How to prepare your first aid kit

How to prepare your first aid kit

While holidays should be a time for relaxation, adventure and great times, we cannot take all of the comforts of home away with us. Some things, however, should definitely make it into your suitcase before you head out the door on a trip.

First, separate your daily medication (usual treatments, contraception, malaria pills) from the emergency medical kit (used less frequently).

The medical kit is to be used in emergency situations. It should be small and compact so you can easily take it with you on all excursions.

Here are a few tips to help you put together an adequate medical kit:

  • Verify its contents every year and update them if necessary: discard any medication or product for which the usage date has expired, or that was exposed to very high temperatures during a previous trip (particularly very hot or humid countries).

  • For every trip, remember to adapt the kit’s contents to your destination country. For example, if you are travelling to the United States, it is unnecessary to overload your kit; however, if you are visiting Central China or the Andes Mountains, you will need a complete medical kit.

  • Also take into account how long you will be gone and plan accordingly.

  • Beware of carrying liquids when young children are around! Choose screw-capped, airtight bottles that will not leak during a long flight, or from changes in air pressure. Choose small solid plastic bottles, which you can find at your local pharmacy or in a sports store. Single-dose, one-time use bottles are always the best choice.

  • Use zip lock plastic bags to protect your fragile articles and important documents from humidity (tablets, pills, capsules, but also your passport, medical prescriptions, vaccination booklet…).

The following list is only an indication of what you might include and in no way claims to be exhaustive:

  • Note all emergency telephone numbers.

  • Remember to bring a thermometer, particularly if travelling with children.

  • Pack multi-purpose scissors, safety pins, tweezers for removing splinters, tapered, anti-corrosive sewing needles, cotton tips (ear Q-tips), a disposable lighter, an unbreakable pocket mirror, sanitary pads or tampons, condoms and one or two plastic garbage bags.

  • For nicks, cuts and scrapes take along absorbent cotton and an antiseptic, (70° alcohol disinfectant or iodized alcohol, except if you are allergic to iodine). Preconditioned disinfectant tampons are more hygienic and more practical: ask your pharmacist for advice. Also single-dose vials of antiseptics are always advisable.

  • Include cloth bandages or the equivalent, self stick bandages that do not stick to the skin, band-aids or plasters for blisters, adhesive stitching strips, and an assortment of bandages for cuts and other small wounds.

  • Creams and ointments for burns and sunburns.

  • Guard against mosquito bites by including mosquito repellent and possibly mosquito netting or mosquito repellent wicks.

  • If necessary, include water purifiers and vitamin C to mask the taste of the disinfected water and help you overcome the time change and bouts of fatigue. But be careful! Dosage is restricted to 1000 mg of vitamin C per day for adults and must be adapted to the weight of your child.

  • Remember, if you wear contact lenses, take along a case and cleansing products (disinfectant, soap, neutralizers, saline solution).

  • And don’t forget contraception. Beware of the time change regarding mini doses of birth control pills and unpleasant side effects of associated medication, such as anti-inflammatories. When in doubt, consult your physician.

  • Do not take syringes or hypodermic needles with you (except if you have documentary evidence of their necessity), because in certain countries, customs agents and airport security can prove to be extremely fussy when going through your luggage.

Any kind of self-medication administered without professional medical advice can be very dangerous. It’s essential to verify with your doctor their amounts, directions for use and compatibility with other medications before leaving on a trip.

To treat any aches, pains or illnesses that might occur during your trip, take along an emergency medical kit:

  • Include seasickness pills or anti-emetic medicine to prevent nausea, vomiting or travel sickness.

  • To prevent diarrhea, have diarrhea tablets on hand, particularly if you are travelling to tropical regions or to areas where you will have to change your eating habits. And remember that the best prevention is proper hygiene. Wash your hands frequently and keep your fingernails cut short. In case you do come down with diarrhea, be sure to stay well hydrated.

  • For heartburn, take anti-acid pills and a stomach bandage for those of you who have a sensitive stomach.

  • For pain and fever include a minor analgesic like paracetamol or aspirin, and some anti-inflammatories prescribed by your doctor. Be careful not to take the anti-inflammatory pills on an empty stomach and be sure to respect the proper dosage, particularly regarding children. These can also have an anti-coagulating effect. Check with your doctor about their interactions with your other personal medication. If you experience any sudden or unusual pain or fever, consult a doctor immediately.

  • To relieve itching, be sure to have a topical anti-pruritic cream, ointment or tablets on hand. Ask your doctor for a prescription. He/she will also explain the side effects, particularly the drowsiness you may feel due to the antihistamines.

  • For herpes and cold sores: prescription dermal cream. UV rays can reactivate the virus in 24-48 hours and fatigue from travelling can encourage a severe outbreak.

  • Also with a medical prescription: anti-septic eye drops, anti-malaria tablets, antibiotics, light sleeping pills in case they’re needed, and medication for infants or accompanied children.

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