Updated: Mar 6
Holiday First Aid Kit
Holiday First Aid Kits
A study by the BMC in 2016 revealed that out of 460 people, 79% of them experienced illness whilst travelling abroad. For this reason, I think it is essential to take a small first aid kit with you when going on holiday. Just the language barrier alone makes it extremely difficult to buy supplies when abroad, and who wants to spend an entire day visiting pharmacies when you feel unwell.
Here is a list of what I believe are essential packing supplies to take with you when you go away. It might sound like a lot, but really you will be surprised how much you can fit into a small first aid box, or even a makeup/wash bag. - Please read all medication labels carefully and be especially careful if administering to children, pregnant women, people with pre-existing medical conditions and the elderly.
3. Throat lozenges - I recommend ones that contain a local anaesthetic, Strepsils make a particularly good one.
4. Dioralyte - If you get hit by the dreaded travellers diarrhoea/vomiting
5. Anti sickness medication - I recommend Avomine which can be purchased over the counter which is a great anti sickness for gastroenteritis and a travel sickness preventer it is also an antihistamine and great for getting you off to sleep. Cinnarizine is also great for travel sickness.
6. Imodium - If you have diarrhoea and are about to start your long journey home.
7. Buscopan - An antispasmodic, great for uncomfortable abdominal cramping caused by diarrhoea/vomiting.
8. Rennie/Gavisgon etc - anti acid medication can be important for people who suffer with indigestion/reflux etc, particularly with the change of diet you will experience abroad.
9. Laxatives if you ever suffer with constipation. Lactulose to help soften, and senna can help movement.
1. Plasters - Any minor bumps and scrapes or even blisters from your brand new flip-flops are going to need to stay covered, particularly to avoid getting sand/grit into a wound.
2. Saline ampules - Available from pharmacies in small plastic pods, these are ideal for washing out wounds before sticking on a plaster or any other dressing.
3. Antiseptic cream/spray - I believe getting hold of Savlon is not so easy anymore, but your pharmacy will be able to provide you with a good alternative.
4. Burns dressings - For those more at risk of getting a burn and being less able to seek immediate medical help. Hikers etc
5. Eye drops such as Hypromellose for dry eyes, conjunctivitis, viral eye infections, help to wash out grit etc.
1. Moisturising cream - For obvious reasons. The sun and sea water can be very drying
2. Insect Repellent - So essential to avoid being bitten.
3. Tick remover tool - Particularly if going on a hiking holiday
4. Hydrocortisone cream - For any insect bites, minor allergic rashes etc. Can be purchased from UK pharmacy before you travel
5. Sun Cream - I recommend at least a factor 30 with a minimum of 4 star UVA rating
6. After sun - Apparently also available with a topical local anaesthetic built in (so I’m told)
1. Regular medications - Does that sound obvious? You won’t believe how many people forget to bring adequate supply of their prescription medications with them, I recently encountered a diabetic on a 10 day holiday who had forgotten all his insulin. Spare inhalers, insulin pens, EpiPens spare glasses etc
2. Lateral Flow test - If you become unwell whilst on holiday, it would be good social etiquette to make sure you’re not spreading covid around wherever you go.
3. Covid vaccination status - Not exactly a First Aid Kit essential, but I wanted to mention it is important to take a hard copy of your vaccination status. For most countries it is a requirement to be fully vaccinated before travelling, and you can not always rely on internet to use the NHS app. Download a hard copy and print it before you travel.
4. Condoms - If meeting a new sexual partner is a possibility whilst on holiday, keep yourself protected from STI’s.
It is possible to purchase ready-made first aid kits for travelling online, and although these can be good, I personally think they lack some essentials and instead contain items you can do without. Often a First Aid Kit will contain items such as bandages/slings and perhaps that would be useful if you are on an adventure holiday hiking, mountain climbing etc. However, I believe that for the majority of people who require the use of a sling or bandage, they should be seeking further medical advice anyway and then will obtain those items from Hospital/Medical Centres. If someone you are with has the potential to have a broken arm, wrist or a dislocated shoulder, the best thing you can do is allow them to support their injured limb in the way that is most comfortable for them using the other arm, until you can get the injury checked by a professional.
Travelling with a pre-existing medical condition
If you have any specific medical concerns it is worth discussing these with your GP before you travel. It may be possible to acquire an emergency prescription in case you have a pre-existing medical condition which is at risk of flaring up whilst on holiday. For example, GP’s may be willing to prescribe antibiotics and/or steroids for people with brittle lung conditions such as asthma or COPD for example.
Also, don’t forget that pharmacy staff are also incredibly knowledgeable about medications and their uses, and they may be able to make some very helpful suggestions as to what you should take with you. Pharmacists in the UK train for 5 years and are often a very underused resource with people attending GP’s and even Emergency Departments for information they could have gotten from a local Pharmacy. They are also often open late into the night and available at weekends also.
If travelling with a chronic medical condition, it is always sensible to take a copy of your prescription with you should you encounter any problems trying to get medications through customs, or if you end up in hospital requiring medical treatment. Don’t forget to keep your medications in their original packaging, so there is no doubt when going through customs exactly what medication you are trying to bring with you, particular care with ensuring medications like opiates and other ‘controlled’ medication is well labelled with the original pharmacy label containing your details. I also recommend keeping essential medications with you rather than checking them in with your hold luggage. Unfortunately, sometimes bags do get lost, and clothes are easier to replace then medications.
Consider wearing a medical ID bracelet and/or allergy bracelet if you have any serious allergies or health conditions. This will make identifying any serious conditions much easier for medical staff who most likely do not have English as their first language. If you are particularly passionate about donating your organs, a donor wristband is also available to purchase. A copy of documentation containing resuscitation wishes may also be prudent to take with you.
For any mobility issues, considering phoning ahead to organise logistics. I have recently encountered a situation where a traveller hired an electric mobility scooter especially for her holiday, only to find it was too large and heavy to go through the doors to her accommodation. Check with hotels that they are suitable for any disability you may have.
Remember that a change of environment can have a significant impact on many chronic illnesses. A change of diet can have a big impact on diabetics, heart conditions etc and people suffering with gastro disorders also. The temperature, sun, and sea can effect any pre-existing skin conditions. People with anxiety, OCD and any other mental health disabilities can find such a significant change in environment and routine very unsettling. It is important to plan ahead, and be prepared for any eventuality.
It is important to double check your travel insurance, particularly those plans that have been in place since before Covid19 . Make sure you have declared any pre-existing chronic conditions and have the Covid19 protection also, in case of emergency quarantine hotel usage. Also ensure, you have a repatriation plan included.
With greater awareness of disabilities, both hidden and visible, it is nevertheless still a daunting prospect to leave the comfort, familiarity and security of home. But with some forward planning I hope you will be able to have a fantastic break and come home physically and mentally refreshed with some fantastic memories.
My friend was bleeding, and the first aid book told me to apply pressure.
So I shouted at him that if he didn’t stop bleeding right away, he’d die.
I would love to hear of any personal experiences/difficulties faced when travelling abroad, either regarding physical or mental health and how these were more or less challenging to overcome due to being in a foreign country. Please drop a message on our forum section.
If you have found this article helpful, I would love to hear about it, drop a comment below. Please feel free to share the wisdom!