alert App
  1. U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (2001). "Cardiac arrest a automated external defibrillators (AEDs)". OSHA Publication No. TIB 01-12-17.
  2. Zhang, Yanru et al. "Not Bad: Passive Leg Raising In Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation-A New Modeling Study". Frontiers in Physiology 7 (2017): n. pag. Web. 14 Jan. 2017.
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If you look around you'll see them everywhere. They usually hang on the walls in airports, lobbies, schools, and other public places, but automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are becoming more and more prevalent in people's homes, cars, and offices.

Thanks to some companies pushing the envelope to make defibrillators safer and easier to use, they are now available over the counter without a prescription.

Contents Buying a Portable Defibrillator

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) kills more people than traffic accidents, handguns, house fires, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS combined, about 350,000 per year.

It can happen to seemingly healthy people, but those with coronary heart disease and the elderly are at high risk. A family history of arrhythmias or heart related problems can also indicate higher risk.

While AEDs have been conclusively shown to save lives, keeping one in your house will far from guarantee a positive outcome after an SCA.

Although SCAs can happen anytime, anywhere, 75% of them occur at home[2]. Therefore portable defibrillators for those at high risk should save lives, but it’s not quite that simple.

AED Considerations
  1. AEDs cannot be used by the person in cardiac arrest, so there must be another person nearby to see it happen. SCAs aren’t a common occurrence and may not happen to everyone who is at high risk, so it’s usually impractical to keep tabs on a high risk family member 24/7, especially considering at least 6-8 hours of each day are spent sleeping. In fact less than half of SCAs at home are witnessed[2].
  2. When an AED isn’t kept in the house and the first shock comes from arriving paramedics, the victim’s chance of survival is only 2%. One study found the survival rate of SCAs at home increased from 2% to 12% when an AED was kept in the house, but those numbers might not be completely accurate because the study didn’t have enough participants to accurately represent the whole population.
  3. SCAs usually happen so fast the person having one cannot notify anyone.
  4. Instead of having AEDs in homes or targeting specific, high-risk patients, AEDs are most efficiently used in high traffic areas. For this reason many public places like airports, schools, and office buildings have defibrillators available in wall-mounted cases.

The bottom line is that portable defibrillators are expensive and only raise your chance of success from terrible to bad, but they do raise your chance of success. Taking a CPR course as a family along with having a portable defibrillator will also improve outcomes. Check out our article on CPR for more information.

Philips Heartstart OnSite/Home Defibrillator
  1. Voice instructions guide you through either adult or infant/child CPR.
  2. Daily automatic self-tests alert you when the defibrillator has a problem.
  3. The AED does not shock the patient by itself. It verifies that a shock is needed, then you push the button.
  4. Comes with a 5-year warranty.
  5. The Infant/Child pads cartridge is sold separately, and only available by prescription.
  • Weight: 3.3lbs (1.5kg)
  • Dimensions: 9.5˝ (24 cm) x 8.5˝ (21 cm) x 4.8˝ (12 cm)
  • 4 year standby battery life
  • Delivers 200 shocks minimum
  • Shocks within 8 seconds post CPR
Included Items
  • Defibrillator
  • Red carry case with 911/EMS card
  • Adult SMART Pads cartridge (lasts 2 years)
  • Battery (lasts 4 years)
  • Training video
  • Discount coupons for CPR training at American Heart Association, American Red Cross or Medic First Aid
Pros and Cons
  • Pros: No prescription needed, light weight, inexpensive
  • Cons: No CPR quality feedback

Note: If an AED does require a prescription, it will come with the device, but those that require a prescription are only available through authorized distributors.

  • Small and light enough to fit easily in a backpack or be carried by the handle.
  • No handle on device but carrying case has handle.
  • Accessories are available for rugged use including a hard waterproof carrying case.
AED Price

The Philips Heartstart Home defibrillator is the cheapest portable defibrillator I have found.

Despite having no functional differences, the Home defibrillator is sometimes offered at a significantly cheaper price compared to the OnSite defibrillator.

