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Her First Aid Travel Kit

Mark Wise is a Family Doctor in Toronto, Canada who specializes in Tropical and Travel Medicine. He is the Medical Advisor to VSO Canada and the author of Malaria, Montezuma & Me. When not travelling himself, he loves to talk and write about it. We recently asked Dr. Wise to outline for us some of the key items and medical supplies to carry in one's backpack. Here are his suggestions...

"What should I take along?" is a common question we get asked at the clinic when people are planning a trip abroad. "That depends" is my usual answer. It depends upon all of those risk factors, like where are you going, for how long, what are you doing, etc. So the person who plans to climb Mount Everest as the expedition doctor or sails around the world for a year may need slightly more than the businesswoman off to Bangkok for a week.

Anticipate your needs...

My first suggestion is to go to your medicine cabinet and see what you normally keep handy around the house. This includes both medications and medical supplies. Then consider whether you plan to be far enough from decent medical care that you'd better take along what you would normally get at the drugstore or emergency department. Are you responsible for others, like your children, fellow climbers, or a tour group? Then you had better anticipate their needs as well.

This article is a list of supplies and medications that you might consider taking along. Remember, what you need depends on the nature of your travels. Most medications are available over the counter without a prescription in less developed countries. However, sometimes one might have some concern about the authenticity or age of certain medications. As well, medications that we might not consider safe at home, such as the antibiotic choloramphenicol, are used widely in many poorer countries.

Syringes and intravenous needles...

There are commercially available kits, such as the Steri Aid Kit, which contain sterile supplies such as syringes, intravenous needles and suture material. This would be appropriate for someone travelling off the beaten path, someone who is responsible for a group of travellers, or someone who distrusts needles around the world. While this sort of kit may be of help if you need an injection or a few stitches, it will not bail you out of a serious car accident or a ruptured appendix.

Remember, if you are carrying syringes into foreign countries, you must carry a letter signed by your doctor, preferably with lots of official looking stamps explaining why you are carrying them. Some border officials can be very difficult if they suspect for a nano second that you are a drug user.

If you are carrying medications abroad, regardless of their purpose, resist the temptation to mix them all together in your antique pillbox. Rather, carry any medications in their original labelled pharmacy container. Again, some people advise that you carry a signed letter from your doctor listing the names of and reasons for your medications. Unless you are carrying narcotics or other somewhat controversial drugs, I don't think this latter precaution is totally necessary.

Suggested medications...

The following is a brief list of some of the more common and useful things to take along. Now, based on the circumstances of your particular journey, you can pick and choose, mix and match the contents of your own first-aid kit.

- analgesics (Tylenol, ASA, codeine, ibuprofen, Tylenol #3 or other narcotics)
- antinauseant/motion sickness (Gravol, Transderm V patches)
- antimalarials (discuss with medical professional)
- antidiarrheal (Imodium, Lomotil, Pepto-Bismol); antibiotic such as Cipro, Noroxin, Bactrim)
- antibiotics (amoxicillin, cephalexin, erythromycin)
- rehydration salts (Gastrolyte)
- antifungal cream (Canesten, Monistat, Lamasil)
- antihistamine (Benadryl)
- bee sting kit (Ana-kit, Epipen: for those with a history of severe allergic reactions)
- topical antibiotic (Polysporin, Fuciden, Bactroban)
- cream/pills for vaginal infections (Monistat, Diflucan)
- eye drops (10% sodium sulamyd, Garamycin)
- sunscreen
- altitude sickness medication (Diamox, Adalat, dexamethasone)
- usual prescription and non-prescription medications used regularly

More first-aid info...




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