In an ideal world every trip would run smoothly, with no boo-boo’s or mistakes whatsoever. In reality however, especially when boisterous children are added into the equation, it seems to make the perfect concoction for little accidents and hiccups along the way. As responsible adults (or so we like to think!) it is our job to hope for the best, yet plan/prepare for the worst. By this, we don’t mean become so consumed by the negative prospects of things going wrong that it ruins your entire trip, but rather think positively that if something should go wrong you are prepared and can deal with it responsibly.
If you haven’t already guessed, we are focusing here on the importance of packing an appropriate medical/first aid kit for your travels, and although it’s contents greatly depends on where in the world you are travelling to, there are basics that you must get right regardless of destination choice.
Below is our entire first aid kit broken down and explained, so all you need to do is choose what you wish to have, buy, pack and go, simple as that!
Always consider taking antimalarial medication when travelling to areas where there’s a risk of malaria. Visit your GP or local travel clinic for malaria advice as soon as you know when and where you’re going to be travelling.
Malarone – No side effects, fantastic!
Chloroquine – we suffered with a mild stomach upset (when taking them on an empty stomach) and occasional blurred vision.
Doxycycline – we suffered from stomach upsets (reduced by taking Doxycycline at night, prior to us going to bed). Heart burn (if taken on an empty stomach), and sensitivity to sunlight (skin rash and tiny blisters).
Mefloquine (Lariam) – We suffered from insomnia, mild anxiety, and extremely vivid dream/nightmares. Heart burn and nausea (if taken on an empty stomach).
DEET is the magic ingredient that keeps away those pesky bugs including mosquitos. Us adults always use repellents containing 50% DEET, which gives up to 12 hours protection. Children and those with sensitive skin (our daughter Carmen as an example who suffers from eczema) may require a lower DEET percentage. She is always protected with a repellent containing only 20% DEET which gives from 1-3 hours protection. Protection time varies with activity and climate.
Mosquito Net (with two suction hooks incase there is nowhere in the accommodation above the bed to hang the net).
Tablets or creams containing antihistamines offer effective relief against allergies, itchy skin rashes, insect bites and stings. Most remedies are available without prescription from a pharmacy.
A thermometer is needed to check an individual’s temperature if a fever is suspected, or if they have been exposed to heat or cold without the necessary precautionary measures. Thermometers can be bought in a range of types from oral, rectal or auxiliary (under the arm).
Designs vary, from mercury to digital thermometers, and some more modern styles even replicate babies pacifiers, how useful is that?!
Paracetamol is the most common medication found in our medical kit, however two others we pack which are listed below, offer other benefits as well as pain relief:
Ibuprofen – Works as an anti-inflammatory medication helping to reduce swelling.
Asprin – Helps prevent blood clots (to be used incase a heart attack is suspected) and must be chewed, not swallowed whole, as it is absorbed into the blood faster.
Travel Sickness Tablets
Highly effective medication in preventing and treating travel sickness. We recommend using the brand ‘Kwells’ which work wonders for Mr Vine who suffers from travel sickness on the sea.
Antibiotics (Self Treatment)
If the dreaded diarrhoea kicks in when you are travelling it can be a huge knock to your traveler confidence and can make you feel extremely isolated and vulnerable. We have personally experienced feeling so poorly it has been a mammoth task to venture out to buy basic things like food and water. Due to us being in a rural settings when this happened, with no option to go to a decent medical centre, we relied upon the antibiotic Ciproflaxacin, which was prescribed to us by our GP prior to leaving home, and is also reccomended on the Fit For Travel website. Within 1-2 days of starting the medication, we were back to normal. This is a must have in our opinion and we don’t travel anywhere without it.
Other prescribed antibiotics renowned for giving the same result are:
PLEASE NOTE: Antibiotics are effective against bacteria, the cause of most cases of travellers diarrhoea. They will not improve diarrhoea due to other causes.
If symptoms persist without improvement after 72 hours medical help should be sought.
Anti Diarrhoea Tablets
This medication acts as a life saver if you have to venture away from a toilet for any reason and you are battling with sudden diarrhoea! It works by slowing down the movement of the gut. This decreases the number of bowel movements and makes the stool less watery. PLEASE NOTE: If you are able to comfortably get to a toilet you should hold off taking this type of medication, as travellers diarrhoea is your bodies defence mechanism to flush out harmful bacteria within your digestive system. If you stop your body from responding like this, it may stop or slow down your recovery. We always stock up on the brand Imodium which we highly recommend.
