Have you ever had food poisoning on a long bus ride? How about a jellyfish sting at the tropical beach of your dreams? Or maybe you’ve made the mistake of wearing your brand-new shoes on a walking tour and ended up with a blister? Things can and do go wrong on holiday, and in all these cases, a small travel first aid kit could save you a lot of time, money, and pain.
Here are the basics we think you should have in your travel first aid kit for any trip, and a few items that you should consider for specific destinations. Keep in mind what is readily available at home may be difficult to find in another region, especially with a language barrier. Drugs often go by different names or are unavailable, so you should always bring along a few essentials.
First Aid Kit Contents:
- sterile adhesive bandages in multiple sizes for minor cuts and scrapes
- antiseptic wipes to disinfect minor wounds
- antibiotic ointment to prevent infection of minor wounds
- sterile gauze pads to control bleeding
- tape to hold a dressing or splint in place
- moleskin or blister bandages for blisters
- tweezers to remove foreign objects like splinters
- pain and fever medication (Advil or Tylenol)
- anti-nausea medication (Gravol)
- anti-diarrhea medication (Immodium or Pepto Bismol)
- antacid (Tums, Rolaids, or Pepcid)
- motion-sickness medication (Bonine or Dramamine. Bonine isn’t available in Canada but can be ordered online and is far superior to Dramamine)
- antihistamine (Claritin, Zyrtec)
- waterproof bag to contain everything
Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are a few region-specific items to consider:
For beach destinations: white vinegar for jellyfish stings
I learned this tip the hard way. Our family was on Maui’s North Shore enjoying a fantastic day at a secluded beach when my daughter sat on a Portuguese Man-O-War jellyfish tentacle that had washed up with the tide. She was in screaming in agony and we were miles from the nearest doctor or pharmacy. We learned from a helpful local that the best remedy is white vinegar and went to the tiny general store nearby to pick some up. It worked like magic and she stopped crying as soon as we applied it to the sting. Now I always pack a takeout packet of vinegar in my beach holiday first aid kit.
For regions with bug-borne illnesses: insect repellent and mosquito net
There are a lot of bug repellents on the market these days that are billed as “natural” and those are fine at home when the worst thing you have to worry about is an itchy bite. But when you’re contending with life-threatening diseases like Dengue Fever and Malaria it’s important to make sure your repellent is going to do its job. Your best bet is one that contains 30% DEET as this should protect you for a few hours. And remember to reapply after swimming! At night you’ll need to sleep under a mosquito net, and it’s a good idea to bring your own in case the one provided (if there is one) is full of holes.
For travelling off the beaten path: iodine tablets, rehydration salts, and antibiotics
If your travels are going to take you to an area where there is unsafe drinking water and limited medical care, it’s a good idea to be extra-prepared. Iodine tablets can be used to purify water in a pinch and rehydration salts can prevent serious dehydration due to illness. Your doctor can also prescribe a generic antibiotic that can be useful in treating many conditions that could be dangerous if there is no medical care available.
Don’t forget to bring important medical information
It’s a good idea to carry any information you may need in case an emergency occurs. This includes:
- Your care card number
- Your travel medical insurance information
- An emergency contact in Canada
- Your primary physician’s contact information
- The contact information for the Canadian Embassy in the country you are visiting
- The contact information for the hotels you will stay at during your trip
Vaccinate before you go
Make sure to check well in advance if any vaccinations are required for your trip. Some countries require proof of vaccination for entry, and if the vaccine is in short supply or you need multiple doses, it could take longer than you think. You wouldn’t want to miss that dream holiday because you didn’t get your vaccinations in time! For more information about which vaccines are recommended for specific destinations, check the Government of Canada recommendations or call your local travel medical clinic.
What’s in YOUR travel first aid kit? Let us know what you never leave home without!
Written by: Pam Jensen