I was looking for my next topic to blog about when I came across an article about travel & medications. It’s a topic that gets a lot of attention on travel forums. It’s one that I thought about a lot before we left, and not much while we were actually travelling. I don’t think I can cover everything in one post, so I’ll probably break this up into a few blogs.
I’ve read a lot of posts and articles with lists of what should be in your first aid kit. The kit, just like everything else you pack is a series of tradeoffs. What will fit? What do I think I’ll need? What will I be able to buy while traveling? Based on my experiences, here’s a list of what I took along, and my recommendations. I’ll start out by saying that I think I was a little paranoid about my health before we left, so I tended to over-pack in this area.
Melatonin tablets – This is a chemical that your body produces naturally to help you sleep. It’s not addictive and I found it helped with jetlag to take one at bedtime for a few days in a new timezone. It doesn’t keep me from waking up in the middle of the night, but it seems to make it easier to fall back to sleep. You can’t find this in many countries, but it’s OTC in the US, so I brought some with me. There seem to be many people who get and Rx for Ambien, but that’s more than I need.
Aspirin and Ibuprofen – We used them quite a bit for all sorts of headaches and muscle aches. You can replenish them just about anywhere, so don’t take too much to start.
Immodium – Thankfully we never had to use it. That’s not to say that we didn’t get sick, but we stayed in one place long enough to get through it with out this. I will only use it if I have to get on a plane/train/bus while I have, uh, symptoms.
Cipro – I had to use it once for Delhi Belly and Eric needed the Big C in Turkey. Don’t leave home without it. If you really need it, you probably won’t be in a condition to go out searching for a Dr. or pharmacy to get it.
Bandaids/Plasters – Blisters, scrapes, etc. are unavoidable if you are an active traveler. I always carry a few in my purse or daypack too. It’s weird, but I’ve met a few nice people on hiking trails because I had one to share when they needed it.
Benadryl (antihistimine) and Sudafed (decongestant) – I have terrible allergies so I went through my initial supply quickly. In most places, the pharmacist could recommend a good replacement if they didn’t have these specific ones. If you are in a place where little English is spoken, bring the empty pack to the pharmacy so that they can see the ingredients. It’s much easier than trying to “mime” a stuffy nose and sneezing. Benadryl is also good for some skin rashes.
Mefloquine (for malaria) – We started taking it, but gave up and just went with the next item…
50% DEET bug spray (the Boots brand in the gray bottle is the best we found)- I covered myself in this stuff while I was in malaria zones. It’s horrible, (it actually dissolved the printing ink on one of my bags – what does it do to your skin?) but I didn’t get a single bite, which means no malaria, no dengue fever, or any other nasty disease.
Meclazine (Dramamine) – I have occasional bouts of vertigo, so I brought this along, but maybe used it once.
Antiboitic cream – I think I only used it once for some scrapes I got hiking that didn’t heal. I would probably still bring this along since it doesn’t take up too much room.
Hand Sanitizer – We carried it with us most of the time. Since the “swine flu” was getting a lot of press last year, you could find this everywhere. I also used it as an antiseptic to clean out some cuts while hiking (If you haven’t noticed, I’m a little klutzy on the trails).
Contact lens solution – I found this in most places, but it can be really expensive. A year’s worth of disposable contacts takes up a lot of room too. I ended up wearing glasses most of the time anyway.
Anthisan – I don’t think this cream is available in the US, but you get it in many other countries. It’s for bug bites, bee stings, and rashes. The sand flies in NZ are unavoidable, so this was my only relief. I also got stung by bees twice during our travels and it worked great.
That’s it for the first aid kit. Next up is that hot topic of health insurance.