What should you have in your travel first aid kit? Forget the prepacked kits full of useless items! Create your own travel first aid kit packing list and build a kit specifically catered to your needs while on the road.
Although medications ranging from aspirin to Valium can often be purchased at pharmacies throughout Asia without a prescription, bringing a simple travel first aid kit from home will help you avoid the hassle of finding what you need quickly.
Unless you intend to hack through the jungles of Sumatra, your travel first aid kit should be a lightweight, practical affair. Bring just a few of the basics; no sense in overpacking survival supplies. Use this basic list for some ideas when preparing for your trip to Asia.
First, read some packing advice for Asia.
Basic Travel First Aid Kit Items
- Plasters (Band-Aids) of varying size come in handy, particularly to cover "hot spots" before they turn into blisters. Take just a few of assorted of assorted sizes; definitely a few of the small, round ones for covering insect bites.
- Medical tape will help keep those bandages in place while you sweat.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol/paracetemol) is the best pain reliever for fighting mild fevers.
- Ibuprofen (Advil) is a useful anti-inflammatory to control swelling in case you twist an ankle. It also helps with general aches and pains (e.g., back pain, toothache, etc) that may pop up. People who think they may have dengue fever should avoid NSAIDs such as ibuprofen.
- Anti-diarrhea tablets (loperamide) are an unfortunately necessity in Asia. Just a general change in diet and bacterial contamination can lead to traveler's diarrhea. Avoid taking them when possible; diarrhea is the body's natural way of flushing bacteria. But keep a tablet close (your money belt is ideal) in case you have problems on transportation when your travel first aid kit is inaccessible.
- Alcohol wipes are good for disinfecting wounds, tweezers, thermometers, and other things.
- Antibacterial ointment is good for treating small infections before they become bigger problems.
- