Travel first-aid kit

Posted on 11 December 2014

Dr Marcus Brauer & Associates is an occupational medicine, travel clinic and general practice, linked to Mediclinic and based at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. We asked Dr Brauer to assist us with compiling a comprehensive travel first aid kit for the summer holidays.

1. When travelling outside South Africa, what do you recommend that every traveller’s first-aid kit should contain?
This will largely depend on the time of year, as well as the nature and length of your trip, but some general recommendations are:
• Sunscreen of SPF +50
• Sun-protective lip balm
• Mosquito repellants – just beware of the airlines’ fluid restrictions and the rules around having pressurised containers in your hand luggage
• Rehydration salt sachets such as Elektropak or Rehydrate
• Antiseptic cream for wounds – think brands like Bactroban, Betadine or Fucidin
• A range of different sized plasters
• 1 x 50mm hospicrepe bandage
• 1 x 100mm hospicrepe bandage
• Gauze swabs to clean wounds and act as dressings
• 4 x non-sterile gloves for treating bleeding wounds
• One thermometer
• Pair of tweezers
• Pair of small scissors
• Sterile surgical blade
• Antihistamine cream for itchy bites, like Phenergan or Anthisan
• Lamisil antifungal cream for prolonged travel to hot humid destinations
• Eyedrops

Over-the-counter medications to include – provided that no-one in the travelling party is allergic to any of these medications (check before you pack them!)
• Oral antihistamine, like Allergex or Texa, for allergic reactions or hayfever
• Paracetamol for pain and fever
• Buscopan for stomach cramps
• Valoid for nausea
• Immodium – use sparingly and with caution, as it can aggravate a severe stomach infection
• 50 water purification tablets

Consider carrying one or two antibiotics for prolonged trips to remote areas to treat common infections such as ear, nose or throat infections, skin infections, as well as bladder and stomach infections. For these you would need to consult with your doctor to receive a script and to discuss what the likely risks of the trip will be and what eventualities you’d like to be prepared for.

If you’re travelling for prolonged periods to malaria endemic countries and won’t have access to good medical care, consider including malaria test kits and a stand-by malaria treatment.

Also remember that the actual first-aid kit will need to be packed into the suitcase that’s going into the plane’s hold as it contains sharp instruments that are not allowed in cabin luggage. Some countries don’t allow certain medications onto their shores.

If you’re on chronic medication, what precautions should you take when travelling – do you need to take your script along too?

It’s always advisable to ensure that your medication is packaged in its original container and is marked with the details of the medication and your name, identifying it as belonging to you (ideally carry the script as well). Travel with this in your hand luggage, as it will be on-hand when you need it. Carry a letter from your doctor indicating that this medicine is required for your use for medical reasons and list the medication you will be travelling with. Also, if you’re on any chronic medication, take enough with you for the duration of the trip.

Before you leave, check which kind of medicine is prohibited in the country you’re visiting – these are generally Schedule 6 or 7 medications, but Codeine is a problem in Asian countries, so rather just pack plain painkillers, such as Panado, Aspirin or Ibuprofen. Your local travel clinic can also assist you in this regard. Remember to also pack your medical aid membership card and travel insurance documents.

Published in First Aid

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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