What to put in a travel first aid kit
Nobody wants to feel unwell when they’re travelling. Whether you’re going bundu bashing or being a city slicker, it’s best to pack a first aid kit of some kind. Not only will this mean you don’t have to spend valuable time trying to find something you need, many countries don’t have the same rules with regard to over-the-counter medication. You don’t need to pack an ambulance-worth supply of medicine but having the basics on hand is an absolute must.
Staying healthy when you travel starts BEFORE you leave by ensuring you get enough rest, start taking any immune-suport supplements in advance, eating healthily, and drink plenty of water. You can also help prevent colds and flus by ensuring you wash your hands thoroughly, don’t touch your face or eat if you haven’t washed hands or at least used hand sanitiser (at least 60% alcohol) first. On the plane, wipe down everything you’re going to touch – tray table. seat belt, remote, TV screen, etc. and after you’ve gone to the lavatory (and try not to touch the door when you leave!).
Three questions to ask when planning your travel first-aid kit:
- WHERE are you going? Find out what kinds of medicines are available over-the-counter there, how much they might cost, how easy they are to purchase, and what the risks are. How far from emergency medical services will you be (for example, if you’re going to the middle of nowhere, you’ll need to pack more than if you’re headed for central London?
- WHO is travelling with you? Are you going to be packing just for yourself or for everyone in the group? Will there be children with you and how old are they? Does anyone have a pre-existing medical condition.
- WHAT are you planning on doing and what are the potential risks? For example: If you’ll be walking a lot, you might develop blisters and need lots of plasters but, if you’re planning a beach vacation, you’re more likely to need sunburn lotion.
WHAT’S IN OUR TEAM’S FIRST-AID KITS?
The first thing that should be on your list is chronic medication AND an up-to-date prescription from your doctor. Keep your important medication with you and not in your checked baggage. Some countries can be sticky about larger quantities of scheduled medication so it’s best to keep them with their original packaging and the receipt from the pharmacy, along with the prescription so that inspectors can see that this is legitimately yours. Pack more than you would normally need just in case your trip is delayed (so, if you need a week’s supply, pack enough for two weeks).
Note: Travellers with diabetes that need insulin injections must have a letter from your doctor; it may not be a requirement at all airports but it’s best to have it in order to expedite things. Diabetics should not put insulin in checked baggage as the hold temperature is not stable enough and your insulin could be affected. Check out diabetes.org’s handy guide.
We suggest taking something light like paracetemol or aspirin and something stronger for serious pain. Be aware that large quantities of drugs like codeine may be restricted in some countries.
Self-heating stick-on patches (available from most pharmacies and supermarkets) are also great for travellers – they take up little space and are great for stomach cramps, period pains, and sore muscles.
- Plasters in various sizes. Include a few large ones to cover blistered heels.
- Antiseptic wipes to clean cuts and scrapes.
- Antiseptic cream
Start taking immune supportive supplements before you travel and continue while you’re away.
- Echinacea. There are various brands and some are even available in tiny bottles that you can take onto the plane with you. Our tip is to add some drops to your water bottle once you’re through to the air side so every sip will contain some immune-supporting echinacea.
- Vitamin C. This vitamin is required for good immune function. In fact, there is evidence that people who are struggling with stress (and, let’s face it, as fun as travel is, it’s also pretty stressful) are less likely to get viral infections if they take extra vitamin C.
- Zinc. This immune-supporting mineral can help stave off a cold if you feel it creeping up on you, particularly if used in lozenge form.
If you find it challenging to remember your supplements, use an effervescent multi which contains immune boosters and vitamins. You can easily pop it into your breakfast water glass on the plane or at the hotel to get your morning ‘fix’.
- Nasal moisture. One of the main reasons we get these bugs when we fly is because the air on the plane is super dry. Put a little sweet almond oil, natural balm, or even vaseline inside your nostrils (if your hands aren’t clean, use an ear bud). This keeps your nasal mucus membranes moist and provides a barrier against germs.
- Saline spray or a neti pot. This helps to flush out ‘gunk’ if you’re congested and could even help prevent a cold by keeping nasal mucosa moist.
- Decongestant. People prone to sinus congestion may want to pack some decongestants, be it sprays or medications.
- Throat lozenges. We love zinc lozenges as they’re natural and have been proven to help fight off colds.
Note that these are the drug names and there are various brands manufacturing it under different names.
- Cyclizinehydrochloride – for nausea, dizziness, and vomiting
- Diphenoxylate hydrochloride + Atropine sulfate – this combination is used to treat diarrhoea.
- Hyoscine butylbromide – antispasmodic used for stomach cramps and pain.
There are also various natural remedies that work well for stomach problems if you prefer not to take drugs, such as ginger and chamomile.
Tea tree Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil A fantastic disinfectant, it combats viruses, bacteria, and fungi. A drop placed on an insect bite does wonders for itching and pain, and it can also help combat a pesky pimple. For sore throats or if you’re feeling under the weather, place 1 drop in a glass of water and gargle with it.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil Massage a drop into your temples for headaches, or over your throat area for a tight, sore throat. Put a drop onto your pillow at the hotel to help you sleep (it doesn’t stain). If you have a bath in your room, put a drop or two into the bathwater for that end-of-day muscle soreness. In a pinch, you could even use it as perfume.
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) A must-have for anyone suffering from motion sickness, especially pregnant women as it’s safe during pregnancy. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and studies have shown that it has immune-supportive properties. Take along some zinc lozenges or crystallised ginger to nibble if you’re feeling off colour, or some ginger tea bags.
Chamomile tea (Matricaria recutita) Pack a few teabags to sip for anxiety, tension, stomach upsets, nausea, or trouble sleeping. It also contains antihistamine-like compounds and could help soothe hayfever.
Other bits ‘n’ bobs
- Safety pins
- Probiotic supplement
PS: don’t forget to put tweezers or scissors in checked-in luggage!
SAFETY NOTE The above is provided for information purposes and does not replace the advice of your doctor. If you are pregnant, breast feeding, diabetic, on medication, or may be using them for children, it is important to consult with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any supplements or medication.