The contents of my travel first aid kit depends on where I am travelling to, how long I am travelling for, and who I am travelling with, but a first aid kit is an essential item every time I pack for travel. Here is my guide to making sure your travel first aid kit is up to scratch, whether you are backpacking through Asia or on a New York City break:
I carry a selection of wound protecting kit, from regular plasters and sterile dressings to a bandage roll (and tape) in case of a sprain or broken bone.
Make sure you have a small bottle of iodine solution (betadine is the common brand) to splash on cuts and grazes and wounds, which can easily become infected in a tropical climate or when you are travelling in places where hygiene is minimal. I also carry a packet of anti-bacterial wipes and hand sanitiser.
Two pounds of prevention is worth an ounce of cure is the saying and if you can prevent illness from spoiling your travel time then of course you are going to do so. Consider any allergies you may have and make sure you have appropriate medication to keep them under control. A common one is hayfever and a pack of Aerius tablets or similar is vital if you suffer from this.
Those nasty mosquitoes
This also comes under prevention – mosquitoes carry serious illnesses such as malaria and dengue fever. Consider prophylactic medication for malaria if you will be in a risk area and particularly if you will be travelling through rural areas. But it’s best not to get bitten in the first place so make sure you take a good insect repellent and wear long trousers/sleeves in the evening.
Pain killers like paracetamol and ibuprofen can be bought over the counter most places but you may not always be able to get to a pharmacy straight away so I always carry these to control pain and fever.
Even when I’m not travelling to a country where ‘Delhi-belly’ is a high risk, I always have rehydration salts and ‘stopper’ Imodium tablets (available from a pharmacy) in my travel first aid kit. De-hydration, from whatever cause can have dramatic effects on your body and anyone with diarrhoea or vomiting should be carefully monitored.
Female travellers should consider supplies of contraception and tampons/pads, and I often take a few cranberry capsules to ward off UTIs.
If I am travelling with my young daughter there will be a few extras, particularly an age-appropriate paracetamol or ibuprofen. Kids don’t think about hand to mouth hygiene so I also try to be careful about washing hands or cleaning them with wipes where necessary.
More serious medication
When travelling in developing countries for extended periods I carry a broad spectrum anti-biotic (available from a travel doctor). I also have a couple of sealed hypodermic syringes in case I need an injection in a country where I am not confident they use sterilised needles. A pair of latex gloves is also in my travel first aid kit.
I always pack a small pair of scissors or a knife with scissors attached. Other items in my kit include a record of my vaccinations and a little booklet (also from the travel doctor) with basic medical advice for travellers. A pencil and tiny notebook also live in my travel first aid kit.
Sometimes my first aid kit consists of little more than a few plasters, iodine solution, rehydration salts and ibuprofen in a small ziplock bag; sometimes I carry the works. If it is an extended trip I also think about how to keep topped up with first aid supplies on the road.
Wishing you happy and safe travels!
By Natasha von Geldern