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First Aid

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In alphabetical order, we take a look at what to include in your holiday first aid kit.


But don't think you need to haul all these items along with you every time – there's a difference between a trip to Bangkok and a stay in Paris.


Think through the trip and buy what you need in sufficiently small portions.


And don't forget the medicines in your first aid kit have a limited lifetime. Check 'use by' dates, and ask your pharmacist for advice to ensure the contents of your kit remain effective and safe to use.



Tablets containing antihistamines are effective against allergies, itching, skin rashes and insect bites. If you know you need Adrenaline, take the EpiPen or equivalent.

Older antihistamines such as chlorphenamine (eg Piriton) cause drowsiness, so caution will be required when driving. Newer antihistamines such as loratadine (eg Clarityn) are non-sedating.

Most remedies are available without prescription from a pharmacy.



Unfamiliar food and travel can cause acute constipation. A laxative can be used in the short term. Laxatives come as suppositories, tablets or syrups. Constipation is best prevented with a high-fibre diet and fluids.



If you have diarrhoea when travelling, it's important to keep hydrated by drinking oral rehydration solutions such as Dioralyte or learn to make up your own.

In an emergency many travel health professionals also recommend taking a single 500mg tablet of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin (eg Ciproxin). This is a prescription-only medicine, and you should discuss its use with your doctor before leaving for areas where it might be needed. This dose is for healthy adults who are not pregnant or breastfeeding.

Medicines such as loperamide (eg Imodium) can be used for short-term treatment of mild diarrhoea, and can be useful when travelling.


Heartburn and stomach acid

If you have a tendency to suffer from stomach acid, heartburn and a burning sensation when you consume sharp-tasting foods and drinks, take an antacid in your kit. On return ask to be tested for helicobacter – a bacterial casue of some heartburn.


Infection and inflammation

If you think you may need antibiotics when travelling abroad, you should discuss this with your doctor before you leave. Your doctor can prescribe what you need, although this may need to be done on a private rather than NHS prescription.

In several parts of the world, antibiotics are available without prescription and without visiting a doctor (beware of fakes). But as far as possible, you should consult a doctor before taking antibiotics.



Painkillers are indispensable for headaches, muscle pain, toothache and menstrual pain. Take a remedy containing aspirin (eg Aspro clear), paracetamol (eg Panadol) or ibuprofen (eg Nurofen).

Blister packs are preferable, because loose or effervescent tablets may absorb moisture from the air and become ineffective. Aspirin shouldn't be given to children under 16 years of age, unless on the advice of a doctor.


Safe sex

Good quality condoms are still the best way of reducing the chance of an unwanted pregnancy or getting a sexually transmitted disease, such as herpes, warts and AIDS. Buy these in the UK to ensure they are of an adequate quality, and remember to take them with you.


Sores and blisters

Take a skin-disinfecting agent with you to clean sores, eg a small bottle of chlorhexidine. Antiseptic wipes are also useful.

Bandages and plasters are useful to have at hand in case an accident should happen. Blisters can be helped with a special plaster, available from pharmacies.



Sunburn is prevented with a sunblock cream that has a high sun protection factor (SPF). A natural remedy with aloe vera may alleviate any redness after sunbathing.

Local anaesthetics and painkilling gel may be useful in dealing with problems caused by too much sun. Discuss such treatment with your pharmacist.


Syringes and needles

Having your own syringes, needles and possibly scalpels ensures a high level of hygiene can be achieved, if you have to be admitted to hospital in countries with a lower standard of hygiene than the UK.

Most travel clinics and large pharmacies have packs with sterile needles.


Thermometer, scissors and tweezers

A small digital, or paper, thermometer is handy if you suspect a high temperature.

Scissors and tweezers may also prove useful.


Travel sickness

The discomfort caused by travel sickness in the air, car or at sea can be prevented with the use of antihistamines. A pharmacist can advise which ones are suitable for your circumstances.



As with diarrhoea, the important point is to replace lost fluids.

Frequent small drinks, if possible using ones that contain salt and sugar, are preferred.


Water purification tablets/drops or Aquapure filtration or Lifesaver systems devices

Water purification tablets/drops can be purchased from pharmacies or outdoor pursuits stores.

Excellent containers that act as physical and chemical filters are now available from large chemists and travel clinics.

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