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This Is What Should Be In a First Aid Travel Kit

This Is What Should Be In a First Aid Travel Kit

by Lisa Zaslow

9 months ago

What should be in a first aid travel kit?

Tropical Ambulance

Before you get your first aid travel kit together, there are several things you should do before you travel out of the US. Several weeks before you travel, make sure you have travel insurance or are covered under your current health care policy. {*} If there are vaccinations that you need to get, such as tetanus, flu or, malaria, then go ahead and get them. You will also want to check health alerts for your destination (go to Centers for Disease Control in the US) to see if there are any other things you need to do to safeguard your health. The last thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with basic first aid. This is easier to do nowadays because there are first aid apps for your Smartphone.

It's also good to have a plan for when something more serious, breaking a bone or cutting your head wide open. Of course, if something like a broken bone or other serious injury happens, go directly to the emergency room (or the A & E as it is known in the U.K.).

Why do you need a first aid kit when you travel? Because you never know when you're going to scrape something or get a splinter or cut yourself. It's even more important when you have kids. And, when you're feeling vulnerable, it's nice to have a band-aid and some antibacterial ointment to soothe yourself. Or to have an anti-diarrheal when you eat street food or an anti-nausea pill the day after drinking too much. It's the little things that make your travel life just a little bit easier.

So...what is in a well-packed first aid travel kit? You don't have to take your whole medicine cabinet...just the basics. What you take will depend on where you are going and for how long. If you're going to a major city in the US, chances are you'll just need some aspirin and a few band-aids. If you're going somewhere remote and wild, then you might want to take a mini-pharmacy. If you're going where English is not widely spoken (think Mongolia) or you're afraid there might be pharmacy or doctor confusion, then you need to be prepared.

The best first aid travel kits are simple but varied. They'll have a little bit of everything to last you until you can get to a pharmacy.

Firstly, get a travel app for your Smartphone. These apps help you know what to do when you have no idea. Become familiar with them. Here are three that can help you when things are going wrong (or have gone wrong) and you don't know what to do. They guide you step-by-step through what to look for, and then what to do. Two of them help you call an ambulance and/or get to the nearest hospital when you're traveling out of the U.S.

First Aid Travel Apps

First Aid - American Red Cross
For iOS & Android

This app has simple step-by-step instructions to guide you through everyday first aid scenarios. It is also integrated with 911 in the US so you can call EMS from the app. This app is a great primer for learning basic first aid and covers everything from binding up wounds to CPR. It also covers safety tips for everything from severe winter weather to what to do to prepare for hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. Their content is preloaded so you can access the content even when you have sketchy internet. With the help of this app, it has never been easier to know first aid.

PROS: Great at helping you to learn/know basic first aid and even CPR

CONS: Doesn't tell you where hospitals are; only able to call an ambulance in the USA.

For iOS & Android

This app was created by two ER docs and has a HUGE database in your pocket covering symptoms, diseases, conditions, procedures, medications and has a list of doctors and facilities. It will even verify which insurance is accepted. It will find the nearest hospital, ER and Urgent Care facility. When I was looking, it found the nearest ER and Urgent Care for me in the UK.

One of the biggest advantages to this app is being able to save your personal healthcare facilities, doctors, diseases, conditions, procedures, medications, insurance info, and health plan advice lines all in one place. Can save you an ER visit by helping you figure out what is causing your symptoms and whether you should go to the ER. When you DO have to go, it gives you turn-by-turn directions from GPS, IP address or zip code locations. Also, gives ER wait times in select parts of the US.

PROS: have all your medical info in your pocket; able to find out what your symptoms mean; find medications, diseases, and medical locations and instantly get answers; find the nearest hospital, ER and Urgent Care

CONS: an OVERWHELMING amount of info; doesn't help you find facilities in other countries or call an ambulance.

First Aid Fast
Costs $1.99
For iOS & Android

This app was created by one of the founders of Australian First Aid. This is a quick and easy guide that automatically adjusts to your destination. No matter where you are in the world you can use this app to call an ambulance via the app with a push of a button, get turn-by-turn audio directions to the nearest medical center or hospital as well as get step-by-step easy to follow A-Z guides & videos for common first aid incidents.

PROS: Easy and words all over the world. Has good videos

CONS: None, really.

"People die for ridiculous reasons. Two main causes of needless death and injuries are delays in getting professional help and a lack of basic first aid." --Haines, Australian First Aid

Go through this list and determine what makes sense for YOU to take. Remember to be as basic as you can. Don't take more than you need. Get rid of the packaging and put it into a waterproof bag to carry in your suitcase.

