What First-Aid Items You Need to Pack When You Travel

Be prepared for when minor illness strikes

What First-Aid Items You Need to Pack When You Travel

While you can’t always prepare for unexpected illnesses that occur while you’re traveling, you can prepare for many of the common ones that may make a trip less enjoyable — or productive.

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There’s no time for a sick day when you’re traveling on business. And when you’re on vacation, you don’t want to let anything stand in the way of that special time.

What to do ahead of time

It’s important to check with your primary care doctor or a local travel clinic before you go on vacation. You might need a few vaccines that you weren’t aware of, for example. And, of course, if any family members traveling with you are currently taking any medications, it’s important to pack the right amount for the duration of your trip. Take along enough for a few days extra in case of unexpected travel delays.

One of the most helpful items to have on hand while you travel is a first-aid kit – and it should be more than a box with bandages and antiseptic cream. Here, courtesy of family physician Neha Vyas, MD, is advice on what to keep in your travel first-aid kit.

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Medicines for gastrointestinal troubles

Most illnesses overseas are gastrointestinal-related so be sure to pack medicines to manage diarrhea and constipation, such as Loperamide, fiber and bismuth subsalicylate.  These bright pink medicines will make your tongue and stools turn black for awhile, but this subsides when you stop the medicine.

Your doctor also may prescribe an antibiotic that you can take if you develop travelers’ diarrhea. Make sure you understand how to take the medicine and when to start and stop it. If you experience diarrhea that won’t go away, signs of dehydration such as dizziness or an inability to keep fluids down,  seek medical treatment abroad.

Medicines for respiratory illnesses

These can help you should you come down with a respiratory tract illness that can range from a cold to allergies from weather changes.

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  • A generic antihistamine, such as loratadine or diphenhydramine
  • Medicine to treat cold symptoms
  • A pain reliever — helpful for a mild fever, discomfort or aches from traveling
  • Digital thermometer

Medicines for skin problems

  • Elastic wrap
  • A small bottle of liquid bandage
  • A few adhesive bandages
  • A small tube of triple antibiotic ointment
  • A small tube of anti-itch cream for biting insects

Other medicines to consider before you go

  • Melatonin, which helps with sleep and jet lag issues – particularly useful when traveling across time zones
  • Over-the-counter motion sickness medicine for those who experience queasiness and plan to be out on the water.
  •  If you’ll be traveling to mountains and other elevated areas, prepare for altitude sickness by asking your doctor for prescription anti-nausea medicine.
  • Traveling to a location with mosquitoes? Take medication to prevent malaria. This is usually prescribed by a doctor and needs to be started in advance of your trip.


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