Travel first aid kits
You should take a travel first aid kit with you when you go abroad. It is particularly important if you are going to visit areas where high quality medical facilities will not be available. Knowing what to take with you can be confusing, but there are a few simple bases to cover. These range from preventive medication (e.g. for diarrhea) to sterile devices such as syringes and scalpels for use in emergencies.
It’s a question trip clinic nurses listen to all the time; “I’m going abroad. It always makes sense to have first aid equipment when traveling, but if visits to remote areas where medical facilities may be inadequate are planned, take a sterile travel first aid kit with needles and syringes.
Viruses such as HIV and hepatitis B and C are common in many less developed countries and can be transmitted in the blood. Some countries do not have the same standards as the UK, and the equipment used may not be adequately sterilized, and blood used for transfusion may not be tested for HIV, hepatitis B, and C. In these situations, a sterile travel first aid kit can prove vital if you are seriously injured.
Cuts, pastures, and burns are common when traveling, and you should make sure that you have supplies to treat any of these conditions yourself. In hot climates where dust or poor hygiene can occur, you are more prone to infections. Wounds should be cleaned immediately, covered, and if any signs of infection develop, you should urgently seek medical help.
Something can go wrong while traveling, accidents can happen or you could get sick or injured during your trip. You could fall off your bike, twist your ankle while playing football, or just catch a good old-fashioned stomach defect. Make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance that covers you appropriately in the event of illness or injury. Existing illnesses must be reported to your insurance company, as non-disclosure could invalidate your claim.
Make sure that your insurance cover covers you for all activities that you want to experience during your travels and pay attention to the insurance cover for medical evacuation, assault and terrorist activities. A terrifying statistic is that only 60% of insurance policies cover terrorism, so make sure you read the fine print and have adequate coverage.
What should I take with me in my travel first aid kit?
The exact content depends on your specific needs. There are a few key areas to consider:
Emergency medication: Antibiotics for infected wounds, pain relievers, prescribed medication should all be kept in their original packaging.
Diarrhea treatment: Oral rehydration salts are especially important when traveling with children. Prevention is the best cure, so start taking antidiarrheal medication a few weeks before you leave. Alcohol hand gel can be useful if there are no hand washing options available.
Injuries: a selection of swabs and bandages.
Lotions: ointments for treating eye infections (such as chloramphenicol) can be bought in your pharmacy, an antibiotic ointment for skin infections such as fucidin and a cream that can be applied to burns can be useful.
Equipment: scissors, tweezers, tick remover and safety pins, sterile gloves, a digital thermometer.
Mosquitoes: mosquito nets, insect repellants (especially when traveling to areas where malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases occur).
Sterile equipment: sterile needles and syringes, intravenous cannula for a drip, sutures for suturing the skin. These should be in a specially designed kit. Do not wear single needles and syringes as customs may suspect that they are for drug use. Buy a specially prepared sterile first aid kit that contains a statement that the content is for personal medical useis provided in an emergency.
Documentation: first aid book, details of the blood type and regular medication, copies of prescriptions if wearing prescribed medication.
The author is a travel clinic nurse who works closely with World Wide Nets. If you’re on the go, visit them to find a suitable travel first aid kit.