The products function exactly the same way; the only difference is their warranties:

  • The warranty of the Philips Home defibrillator will only cover malfunctions that happen in the home. You can check its latest price on Amazon here.
  • In the case of the Philips OnSite defibrillator, the warranty covers the portable defibrillator anywhere. Buy it online on Amazon by following this link.
Philips Heartstart Business Package

If you're buying an AED for business, public, or commercial use, Philips offers a packaged bundle that includes everything you need to install a wall mounted kit.

The kit includes an AED with adult pads and battery, a carry case, user manual, quick reference card, 5-year warranty, medical prescription, 3D wall sign, AED inspection tag, surface-mount alarmed AED cabinet, AED/CPR responder kit, and a decal sticker.

Although prices fluctuate, the business package usually adds a lot of value for the price. The wall mount case and the carry case can cost several hundred dollars when purchased separately.

This package also simplifies purchasing if you do not want to hunt down every separate piece you need.

Cardiac Science G3/G5
  1. The G3 costs less but is less customizable and has fewer features than the G5.
  2. Voice instructions guide you through either adult or infant/child CPR.
  3. Daily, weekly, and monthly automatic self-tests alert you when the portable defibrillator has a problem.
  4. The AED can shock the patient by itself if the fully automatic option is purchased. Otherwise, it verifies that a shock is needed, then you push the button.
  5. Comes with a 7-year(G3) or 8-year(G5) warranty on the device and a 4-year warranty on the battery.
  6. The Infant/Child pads are sold separately.
  • G3 weight: 6.6lbs (3.1kg) / G5 weight: 5.7lbs (2.6kg)
  • G3 dimensions: 3.3˝ (8 cm) x 12.4˝ (31 cm) x 10.6˝ (27 cm) / G5 dimensions: 3.4˝ (9 cm) x 9.0˝ (23 cm) x 11.8˝ (30 cm)
  • 4 year standby battery life
Included Items
  • Defibrillator
  • IntelliSense battery (9146) (4 year standby life)
  • Adult defibrillator pads (2 year expiration date)
  • Instructional CD and AED Manual
  • Training Video
  • Rescuelink and MDLink
  • Serial communication cable

Disclaimer: Included items may vary depending on the seller.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros: Interchangeable pads
  • Cons: Heavier than some other models

Note: The AED comes with a prescription.

  • Heavier than the lightest models
  • Built in handle on device
  • Accessories are available for rugged use including a hard waterproof carrying case.
  • Water and dust resistant but cannot be submerged
AED Price

Prices may vary based on location and time. To find out the current price, visit the product on Amazon.

The automatic version will be more expensive than the semi-automatic version for both the G3 and the G5.

The G5 costs more because it is more customizeable, has more features, and the warranty is 1 year longer.

Cardiac Science G3 Business Package

The Cardiac Science G3 is now available on Amazon as a bundled package for businesses. It comes with a mountable wall cabinet, a portable carry case, a 3D mountable sign, and a CPR kit. The CPR kit has a razor, gauze, trauma shears, and a 1-way valve mask for rescue breaths.

The G3 comes in two versions. The semi-automatic version requires that someone push a button when the AED is ready to shock. The automatic version has no shock button, and it will shock the patient as necessary when it detects a shockable rhythm.

G3/G5 Accessories

Cardiac Science offer their adult defibrillator pads, child defibrillator pads, and battery replacements on Amazon.

Zoll AED Plus
  1. Voice instructions guide you through either adult or infant/child CPR.
  2. Weekly automatic self-tests alert you when the defibrillator has a problem. Self-tests can be configured to occur every 1-7 days.
  3. This portable defibrillator can shock the patient by itself if the fully automatic option is purchased. Otherwise, it verifies that a shock is needed, then you push the button.
  4. The Infant/Child pads are sold separately
  • Weight: 6.7lbs (3.1kg)
  • Dimensions: 5.25˝ (13.3 cm) x 9.50˝ (24.1 cm) x 11.50˝ (29.2 cm)
  • 5 year standby battery life
  • Delivers 225 shocks minimum
  • 13 hours of patient monitoring
  • Red X appears when battery is capable of about 9 more shocks
Included Items
  • Defibrillator (7 yr warranty)
  • Adult Pads (lasts 5 years)
  • Battery (lasts 5 years)

