Traveler's Tips and First Aid Kit
Peace of mind while you vacation...
Taking a trip? Whether you drive across the country, cruise the ocean, or fly
overseas, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) wishes you a safe and
healthy trip, and recommends that you prepare a Traveler's First Aid Kit to help you
respond to common medical emergencies. Emergency physicians also recommend that you
take a first aid class, learn CPR, and always seek immediate medical attention when you
Before any foreign travel, always check with your physician and travel clinic or public
health department about any immunizations and medical documentation you will need specific
to the area you are traveling.
For the kit itself, use a tote bag because it can hold all the items you need and is
easy to carry. Never store it in luggage - put it in your carry-on bag, and always
keep it with you.
Before you leave
Visit your physician. Ask for a medical summary listing of any medical problems,
operations, allergies and a copy of your most recent EKG. Have any TB skin test
results recorded by your physician. If you wear corrective lenses, take an extra
pair on your trip, and carry your lens prescription with you.
Make a list of any medications you are taking, using both generic and brand names, and
be sure to pack enough medication for your trip (at least 50% more than you think you
Check your medical insurance policy and health plan for coverage of illnesses or
accidents outside the United States, as well as how to get medical attention and return
home if you become ill. If you are aboard a cruise ship, ask what medical staff and
equipment are available in case of an emergency.
ACEP suggests the following items for a Traveler's First Aid Kit. Include other
items as recommended by your physician.
- Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and Aspirin tablets: to relieve headaches, pain,
fever, and simple sprains or strains of the body. Have at least two aspirin tablets
available at all times in case of heart attack, although use as recommend by your
physician. Use appropriate dosages, and make sure the medicine is age appropriate.
(Aspirin should not be used to relieve flu symptoms or be given to children.)
- Antihistamine: to relieve allergies and inflammation. Use appropriate
dosages, and make sure the medicine is age appropriate.
- Antinausea/motion sickness medication.
- Bandages of assorted sizes: to cover minor cuts and scrapes.
- Bandage closures (one-fourth and one-inch sizes): to tape edges
of minor cuts together.
- Triangular bandage: to wrap injuries and make an arm sling.
- Elastic wraps: to wrap wrist, ankle, knee, and elbow injuries.
- Gauze in rolls and two-inch and four-inch pads: to dress larger
cuts and scrapes.
- Adhesive tape: to keep gauze in place.
- Sharp scissors with rounded tips: to cut tape, gauze, or clothes.
- Safety pins: to fasten splints and bandages.
- Antiseptic wipes: to disinfect wounds or clean hands, tweezers, and
- Antibiotic ointment: to prevent infection in burns, cuts, and scrapes.
- Hydrogen peroxide: to disinfect and clean wounds.
- Disposable, instant-activating cold packs: for cooling injuries and burns.
- Tweezers: to remove small splinters, foreign objects, bee stingers, and
ticks from the skin (see first aid manual for proper removal of ticks).
- Rubber gloves: to protect hands and reduce risk of infection when treating
- Thermometer with case: to take temperatures. For babies under age 1,
use a rectal thermometer.
- Petroleum jelly: to lubricate a rectal thermometer.
- Calamine lotion: to relieve itching and irritation from insect bites,
stings, and poison ivy.
- Hydrocortisone cream: to relieve irritation from rashes.
- Sunscreen: SPF 15 or higher, broad-spectrum.
- Insect Repellent: repellants appropriate for use on children should contain
no more than 10-15 percent DEET and 20-30 percent DEET for adults, because the chemical,
which is absorbed through the skin, can cause harm. Use as directed.
Remember to follow the same precautions for medicines in
your Traveler's First Aid Kit as with any medicine. Use as recommended by your
physician, and make sure your children cannot get them - always use child safety caps.
Check expiration dates, and throw away any expired medicines. If someone in
your household has a life-threatening allergy, carry appropriate medication with you at
Avoid Traveler's Diarrhea
- Wash your hands frequently and always before eating.
- Eat items that require little handling in preparation.
- Eat only well-cooked and hot foods. If eating at a buffet, eat early before food
cools, or insects arrive.
- Eat only fresh fruits and vegetables you have peeled or seen prepared in front of you.
- Drink hot beverages, such as coffee or tea.
- Drink bottled water or name brand carbonated beverages.
- Wipe off any bottle before drinking or pouring.
- Tie a colored ribbon around the bathroom faucet as a reminder not to drink the tap
- Never drink tap water. Don't brush your teeth with tap water.
- Never drink fresh water or standing water.
- Avoid bottled water not opened in front of you.
- Avoid ice cubes. If you must have a cool drink, place ice cubes in a small, clean
leakproof bag and place the bag in your drink. Carry bags with you.
- Avoid food from street vendors.
- Avoid shellfish, any uncooked seafood, or raw meat.
- Avoid uncooked vegetables.
- Avoid salads.
- Avoid dairy products.
- Avoid juices not prepared in front of you. Tap water may have been added.
- Minimize swimming and swallowing water unless well-chlorinated.
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Material taken from the American College of Emergency Physicians.