Are You Road-Ready?
Take-Along Healthcare: Packing Your Personal Travel Medical Kit
Minimize mishaps and injuries and reduce the risk of complications
By Marlene R.
Fedin, The Wellness Concierge®
READY, SET, PACK
FIRST AID BY THE BOOK
The typical road warrior racks up his share
of injuries along with miles: Cuts, bruises, strains and sprains from
close encounters with "aggressive" luggage and various airplanes, rental
cars and hotels. Burns from spilled food or beverages. Agonizing
headaches and debilitating diarrhea.
To minimize the inconvenience of such common
mishaps and reduce the risk of complications, medical professionals
advise carrying (on the plane and in the car) a personal
medical/first-aid kit—on every trip—for prompt treatment.
Dr. Kevin M. Cahill, director of the
Tropical Disease Center at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, is an
advocate of what he calls "medical self-sufficiency" when
traveling. Cahill believes that "common sense would dictate taking
along those things that would make your travel [health] more secure and
If you’re balking at the
thought of lugging around a kit,
remember the Law of the
Pain and discomfort arrive swiftly—and at the most inconvenient moments.
Do you really want to
be driving around to find needed items?
Customization is the key. "A kit
should be [assembled] to suit each individual," Cahill notes, and take
into account the individual’s overall health (past and current) as well
as his travel itinerary, activities, and the climate of the areas being
Whatever you generally succumb to at home, you’re even more likely
to experience on the road. So include remedies for treating recurrent
or likely problems. The guiding directive: preparedness, not
If you’ve got a
chronic or recurring health problem such as diabetes, hypertension, or
heart disease, check with your doctor and review specific medications
and other related health-care supplies that may be needed.
TIP: Create a checklist of items to use
for each trip and track what is needed as you run out. Note any new
items to be added.
Ready, Set, Pack Every kit should
include first-aid basics: an assortment of gauze, adhesive
bandages; sealed, sterile pads; adhesive tape; small scissors; cotton
swabs and pads; safety pins (to fasten splints or bandages); very fine
tweezers for removing splinters, etc.; a thermometer; antiseptic
towelettes or hydrogen peroxide; a corticosteroid cream for rashes,
bites; a topical antiseptic ointment or cream to prevent infection and
soothe burns, cuts, and bug bites.
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Add the following as needed:
supply of any prescription medication you are taking along with copies
of the prescriptions that note the brand and generic names and dosages;
carry a doctor’s note detailing your need for any narcotics or
controlled substances (tranquilizers, sleeping pills, etc.);
Note: If you have recurrent conditions
such as bronchial or yeast infections, ask your physician to provide a
prescription that you can have filled if the need arises.
indigestion, heartburn, stomach upset, cramping, or gas;
►a saline nasal
eye drops (without eye whiteners) or artificial tears; contact-lens
emergency kit (provides temporary pain relief, solutions for loose
tablets, pressure bands, or a Transderm Scop patch to prevent motion or
fever/pain relievers: aspirin, acetaminophen, or Ibuprofen;
non-sedating antihistamines for allergies, hay fever, allergic
tablet or spray for sinus/nasal congestion, colds; cough or cold
remedies; throat lozenges;
medications and devices;
laxative; an anti-diarrheal tablet or liquid;
skin cream and foot powder;
Caladryl lotion for poison ivy, other skin irritations;
►an extra pair
of prescription eyeglasses or contacts (and a copy of your
antibacterial soap, hand cream, or protectant;
tablets or a filtering device;
anti-pollution or respiratory mask, which can do double-duty on flights
if you're particularly concerned about germ transmission from seatmates
►duct tape (you
can't imagine how useful this can be—and let's hope you don't have to
physician-specified, broad-spectrum antibiotic for treating various
infections (respiratory, wounds, etc.)—but not, Cahill advises, a
prophylactic antibiotic to prevent intestinal problems;
packaged, non-preserved artificial tears (for dry eyes);
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balking at the thought of lugging around a kit, remember the Law of the
Road: Pain and discomfort arrive swiftly and at the most inconvenient
moments. Pre-planning saves time and energy and helps protect your
health when you most need it.
Real Value of Protection and Peace of Mind? For those of you who
think you can just ask around for these items when needed or hop in the
car and get them wherever you are, consider that you may be alone,
unable to drive, unable to leave where you are, or nowhere near a place
that stocks these things or one that is open when you most need them. In
theory, if you're staying in larger U.S. cities and hotels, you should
be able to get these items or have someone schlep for them. In theory.
In reality, it doesn't take long to create a personal kit and only
seconds to access it. So make the effort. You're the one who'll most
benefit from being prepared.
International & Adventure Travelers Alert: You'll need to beef up
your kit contents if you're traveling overseas or on an adventure travel
trip. Check the CDC and
WHO (World Health Organization)
sites to determine what specific disease risks and exposure you'll have
for your destination and add medications and other items as needed.
Climate-Specific Items Pack a
head covering, sunglasses, a waterproof sunscreen with a minimum of SPF
15 protection, and a protective lip balm (or petroleum jelly) for
sun/heat exposure; salt tablets, packets of salt or an oral rehydration
solution to treat dehydration. Include an insect repellent in a
convenient format such as a wristband or towelette (Buzz
Away towelettes are clean smelling and DEET-free.).
