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A First Aid Kit
Ensures Uneventful Vacations

By Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, B.Sc., M.D., Ph.D.

Article printed on page 34 in the February 20, 2013 issue of
The Mississauga News under the feature: Health & Beauty, Medicine Matters.
Portrait of Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, supplied 2005
Dr. Peter W. Kujtan

You spend months planning for a trip and then in the middle of it you find yourself wasting a day on some minor medical problem. When I travel, I pack a medical first aid kit that goes with me. It does take some space and eats up some of the ridiculous plane weight restrictions, but time and again it has resulted in saving time looking for pharmacies or medical care in a foriegn land.

The kit I carry is a little more extensive with a stethacope, minor suture materials, epinephrine and prescription drugs, but the rest is available to any one, and I strongly recommend carrying a small first aid kit when you travel.

It is those minor irritations like burns, cuts, colds, rashes and stomach upsets that can potentially spoil a trip. What follows are a few suggestions of what to take with you. I usually pack the various items into small zip top plastic bags or keep them in their blister packs. Band-aids, gauze and antibiotic oitments are the most sought after. A couple of alcohol wipes and tweezers always come in handy as does a small tensor bandage.

The most valuable medications to have with you are acetominophen and ibuprofen used for pain, fever and muscle aches. Antihistamines pills are useful for those cold sniffles and minor allergies. Many travellers are afflicted with stomach adjustments to new food and bugs. Antacid tablets help as do the invaluable diphenhydramine for vomitting, especially the kids. Pills with bismuth taken four times a day can prevent some of those diarrhea illnessess, but generally turn the stools dark. Loperamide can help slow the diarrhea down to a managable flow, but should be used with care. Decongestants and throat lozenges can soothe those first cold symptoms.

I also carry some petroleum jelly for those chauffes, talc to prevent foot blisters, mosquitoe repellant, water purification pills, sunblock, some steroid cream and my favourite muscle balms. The key is to find small quantities.

Prescriptions are another matter. I always recommend that if you are on prescription medications, then split them into two in case your baggage dosn't arrive. I often provide patients with some antibiotics to keep in their kit along with advice of how and when to use them. Most of these items can be packed into a small nylon bag or purchased as a kit.

For the more exotic trips, it is worth having a chat with your physician or visiting a travel clinic to discuss immunizations, altitude pills, etc. For example, the simple flu shot may prevent a week of spoiled vacation. The key is with a bit of simple planning, you can ensure a fun and uneventful vacation.

Related resources:

Wilderness First Aid Basics from Aim Adventure U. Don't venture out without knowing how to take care of yourself in the woods. Learn how to handle common medical problems and make smart decisions during emergency situations in the wilderness.

Build It: Homemade First Aid Kit by Jason Stevenson, Backpacker, Feb 14m 2008. The Basics: Tweezers, Safety Pins, Antibiotic Ointment, Antiseptic Towelettes, Wound Closure Strips, Moleskin or duct tape for blisters, Bandaids, ACE bandage, Bandanna (for splints), Ibuprofen, Antihistamine, Gatorade powdered drink (emergency electrolytes, energy), Survival Upgrade.

Power up your first-aid kit by including these items to help you beat the elements and get found again: Signaling device (whistle, mirror), Safety Matches/fire-starter, Mylar blanket.

Before you go: First Aid Kits by Mark Wise, M.D., D.T.M. & H (London), The Travel Clinic. Suggested medications. Suggested supplies.

First aid kit for travellers from Wikitravel.

Travel Health Kits from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What should my first aid kit contain? "It is always a good idea to have first aid kit nearby and you should remember to take one with you if you go out for the day or away on holiday; it's also advisable to have one in the car. If you have small children you can now buy specialist baby and children's first aid kits."

Travel Advice - A first aid kit for travelers from There Are Places. "Kit Contents: Carry a small supply of:
● Aspirin (or the pain reliever of your choice)
● Antacid (e.g. Zantac)
● Bandages (suitable for blisters or minor cuts for scrapes)
● First-aid antibiotic ointment (e.g. Neosporin)
● Anti-diarrhea medication (e.g. Kaopectate)
● Sunscreen
● Insect repellant (Deet based)
● Hand-sanitizing lotion (e.g. Purell) . . ."

Essential First Aid kit for smart travelers by Cindy Katz, Matador Network.

Dental First Aid Kit for Travelers. The Dental First Aid Kit for Travelers was developed by Dr. Robert A. Searles, DDS, PC - in practice for over 30 years.Instructions. "As a practicing dentist, I have designed this emergency kit to ease pain, discomfort, and irritation from unexpected dental emergencies until you can be seen by your family dentist or dental specialist."

How to: Pack A First Aid Kit For Travel by Lola (Akinmade) Åkerström, Matador Network.

Hommade First Aid Kit from Backpacker.com.

What should be included in a First Aid Kit? Basics for a travel first aid kit: Plasters (Band Aids), Tubular bandages, Elasticated support bandage, Micropore tape, Melolin dressings (non sticky), Butterfly closures (for open wounds), Paracetamol, Stronger painkiller (Ibruprofen), Diarrhoea tablets, Rehydration tablets (Diarolyte), Malaria Pills, Antihistamine tablets (e.g. Benadryl), Iodine (for small cuts, etc.), Travel sickness pills, Vaseline (for ticks/cracked heels), Sterile hypodermic needles, Scissors, Tweezers, Antiseptic Wipes, Antiseptic cream, Cold & flu tablets, Multivitamins.

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