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Be Prepared for Anything: A Peek Inside My Travel First Aid Kit

Food poisoning in Peru
Sad sad Mishvo had thrown up 9 times on this terrible food poisoned day in Peru.

When planning a trip, no one wants to sit around thinking about what it’s gonna feel like to have a pounding headache in the humid 90-degree heat whilst trudging through the streets in a steamy, crowded Asian city looking for your hostel.

But these types of situations are the reality of travel and ye must prepare!

My travel first aid kit strategy is about minimalism: I focus on what I would want to have on me that instant. If I can improvise (e.g. that time I used a kulfi popsicle stick to stabilize my sprained thumb in Delhi), I will. If it’s not an immediate issue and I can buy the antidote there, I will (see below for more on first aid stuff to buy when you get there).

The Advil Liqui-Gels

My boyfriend introduced these to me and they are magical. I used to use the regular generic ibuprofen tablets but these liqui-gels work faster and stronger.

Tiger balm

This is a multi-purpose first aid kit item: you can rub some on your temples or behind your ears if you have a headache, or rub on sore muscles or a sore back from walking around all day in a new city.

Travel first aid: tiger balm
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Rolaids

I freakin love spicy stuff but I do get heartburn now and then from getting crazy with trying new foods. Rolaids is just a must for me if I don’t want to be burping up dinner the whole night.

Cipro

If you’re traveling from the States, tell your doctor where you’re headed and he or she can prescribe you ciprofloxacin. You can use cipro to treat extreme cases of food poisoning while traveling. It’s an antibiotic so don’t f with it unless you are vomiting and/or have diarrhea for over three days. Don’t stop taking it once symptoms subside: make sure you take the entire round, otherwise you might create antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Sunscreen

BRING IT. And WEAR IT. I had to get a mole on my stomach removed at the dermatologist this past year because she said it was “suspicious” and “borderline” and now I have a huge red scar on my belly :/ #notworthit

Sunscreen as part of travel first aid kit
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Prescription meds

Duh. If you’re going to be gone for over a month, make sure to visit your doctor ahead of time and get the full course of prescription meds filled.

Diamox

Aka acetazolamide. If you are heading into high altitude (e.g. the Andes or Himalayas regions), ask your doctor to fill a prescription for Diamox before you leave. It changes the acidity of your blood which somehow makes you less likely to suffer altitude sickness symptoms. It also has the side effect of making you pee A LOT so drink tons of water while you’re on it to rehydrate.

Bonine

This one is for those of us who struggle with motion sickness. Bonine is the less drowsy version of Dramamine. I find it still makes me sleepy but it is active for 24 hours which is great for a long day of travel on different modes of transport.

Sleeping on roadtrip in New Zealand
Motion sickness meds may knock you out but at least you won’t want to vom.

Anti-malarials

Check the CDC website to see if you’re heading to an endemic region and see which anti-malarial drug they recommend. You’ll have to get this one from you doctor before you travel as well.

Travel First Aid Stuff to Get There (as needed)

Like I said, I’m a pack-light kind of girl. There are certain typical first aid kit things I prefer to buy at my destination on an as-needed basis.

For example, you can get bandages and band-aids once you get there. If you’re in a dire bleeding situation, you’re not gonna be like oh hold on let me go back to my hostel and grab some band-aids. You will use your clothes or napkins or whatever is around.

Whereas if you’re stuck on a van undulating over hills and through switchbacks in the Andes mountains at 6 am and you haven’t eaten breakfast, you will be thankful as hell you brought some Bonine with you in your backpack. See what I mean?

First aid kit stuff to buy at your travel destination as needed…

  • Rehydration salts – For when you’re either a) extremely hungover or b) extremely food poisoned. Countries with high levels of food poisoning issues (e.g. India) have these ORS packets everywhere for cheap. Just get em once you need em.
Buy there: ORS packets
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  • Bug spray – sometimes you’ll need some scary toxic super strength (>95% DEET) bug spray. Get it when you get there.
  • Antifungals – if you’re traveling in warm, humid climes for a long period of time, you might develop a yeast infection. Get the antifungal cream there, if you need it.
  • Band-aids, wraps, medical wipes
  • Hydrocortisone cream – for the itchies, if you get itchies.
  • Benadryl – unless you know you’re gonna get allergic, just get this wherever you’re going as the need arises.

*Yellow Fever Vaccine tip*

This ish is expensive (like over $200) if you get it in the States, but you might be able to get it at your destination for way way cheaper. I needed the Yellow Fever vaccine for my trip into the jungles surrounding Cuzco, Peru. I went to the public hospital in Puno to get inoculated for a cool 5 soles or $1.50. And it lasts 10 years. Boom. Yellow Fever hacked.

What did I miss? What do you pack in your travel first aid kit when you hit the road?

What to take in your first aid kit when you go traveling abroad.
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9 comments

  1. Bhushavali says:

    I believe in the need for a good first aid kit! My friends used to tease me, but then, it all came handy when we met with a car collision on a road trip! First aid kit can never be underestimated!
    Tiger Balms are just awesome! Yellow fever vaccine at $200 vs $1.50 in USA & Peru! Whoa! That’s some major difference!!!

  2. Blair villanueva says:

    This is something that every travelers must know! Yeah we always brought us our essentials, but the reality of travel is difficult when you accidentally got food poisoned or those insect bites!

    Am a sure OC traveler and my emergency travel pack is always with me. A must have.

  3. This is great list and for sure must need many of these things on the list when traveling. I cannot tell you have many times we have been sick and not had the things we need, and it is so hard to know how to get it while traveling. Super information.

  4. Suruchi says:

    This is something which I always feel is a must for every traveler. This is a good exhaustive list. Tiger Balms are my all time favorite. And yes the bug sprays too.OMG! What a huge difference in Yellow Fever vaccine .

  5. Tae says:

    Great advice! I usually never go ANYWHERE without betadine (iodine) and a few tabs of charcoal for an upset stomach. Motion sickness tabs are also a plus – while I don’t get it, I’ve traveled with many friends who could use it on car and boat rides!

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