Even if the worst travel-related malady you’ve suffered is a touch of turistas, it pays to pack at least a few first aid essentials in your luggage. If you carry nothing more than Band-Aids, moleskin, Neosporin, and Pepto-Bismol tablets, you’re set for minor emergencies that might otherwise derail a day of sightseeing.
If, however, you travel frequently/do adventure travel/spend time in developing nations, it pays to have a fully-loaded first aid kit. It’s no substitute should you get seriously ill or injured, but its contents can likely stabilize you until you’re able to get medical assistance
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a kit, either. You can pick one up for as little as $12 at REI, and augment it as needed. The most expensive thing is filling prescriptions for antibiotics (just in case) before you leave home. Cipro is really pricey, but broad-spectrum drugs like Doxycycline are very inexpensive.
Below, my picks for travel first aid kit essentials.
1. Band-aids/gauze pads/moleskin (for blisters)
2. Surgical tape
Use it to hold dressings in place, or to strap sprains or strains. A roll of this saved my ankle after a bad fall while backpacking.
[Photo credit: Flickr user ffi]3. Sewing needle and safety pins
Sterilize and use to drain blisters, remove splinters, or make a makeshift sling.
4. Small mirror
Useful if you get something in your eye or have a facial injury. If you’re the outdoorsy type, it’s an emergency kit essential for signaling should you get lost.
5. Prescription drugs
All of your regular prescriptions, as well as antibiotics or other meds prescribed by your doctor. Be sure to keep them in their original bottles, and carry copies of your prescriptions with you.
6. OTC drugs
Imodium, Pepto-Bismol tablets, antihistimines, Pepcid, ibuprofen, eye drops. For women: Uristat and an OTC or prescription for yeast infections. Comprehensivey, these meds cover a wide range of ailments, from food-borne illness to allergies, but reserve the Imodium only for emergency situations where you must travel (it’s a potent anti-diarrheal).
This isn’t just for those with known anaphylactic allergies. When you’re traveling abroad, you never know what might trigger a reaction; it’s also possible to develop a sensitivity to things you haven’t previously had a problem with.
8. Alcohol wipes and hand sanitizer
Sterilize your hands, implements like tweezers, even wounds, if necessary. Sanitizer is something you should be in the habit of carrying when you travel, regardless.
9. Tweezers and non-safety nail scissors
Remove splinters and insect stingers, cut surgical tape or bandages; there are endless uses for these two.
If you develop a sustained fever of 100.4 or higher, it’s time to seek medical attention.
11. Electrolyte powder packets and Emergen-C
If you’re suffering severe diarrhea or vomiting, it’s absolutely essential you rehydrate and replenish electrolytes. If you have access to Gatorade, you can down that, along with bottled (if necessary) water. I use Airborne and Emergen-C after long flights and at other times I need to keep my resistance up, or if my immune system is taxed.
12. Antibiotic ointment and hydrocortisone cream
Don’t underestimate the importance of these two, especially if you’re traveling in the tropics, where things tend to fester, or you have a coral cut, serious blister, sting, bite, or rash.
Sterilize needles or safety pins; matches are also an essential for wilderness emergency kits. Store in old film canister or Rx bottle to keep dry. You can additionally waterproof by painting the tips with nail polish.
14. Ziploc bags
You never know when these will come in handy. You can make an impromptu ice pack, store creams and ointment in them to prevent spillage, use them as an extra layer to keep meds dry, etc..
15. Mini first aid or wilderness safety manual
If you’re traveling long-term or spending lots of time outdoors, you’ll find this useful at some point. Many first aid kits come with one.
[Photo credits: knee, Flickr user Sukianto; Pepto-Bismol, Flickr user chris.corwin;dressing, Flickr user tiny_packages]