When travelling it is common to change your normal eating habits, consuming unusual foods that differ from the regular ones you normally eat back home. Constipation can be a knock on effect which can really ruin your trip if it can’t be shifted. If high fiber foods cannot be obtained to naturally help ease symptoms, have laxatives ready with you, which come as suppositories, tablets or syrups. They must only be used in the short term however.
If new foods and potentially spices come into the mix where you are travelling this could be a trigger for heart burn or stomach acid to kick in, which won’t make for a pleasant experience. We pack an antacid in our kit, and take the brand ‘Gaviscon,’ in tablet form so they are small enough to fit into a day bag.
Oral Re-hydration Sachet
Dehydration can be the dangerous result from many travel related scenarios, such as stomach bugs leading to diarrhoea/vomiting or too much sun/heat leading to heat and sun stroke. Whatever the cause, dehydration can be fatal if not treated promptly, so we always carry with us re-hydration sachets. They contain important salts and sugars in the form of a powder, which when added to water and drank, replace many of the vital nutrients lost from dehydration.
Unopened sterile needles should be taken incase you need an injection at a hospital when travelling.
(Poor or developing countries, may not offer the best quality equipment coupled with poor hygiene).
If travelling to rural areas where there is likely to be no ice at hand, either from a shop or refrigerator (pack of frozen peas) we would take an instant ice pack. They produce an ice cold compress, after being squeezed and shaken and should be used on a soft tissue injury to relieve pain and swelling.
Water Purifying Tablets
These wouldn’t be used if you always have the option to buy (and stock up on) safe securely bottled mineral water. If for any reason you run out of this option you may be left with no choice but to drink and wash food in water from other sources, for example tap water. In this instance we would recommend using water purifying tablets. They make water clean and safe for consumption, preventing water-borne organisms that cause stomach disorders such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery etc.
Sterile dressings used to keep wounds clean and protected. We’d definitely recommend buying ‘Germolene Liquid Plaster’ especially to use on kids. It looks and smells a bit like nail varnish, however it acts as an antiseptic as well as staying on the skin even whilst swimming and is near impossible for little ones to pick off.
Bandages for very large wounds. These can be cut down to fit smaller wounds.
A pressure dressing that should be applied to a deep cut/injury that is bleeding out fast. In this scenario, normal dressings may be ineffective against stopping the blood flow, whereas the active ingredient kaolin found in Quick Clot is known to clot blood.
Mole Skin Pad
A Padded protection for blistered skin. Works wonders inside footwear prone to rubbing.
A type of pressure sensitive adhesive tape used to hold a bandage or other dressing onto a wound.
Used to clean cuts and grazes in order to remove any bacteria that may be on the skin.
A hand disinfectant gel, used to kill 99.9% of bacteria. Note, they don’t remove dirt off the
skin, but instead kill any harmful bacteria, useful if there are no suitable hand washing facilities, for example after going to the toilet or prior to eating. We have got through tons of hand gel with our little one, as being a typical curious toddler she is always picking things up off the floor and we often cringe at the thought of all the germs on her hands (especially when she’s putting them in her mouth!)
Essential for splinter removal.
Lightweight to cut and shape bandages.
Used to attract attention.
Use a lighter to disinfect tweezers or a pin prior to using them, for example when removing a splinter. Also handy incase a fire needs to be made.
Thermal or emergency blankets are thin sheets made of foil, designed to keep you warm in bad weather conditions or in case of an accident. They retain 90% of your body heat, help protect you from the elements as well as attracting attention with the shiny reflective material. Being extremely light weight they won’t take up hardly any space in your first aid kit.
We’ve chosen to list this as a first aid essential as without it a traveller may become burnt and as a result become unwell if they are exposed to the suns harmful UVA/UVB rays. Depending on the sun’s intensity we always opt for a high factor 30 or a factor 50 sun block.
Prescription Drugs (with original prescription)
Border force may be interested in your medical kit upon entering or exiting a country, so make sure you have proof what the drugs are, along with consent from a doctor to have them on you.