Staying healthy while travelling is probably one of the most important aspects of your trip. Sure, getting sick, or surviving an illness can make for a fun little travel story down the road…”Dude, I was so sick. Man, I was puking my guts out for like 6 days, but I was in this little village in Northern Bhutan and there were no doctors or pharmacies. It was totally off-the-beaten-path. So awesome”.
However, that’s not usually how it happens. You may be in some off-the-beaten-path village in Northern Bhutan, but chances are you were whining for your Mommy, covered in puke for 6 days, smelly, achy and whole lot of other things that you wouldn’t want anyone to ever know about -usually because you don’t want to listen to the lectures about how a basic medical kit could have saved you hours of pain and embarrassment.
Knowing what to pack into your medical kit before leaving home can be difficult. How do you know what you’ll need and what you won’t need? However, once you’re on the road, you’ll have a much better idea of what you need to have and how easy it is to replace those items -which can change from country to country.
Anti-Histamines – A small blister pack of Anti-Histamine is always a good idea as you never know when you’ll have an allergic reaction. Anti-Histamines are easy to find and when your skin is itchy, tight, red and hyper-sensitive, you’ll want to have a few of these available to make your life a little less painful.
Ibuprofren – An anti-inflammatory, Ibuprofen is good for things like mild to moderate pain relief, fevers, and inflammation. Drugs that are similar to Ibuprofen are Asprin, Aleve, Indocin and Relafen.
Cold Tablets – It doesn’t matter if I’m in a hot country or a cold country, I always have cold/flu tablets (and cough drops) in my medical kit. You never know when it’s going to hit and depending on the country you’re in, you can feel like death fairly quickly (which may overrule any notion of venturing out to a pharmacy). Keep a small blister pack in your kit and that way you can feel ‘some what okay’ before looking for a pharmacy.
Band-aids – Hiking up a small mountain sounded like an awesome idea, and in many ways, it was. The sucky part was hobbling down with big ass blisters and not finding a single band-aid in my medical kit! Band-aids can be found just about anywhere, however you may not be near a store when you desperately need them. Always carry a few in your kit. Just in case.
Sewing Kit – Many tavelers will never use them, but when your favorite comfy panI’ve traveled several times without a sewing kit and have been fine. However my recent trip to Africa has killed almost all of my clothes, which means I’m in repair mode. Yes, I could buy new ones, but why spend the money if I don’t have to? Plus its has a hole and you don’t want to throw the pants out, you’ll be super grateful for a needle and thread. Finding needles and thread are pretty easy in just about any country.
Benedryl Cream – this is handy to have and goes well with the anti-histamine tablets. Some allergic reactions are more severe than others and you may want the soothing feel of a cream, while you wait for the drugs to kick in. This particular cream is known by others names, all of which escape me at the moment. If you’re unsure, walk into a pharmacy and ask for a cream to help with itching and inflammation.
I generally don’t need to refill my medial kit more than once while I’m on the road. Many drugs (like Ibuprfren and anti-histamines) serve several different purposes, plus you can piggy back the two of them if you’re in a large amount of pain. Other items like band-aids and sewing kits are used less often, but they are normally items that you’ll find yourself sharing with other travelers. In many cases my supplies have dwindled due to someone else. However there were also several cases where I desperately needed the above items.
Finding a pharmacy while traveling can be done, but remember that you may not be able to go as soon as you need to. You may be on a day trip, it could be the middle of the night, or you could be overlanding through Africa and camping in the middle of nowhere. In those instances you’ll be glad that your medical kits has a small supply of the above items.