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Travel Medical Kit Recommendations for a Safe Summer Vacation

Tim Boyer's picture
Travel Medical Kit

Charles E. Davis, M.D., author of the recently published travel guide “The International Traveler’s Guide to Avoiding Infections,” follows the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” when it comes to packing a travel medical kit for summer vacation across state lines and overseas. However, packing clothing for a trip—let alone a travel medical bag—is not an easy task as most of us typically experience the problem of over-packing. To help with deciding what to bring in a travel medical kit for a safe summer vacation, here are Dr. Davis’ recommendations for both a minimum medical travel kit and one for adventurous recreational travelers.

Minimum Medical Travel Kit Must-Haves

1. Prescribed medications that you take daily as well as favorite over-the-counter meds you occasionally take for allergies, migraine headaches, sleeping, indigestion and other stomach/intestinal maladies.

2. When it comes to over-the-counter pain relievers and you are travelling to a region known to have dengue, yellow fever or other hemorrhagic fever, Dr. Davis advises that taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) is your safest choice because “…all other common over-the-counter medications for pain and fever relief interfere with clotting and aggravate hemorrhagic infections.”

3. Antibiotics for treating or preventing infection and loperamide for self-treatment of travelers’ diarrhea.

4. For severe dehydration due to diarrhea, vomiting and/or sweat loss, oral rehydration solution packs can be a life-saver. Recommended by the World Health Organization, these packs typically contain glucose, sodium and potassium that are dissolved in a liter of water to prevent or treat an electrolyte imbalance.

5. Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to avoiding a serious skin infection. Recommended must-haves include moleskin, Band-Aids, triple antibacterial creams like Neosporin and a topical anti-fungal cream. Apply immediately after receiving a small cut or abrasion.

6. A digital thermometer is preferable to a glass thermometer due to almost certain breakage during travel.

7. Insect repellents that contain 30 to 50 percent DEET.

8. Sunscreen to prevent sunburns and a sunburn treatment gel like an Aloe Vera-containing gel for those times when sunscreen is not applied or often enough.

9. Some trips that involve overnight hiking over long distances may place you in a sleeping lodge or shack with open windows and no power for air-conditioning. As such, be prepared by carrying Permethrin-impregnated clothing and mosquito netting as well as an insecticide spray. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to treat clothing with Permethrin at home before traveling.

10. For women, yeast infections are a special consideration during travel. Dr. Davis recommends anti-fungal suppositories or creams for vaginal yeast infections—“…especially for women who will be taking doxycycline for malaria prophylaxis.”

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11. Anti-malarials for regions with malaria.

12. Water purification tablets

13. Condoms

14. Disposable syringes, suture and needle kit. For related considerations concerning health and travel follow this link to an informative article titled “The 7 Most Important Travel Medical Kit Considerations for Summer Vacation Travel.”

Medical Travel Kit for Recreational and Adventure Travelers

1. All recommended items in the minimal medical travel kit listed above

2. Additional medications:
• Benadryl and epinephrine auto-injector ( Epi pen) for severe allergic reactions to insect bites and stings.
• Altitude sickness meds
• Antacids
• Anti-anxiety meds
• Sleep aids
• Extra-strength/ high-dose pain relievers
• Eye drops for dry or irritated eyes
• Eye drops for eye infections

3. Latex gloves for when treating others’ wounds or your wounds when hands are dirty

4. Tweezers for tick removal

5. Common basic first aid items:
• Antiseptic towelettes
• Sterile bandages, dressings and adhesive tape
• Bandage scissors
• Cotton-tipped applicators
• Antiseptic soap such as Betadine
• Ace bandage
• Butterfly closure strips
• Safety pins

6. A full suture kit if someone in the group is trained on its use

Not only will packing a well-stocked travel medical kit increase your chances of having a safe and enjoyable summer trip, but it can also mean the difference between life and death for someone you meet who is less well-prepared while traveling and facing a medical emergency.

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile

Reference: “The International Traveler’s Guide to Avoiding Infections” by Charles E. Davis, M.D.; A John Hopkins Press Health Book (2012); ISBN 13: 978-1-4214-0380-9 and ISBN 10: 1-4214-0380-3.