First Aid Travel Kit

Use the list below as a guideline:

The Basic Kit

First Aid Supplies

  • Band-aids (Plasters) - a handful of various sizes
  • Moleskin - for blisters
  • Roll of Gauze - for cleaning an injury, soaking up blood, applying pressure to a wound. 
  • Assorted sterile gauze pads - 2" & 4" work well. I like to get the non-adhering ones
  • Adhesive surgical tape - for securing a bandage
  • Butterfly closures - to tape the edges of minor cuts together
  • Small round-tipped scissors - for cutting bandages and other cutting needs
  • Safety pins - to secure large bandages and ACE bandages and for having in case of wardrobe malfunctions
  • Cotton tipped applicators - for applying creams and ointments and for cleaning wounds
  • Tweezers - for splinters, getting out gravel and dirt when cleaning a wound and other practical uses
  • Antiseptic wipes - disinfect wounds before you bandage them up. Just a hand full. with 60% alcohol or more
  • Elastic wrap (ACE) -  for wrapping wrist, ankle, knee or elbow injuries
  • Digital Thermometer - to see if you have a fever
  • Latex or Non-Latex gloves - to reduce infection risk from blood/bodily fluid

Your Meds

  • Medicines you take on a regular basis - Enough for the trip and a little extra in case of delay. Carry all medicine in the original container with clear labels that identify your name and dosing schedule. If you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes, seizures or allergies, consider wearing a medical alert bracelet.
  • List of prescription meds & their generic names.
  • Health insurance card - regular or supplemental
  • Copies of claim forms

A Note About Prescription Meds

{From The "Pack Smart" page on the Center for Disease Control's website}

  • Always pack in your carry-on luggage
  • Pack copies of all prescription generic names
  • Pack a note on letterhead from the prescribing physician for controlled substances and injectable meds
  • Leave a copy of prescriptions at home with a friend or relative
  • Check with the American Embassy or Consulate to make sure that your medicines will be allowed in the country. Some countries will not let visitors bring certain meds into the country.

Over The Counter Meds

  • Pain meds -  to relieve a headache, pain, fever, simple sprains and strains.
  • Antacid - to help with minor stomach discomfort  
  • Antihistamine tablets - to help with sneezing, runny eyes, stuffy nose. May make you sleepy
  • Anti nausea or motion sickness tablets - For boat rides & bus rides in the mountains or drinking too much alcohol
  • Anti-diarrheal tablets - this is useful for stopping diarrhea for short periods, like when you need to catch a train, plane or bus. Only use for a short period of time. Rest and drinking plenty of fluids to replace lost fluids is preferable.
  • Laxatives - for when you can't seem to go 
  • Antihistamine cream - help control itching and swelling. Good for bug bites.
  • Hydrocortisone cream - also helps to control itching
  • Antibiotic cream - helps prevent infection in cuts, scrapes, and burns.
  • Oral hydration solution packets -for when you've had diarrhea for a couple of days and need to hydrate
  • Water purification tablets - for when you're not sure about the quality of the water. Use as a last resort. If you're able to get bottled water, that's better
  • Altitude sickness - for acute mountain sickness headaches and dizziness.
  • Antimalarials - should be taken BEFORE going to a place where you could potentially get malaria
  • Disposable instant activating cold packs - to cool injuries and burns; sprains and strains
  • Extra pair of contact lenses or glasses
  • Antibiotic prescribed by your doctor - prescribed by your doctor for self-treatment of moderate to severe diarrhea
  • Sleep aid

 Supplies to Prevent Illness or Injury

  • Sunscreen - 15 SPF or higher with UVA & UVB coverage
  • Lubricating eye drops
  • Aloe gel - for sun burn
  • Insect repellent - for children, no more than 10-15% DEET and, for adults, 30%-50% DEET and up to 15% of picaridin, as the chemical can be absorbed through the skin. DO NOT use insect repellent on infants 2 months of age or younger
  • Condoms

Important Note: When carrying any generic medication, it is essential that it is kept in its original packaging when you are traveling in case customs officials need to check it. If you have never taken any of the above medications before, check with your physician, nurse, or pharmacist before you do, as you may have a specific medical history, condition, or allergy that general advice cannot cover.

The information provided here is for general travel health advice and information only. It is not a replacement for a personal consultation with a travel nurse specialist, your GP, or a doctor specializing in travel medicine who can tailor advice to your individual medical history and needs.

What would you add or take away from this kit?


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