As someone who has traveled around the world on business, I learned the importance of maintaining a traveler’s first aid kit or emergency preparedness first aid kit to deal with the lack of adequate medical care in many countries.
Before you travel to a foreign country it is useful to check with your doctor or the Traveler’s Health section of the US Centers for Disease Control Traveler’s Health web site to see if there are any vaccinations that you should have or any health-related travel alerts for the country you plan to visit. That will cover some of the major concerns, but there are many smaller health issues that arise that you may wish to take care of yourself. You can do this through proper planning and by building an emergency first aid kit for travel.
There are many reasons for building your own first aid kit. To start, in many countries you cannot always rely on having a pharmacy or store available where you can purchase the products you need. Even when stores are available, you may not know which products are the best to treat your particular ailment. In non-English speaking countries, product packages are likely to use the local language, which you may not speak. You also cannot forget about the issue of medical care. If you are sick enough to need emergency medical care, you should find a local doctor or hospital. However, I would not trust the skill of the doctors in many places I have visited, not would I trust that the medical facilities were sanitary. In some counties, needles are re-used and could infect you with something much more serious that what you started with.
You might want to customize your kit a bit to fit your particular needs. If you are not sure which brands to choose, ask you doctor. You can start out with a first aid kit in a pouch, such as those found in camping stores, and then add any additional items you might require. This is what is included in my kit.
- Antacid tablets
- anti-diarrhea medication
- Pain reliever – aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Decongestant pills or tablets, or cold relief tablets
- Throat lozenges
- Motion sickness medication
- Bandages – a variety of different sizes
- Gauze pads and tape
- Antiseptic wipes
- Hydrocortizone creme
- Moleskin – for blisters
- Lip balm
- Small scissors
- NIOSH N95 masks – used as flu masks
You will notice that this emergency first aid kit avoids the use of liquids and gel products, which may be restricted if you plan to fly. Also, make sure that you know how to use each item properly and watch expiration dates to keep the medical inventory current.
Many camping and travel stores carry kits containing sterile sutures. These could be useful in some third world countries or while on wilderness expeditions.