Disclaimer: Included items may vary depending on the seller.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros: Provides feedback on CPR quality, long battery and pad life
  • Cons: Heavier than other models

Note: The AED Plus comes with a prescription included in the package

  • Easy to carry but heavier and bulkier than other models
  • Built in handle
  • Limited accessories available for rugged use
AED Price

The Zoll AED Plus is more expensive than other portable defibrillators, but Zoll boasts a longer battery and pad shelf life than most other brands. This may bring them to be on par with other brands in the long term.

Zoll Accessories

If you already own a Zoll AED Plus, accessories are available including replacement adult pads and batteries.

The Zoll AED plus takes ten, 123a lithium batteries. Although they are sold specifically for the AED Plus in packs of 10, those are more expensive than a generic pack of 12 from a good brand. With the pack of 12, you also have two extras in case there are a couple duds.

Portable Defibrillator Accessories

When purchasing an AED you may also consider purchasing several other items that will be useful for a CPR scenario.

CPR Pocket Mask

The mask has a 1-way valve to provide assisted breathing during CPR. It covers the patient's mouth and nose and provides a barrier to prevent the transfer of body fluids between you and the patient.

A smaller alternative to the pocket mask is a disposable plastic barrier with a 1-way valve. If you already have a portable defibrillator, the pocket mask will fit easily inside the AED case, so size shouldn't be an issue.

The disposable barrier comes in a little pouch that is small enough to fit on a keychain. When giving breaths with the disposable barrier you will need to hold the nose shut as the barrier only covers the mouth.

When providing CPR, having a barrier is a very good idea because patients often vomit due to the pre-existing heart condition that caused the heart attack or during chest compressions from pressure on the stomach.

Pediatric AED Pads

The AED comes with pads that are sized for adults. Pediatric pads are designed for children under 8 years old or under 55 lbs (25 kg). If you are in a situation where a child has a heart attack and you only have adult pads, an AED CAN still be used.

For small children place the right-shoulder pad on the chest and the left-ribs pad on the back. The AED will decide whether or not to shock the patient.

When paramedics arrive on the scene they will remove the pads and replace them with their own. When using pediatric pads each one will have pictures that show where it goes. Follow this link to purchase pedriatic pads online.

Nitrile Gloves

Often times the patient will vomit during CPR. If something is stuck inside their mouth the first responder needs to swipe it out. The point is, gloves will protect you and the patient from exchanging body fluids.

Portable Defibrillator Tips
  1. You CAN'T use this on yourself.
  2. A portable defibrillator CAN be used on a pregnant woman. In order to save the baby you have to save the mother.
  3. If a child goes into sudden cardiac arrest and you only have adult defibrillator pads, you SHOULD connect the pads regardless. The AED will decide whether to shock.
  4. When instructing bystanders to call 911 and/or get an AED it’s most effective to point at a single individual. Giving general commands to a crowd makes it confusing who is supposed to go.
  5. The use of an AED is covered under Good Samaritan laws. This means that if you use a portable defibrillator to help someone in good faith, you cannot be held responsible should something go wrong[3].
  6. New research shows that raising the legs during CPR causes increased blood flow to important organs like the brain, increasing the chance of survival[4].
  • Portable defibrillators are extremely easy to use
  • The Philips Heartstart OnSite/Home Defibrillator and the Zoll AED Plus are the only non-prescription AEDs
  • The only difference between OnSite and Home defibrillators is the warranty
  • Coronary heart disease, family history, and old age increase risk of sudden cardiac arrest
  • Use CPR in conjunction with AED
  • If sudden cardiac arrest is witnessed, call 911, get AED, start CPR in that order
Additional Resources
  1. How to Choose CPR Dummies for..
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