Active-Traveler Choices If
you walk, run or exercise on the road, pack a medicated rub for
treating sore muscles or aches and pains; cold packs to treat strains
and sprains; an assortment of Ace bandages; moleskin for blister
treatment; and some type of waterproof, liquid sealant that forms a
protective barrier on intact skin for preventing and protecting
(unbroken) blisters. Local drug stores, pharmacies and medical supply
stores stock a variety of bandages and adhesives for blister prevention
as well as treatment.
Pre-Assembled Kits If you’ve
neither the time nor the inclination to pack a kit, consider a
prepackaged version from companies such as
Travel Medicine Inc. (800-872-8633). Many offer modules and
specially designed kits for various categories (international, dental,
etc.) that allow you to tailor your kit to your specific needs.◄
Travmed.com offers printable medical kit checklists.
CAUTIONS: If you’re taking prescribed
medications, check for any conflicts with the OTC remedies you choose.
And don’t get hooked on self-treatment. If a condition is serious,
persists for several days or worsens, seek medical care ASAP.
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A DOCTOR TO GO:
FIRST AID BY THE BOOK
If a medical emergency occurs, you’ll need
expert advice—fast. These pocket-size first-aid guidebooks
help you quickly identify what immediate action to take.
A Comprehensive Guide to
Wilderness and Travel Medicine, by Eric A. Weiss, M.D., is
a thorough, easy-to-read, 198-page manual—perhaps the next
best thing to having a doctor at your side. With sections
on the various medical emergencies that can beset business
travelers who never find themselves anywhere near the
outdoors, it's a must-pack item, particularly for those who
Weiss, the Associate Director
of Trauma at the Stanford University Medical Center in Palo
Alto, CA, and an authority on wilderness and outdoor medicine,
Advice," a series of improvised techniques, the equivalent
of on-site guerrilla medical care for the nonprofessional.
Tips range from the "tame" (how to irrigate an eye to
remove foreign objects or impurities using a plastic bag) to
the definitely not-for-the-fainthearted (how to use your own
hair to "suture" a wound together).
His "When to Worry" boxes save
precious time by quickly alerting you to conditions and
situations that require immediate professional attention.
Other useful tomes:
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PACKING IT IN
NATURALLY: A NATURAL REMEDIES CHECKLIST
|Shop health food stores
for these natural remedies as well as homeopathic alternatives
to traditional allergy, cold, flu, and sinus products.
Aloe Vera Gel or
Lotion will take the
sting out of burns, scrapes, sunburn, and bug bites. Aloe
eases pain, swelling and itching, retards scarring, and
promotes new skin growth.
can be rubbed onto sore, stiff muscles and bruises to
reduce pain, swelling and stiffness. Cowgirl Enterprises’
herbal Trail Boss Bar blends ginger and analgesic white
willow with arnica in a handy bar.
Bach’s Rescue Remedy
Stressed out? Anxious? Worried?
Depressed? (OK, not you, but maybe somebody you travel
with.) Devotees swear to the calming powers of this classic
natural remedy. Place four
drops of the liquid on the tongue or mix with water and drink.
(Also available in a spray version.)
Chamomile to calm your
tummy and help you combat stomach bugs. (Available in dried
flower, teabag, liquid form.)
Research supports its efficacy as a cold suppressant;
available in tablets or a tincture.
tablets are a pain-relief alternative favored by headache
sufferers. (Pregnant or nursing women should not take
calm a queasy stomach and ease the
nausea of motion or seasickness and morning sickness.
Ginseng can help you
overcome fatigue (especially if you start taking before a
trip). Forms and potencies vary, which can affect results.
Herbalists suggest a ginseng that contains 100 to 125 mg of
extract standardized to contain between 4 to 7% ginsenosides.
If you’re suffering from
nasal or bronchial congestion, a whiff or two of this blend of
essential oils quickly improves breathing.
Tea Tree Oil
Considered a mini-first-aid kit in a bottle, tea tree oil is
an all-purpose germicide used to treat bruises, cuts, scrapes,
and rashes. Dab a bit on the skin around a hangnail to avoid
infection. Considered one of the most-effective treatments for
minor finger- or toenail infections and athlete’s foot.
Look for 100 percent, pure versions. Diluted with water, it
can also be used to treat sore gums and canker sores.
This analgesic soothes muscle and joint aches and pains and
bites. Rub it on the temples to help relieve some headaches or
in/under the nostrils to clear sinus congestion.
Tisserand Antibacterial Natural Antiseptic Cream
is a blend of healing essential oils (tea tree, lavender, and
eucalyptus) that’s a great-smelling alternative to OTC
products. The powerful essential oils deliver antibiotic,
antiviral, and antifungal benefits. (It also doubles as an
effective hand cream for those with very dry or chapped skin.)
FYI: It's almost impossible
to find in the U.S. anymore, but you can
order it online from the U.K., or ask a friend to pick one
up on their next trip!
Herbal Medical Kits:
In addition to a traditional
medical kit, you can purchase a travel-size
herbal medical kit (left).
The soft-sided, fold-up
organizer bag includes standard first-aid items plus aloe vera
and arnica gels; two herbal extracts (ginger and
Echinacea/goldenseal); an Herbal Medical Guide booklet
and The Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicine
First Aid by the Book).
Article and links updated: March 11, 2006