6 Must-Haves for Your Travel First Aid Kit

By Nick Wharton on 1 June 2018 0 comments

Even though getting injured or sick while traveling is the last thing you want to happen, you certainly want to be prepared just in case. You might not need to use a first aid kid, and it'll take up space in your luggage, but you'll still benefit from the peace of mind knowing you can patch up any minor scrapes or ailments that arise.

There's no need to go overboard and turn yourself into a walking pharmacy — just a few basic first aid items can cover you in multiple situations. Whether it's an extended vacation or a short road trip, carrying a travel first aid kit with you is always a good idea. Here's what you should include. (See also: 13 Essentials Every Emergency Bag Should Have)

1. Wound dressings

Probably the most common injuries for most travelers are cuts and scrapes, so wound dressings are an essential part of any travel first aid kit. To make sure that you're ready to deal with various wounds, you should take a selection of different dressings. Just a few of each will usually do.

Bandages

Buy a packet of adhesive bandages that contains a variety of sizes, and if you're doing anything active like hiking, include some blister patches as well, so you can protect any blisters from getting worse and infected. Make sure they are of a good quality, as there's nothing worse than a blister bandage that doesn't actually stick.

Gauze

Because gauze is a sterile material, it has many medical uses, from cleaning a wound to protecting a burn. And it can even be used as a makeshift bandage for medium-sized wounds if you have nothing else. It often comes in rolls, but medical gauze pads are also handy since they're individually packaged.

Medical tape

Medical tape is used for wrapping around a wound like a bandage or gauze pad to keep the area sterile. It can also be used to form a makeshift sling for breaks or dislocations, or to provide support to a joint like a twisted ankle.

2. Painkillers

Headaches or minor aches and pains can be debilitating, so it's worth bringing a small number of painkillers with you whenever you travel. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or any other brand of painkiller that you're used to taking can be a lifesaver on the road.

3. Tweezers

Tweezers will come in handy in many sticky situations. They can be used for removing wood splinters, shards of glass, small stones, bee stings, or anything else that might be left behind in a wound that's too small or too dangerous to remove with your hands.

4. Allergy medication

Bites, stings, or minor allergic reactions to things that we're not used to coming into contact with are relatively common on the road. Antihistamines allow you to quickly and effectively reduce swelling, rashes, and other allergic symptoms in a pinch. Antihistamines come in pill form and topical creams, and should be used according to directions. (See also: 10 Allergy-Free Snacks That Are Safe for Almost Everybody)

5. Anti-diarrhea medication

Having an upset stomach while traveling overseas is a regular occurrence for many travelers. Diarrhea can be caused by food poisoning, non-potable water, or simply the presence of different bacteria to what people are used to. Usually the best remedy for diarrhea is rest and hydration, but if you've got something organized like a bus tour that you don't want to miss, then it's not always possible to stay in. Anti-diarrhea meds will provide some short-term relief to allow you to carry on. (See also: What to Do if You Get Sick While Traveling Abroad)

6. Electrolyte tablets

Diarrhea, particularly in a warm climate, can lead to severe dehydration if you're unable to retain water. Electrolyte tablets allow you to rehydrate rapidly and enable your body to absorb the salts, electrolytes, and minerals that you have lost.

How to pack your travel first aid kit

A travel first aid kit can be packed into a small container that you can carry around with you wherever you go. This container should be made from a hard material, and ideally waterproof, to keep it in good condition.

Always keep any pills or medication in its original packaging, as some officials will only allow it through customs if it's in its original packaging. You don't want it to be confiscated before your trip even begins.

Don't pack items like tweezers and scissors in your hand luggage. Make sure they are in your checked baggage to avoid any issues with TSA checks.

Always double check the legality of the medications you are planning to take with you before traveling by contacting the relevant embassy. Some countries are extremely strict about what can and can't be taken across their borders, with the potential for you to be charged with drug trafficking if you break these laws, even unintentionally. Better to be safe than sorry.

If you are traveling with prescribed medicines, it's advisable to take a copy of your prescription with you when heading abroad. Most medications come with instructions on how to use them, which may be useful if it's not a medication you take regularly. Also make sure you are aware of your medication's generic name, not just its brand name, so you're able to get more in an emergency situation. It might also be worth having the names of your pre-existing illnesses translated into the local language before leaving, in case you're unable to communicate this information with local health care providers.

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