travelgroove - first aid kit

When packing for travel, I always include a travel first aid kit. You can buy an expensive pre-made professional first aid kits. Usually from camping stores, pharmacies, your city’s ambulance service or at a traveller’s medical centre. But I usually find them full of items that I have never used in my eleven years of travelling. Plus they can be big and bulky too. If you travel with small luggage, space is very important.

These first aid kits may be useful to paramedics or if you’re going to live/hike in a remote area for a short period of time. But when you have to carry that kit everywhere you go, you really want it to contain relevant and the most useful products.

In fact, I have found that most travellers don’t bring a first aid kit with them. I can guarantee you that there will always be blood, colds and diarrhoea on every trip. So I found it very handy to have my personal pharmacy in a box at my fingertips.

How to create your own travel first aid kit

First, instead of buying a travel first aid kit, I bought myself a plastic lunch box. A lightweight one so I can fill it with items that I always seem to use. It has come in handy many times when fellow travellers needed helping out. Then I created myself a First Aid Checklist and went shopping to the local pharmacy.

travel first aid kit various items laid out on a table

I filled the lunch box with miniature versions of everything I could possibly need. Just in case I wasnt able to reach a doctor/clinic or if I don’t understand the language. Not all doctors can speak English as I discovered in Kenya. After 3 days of intense stomach pains, I finally accepted an unsealed big black tablet from a Kenyan doctor. Somehow it cured me overnight. I never did find out what that big black tablet was.

Your first aid kit contains 3 types of products: tablets, creams and medical items. Tick off the list in each section below and you're on your way to having your own first aid kit. Or download the First Aid Travel Kit Checklist to start ticking.

I’ve also added natural alternatives that I like to use, in case you are that way inclined too.

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Step 1: Tablets

  • Aspirin or paracetamol (for pain or fever)
  • Antihistamine – to ease itching from insect bites/stings or rashes {natural alternative: can use paw paw ointment to relieve itching insect bites}
  • Anti-inflammatories {natural alternative: arnica pilules}
  • Antibiotics for diarrhoea (obtain from your doctor)
  • Imodium (relieve diarrhoea symptoms)
  • Cold & flu tablets {natural alternative: green tea with honey, lemon and a shot of brandy}
  • Throat lozengers 
  • Water treatment tablets (if planning to go on multi day hikes or visiting areas with unclean water)

Remember to check with your doctor, or a travellers medical centre, for any other precautions you need to take with you. Some countries may be prone to certain diseases or illnesses.

Step 2: Creams/lotions

Ensure to buy the smallest packaging that is available – 50g tubes is ideal.

  • Antiseptic cream/wipes/lotion {natural alternative: tea tree oil}
  • Anti-fungal cream (eg. Canesten)
  • Anti-allergy/dermatitis cream (eg, diprosone)
  • Anti-sting cream {natural alternative: I find tea tree oil or paw paw ointment useful at times}
  • Sore muscle relief cream {natural alternative: creams that use arnica as the main active ingredient}
  • Lip balm
  • Eye drops
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Sunscreen {natural alternatives are available – takes a little research}
  • Insect repellent. I have used 80% DEET and it still didn’t keep the Amazonian mosquitos away. I am a mozzie magnet! So now I use natural insect repellent. I use Tinderbox Insect Repellent which keeps mozzies away for a maximum of an hour at a time. I prefer that than appling toxins on my skin.

Step 3: Medical items

  • Bandaids/plasters (in various sizes)
  • Compression bandages (one small, one large), with clip
  • Sterile cotton pads or gauze – small and large
  • Safety pins
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Tape - to secure any bandages
  • Splinter picker/tick removal

The above is not a fully comprehensive list but enough to get you started to create your first aid kit. And then you can add other items that you need. For example, I always add peppermint tea bags which is great for calming down upset stomachs. Plus rehydration mixtures if I go to hot climates. And definitely altitude sickness tablets if I’m going hiking in high altitudes. This is because I have suffered altitude sickness twice now. The aim is to keep it compact otherwise it will be too heavy if you bring everything with you.

Remember to check with your doctor or a travellers medical centre for any latest health issues for your destinations. And discuss which medications should not be taken together.

TG Tip:  As everyone travels with their phones these days, why not download an emergency and first aid app. In Australia, download the Emergency+ app, which provides critical location information to emergency services. And download the First Aid-Australian Red Cross app, for a comprehensive pocket guide to first aid and CPR. Look for the equivalents in your own country.

Start creating your own travel first aid kit

There is extra space in the Travel First Aid Checklist to add your own personal requirements.  Then each time you travel, simply check off the list to ensure you have everything in your kit.

Its also a good time to check the expiry dates on the tablets and creams and replace them accordingly.

Is there anything else that you would add to your own travel first aid kit?

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About the author

Lisa is a travel gypsy by heart, having already been to over 70 countries and still counting. Founder of Travel Groove, to share travel tips, tricks and knowledge with other travellers.

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