The Traveler's Health Kit

Packing for travel is never an easy task. Whether you are an experienced traveler or a novice, packing just right for the trip is an art. Packing a medical or health kit for your travel is equally challenging. The items chosen will change based on your itinerary, access to medical facilities, and your general health.

Your Traveler's Health Kit should be kept simple, inexpensive, and practicable. Pack items you are familiar with and know how to properly use. A "Surgeon's Kit" is not needed by someone who is not a surgeon. The basic items your kit should include are first aid supplies, medications, sun screens and insect repellents, water purification devices, insurance and health documents,

The first aid supplies include simple bandages and dressings, tweezers, thermometer, tape, antiseptic cleaners, safety pins, plastic bags for ice. If your travels take you to areas considered to have limited or inadequate medical facilities you should also include needles, syringes, suture materials, and other "sharp" items that medical personnel my need to provide you with proper care overseas. These items will limit your risk of exposure to materials contaminated with blood or body fluid. This pack will also need a physician's note to avoid unnecessary delays by custom officials.

Medication should include simple remedies for aches, pains, and fever. Medications like Tylenol or Ibuprofen are common recommendations. Environmental allergies and cold symptoms may respond to antihistamines and decongestants such as Sudafed or Benadryl. Imodium AD or Pepto-Bismol may relieve the ever-present risk of diarrhea illnesses. Antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin or Bacitracin for wounds is recommended. Prescription medicines for chronic health problems can be carried, as well as antibiotics for self-treatment of dysentery (e.g. Quinolones or Sulfa drugs) or upper respiratory track infections (e.g. Macrolides or Cephalosporins). It is important to note that all medicines should be carried in their original containers to avoid difficulties with customs officials.

Sunscreens and insect repellents are very important for outdoor activities. Sunscreens should have a minimum of sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater. Insect repellents provide protection against a wide range of biting insects and the diseases transmitted by them. Repellant for your skin should include 25-35% DEET (N,N Diethyl-methyl-toluamide), for additional protection, you should treat clothing with Permethrin (Permanone).

Water purification can be a significant problem even if you have access to bottled water. Using boiled water or water purification tablets like "Portable Aqua" can provide reasonably safe drinking water. A water purification device (e.g. PUR) can provide the safest drinking water, as these devices can eliminate bacteria, viruses, parasites, tastes, odor, and unwanted chemicals.

The last part of your kit should include important personal health information such as a copy of your medical history, last physical exam with electrocardiogram, immunization records, and eyeglass prescription. Contingency plans for payment of medical services during travel abroad should be made. As a minimum, insure that you can access cash or credit to pay for any emergency medical expenses. Many countries will not allow you to leave until your medical bills are settled in full. Special insurance plans can be purchased before travel to cover specific medical emergencies and services provided during your travels abroad.