Yes, even if you’ll be exploring cities or regions you’re familiar with.
Yes, even if you’re not backpacking.
It never hurts to be well prepared (and you never know when a fellow traveler might be in need).
Here’s a list of 10 things that – in my opinion – no travel first aid kit should be without. All of the items listed are small enough to be combined into a plastic sandwich bag so you’ll still have plenty of room for standard first aid kit contents (like band aids, ibuprofen and anti-itch cream). Note that the use of these products does not guarantee health, safety or recovery from illness. They are recommendations based on personal experience only. You should be aware of any allergies you have, use any unprescribed medication or ointments with caution, and follow package directions at all times.
1. Water rehydration salts. The salt, sugar and water content help to prevent and treat dehydration, making these crucial for travelers’ diarrhea and a great hangover cure.
2. Ginger pills. All-natural and a great combative to sea sickness and nausea, these are especially useful for long ferry rides. Ginger is also a topical and internal anti-bacterial so if you feel a cold or virus coming on, they can be a great first line of defense. And, ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory, too! Great for muscle aches and pains, or strains and sprains sustained on the journey.
3. A basic antibiotic (like penicillin). Most countries (outside of North America) sell these over the counter so you can pick them up once you reach your destination. They’re helpful if you develop mild symptoms that you can’t seem to shake, or if you have a cut or infected insect bite – capsules can be opened or crushed and poured on top to help alleviate infection at the source. This trick can even be used for oral infections if you can’t get to a dentist right away. Be sure to know if you have any allergies before buying or taking antibiotics (particularly any allergies to medication), especially if you’re getting the meds from a doctor who does not know your medical history.
4. A pocket knife. You just never know when it can come in handy. (Ever seen the movie 127 Hours?)
5. Needle and thread. In case you need to be stitched up in a bind. Or lose a button. Or rip your bag.
6. Emergency condom. Aside from conventional usage, the rim of a condom can also be used to make a tourniquet and an air tight seal. (When I was living in China, some friends also used condoms as one-way air escapes to vent their homemade wine!)
7. Tiger Balm. This stuff works wonders. Use it on achy muscles or rashes. Put it on your temples if you have a headache. Layer it under your nose if you have a cold (it will clear your sinus right up!). Remember: wash your hands after use. Tiger Balm in the eyes is no fun!
8. A copy of your travel insurance and emergency contact phone numbers for friends and family back home. Put it in a small plastic baggy (those tiny ones used for jewelry) and label it SOS or 911. If anything happens to you, someone will see it and know who to call.
9. Lighter. A mini one works well. Aside from starting fires, the heat from a lighter can also sterilize metal and keep nylon ropes or straps from fraying. (The heat is also good for sealing wax-string friendship bracelets).
10. Bendryl. This once saved my life on a beach in Greece and ever since that experience, I always carry some with me. When you’re traveling, you’ll try new foods, you may be bitten by strange insects and you will come in contact with different bacteria – no matter how upscale the trip! Bendryl will buy you time in a crisis but remember: if your symptoms are serious or if your condition does not improve, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Think of Benadryl as an immediate support until you can get to a clinic or hospital.
Words and photos by Lauren Rudick.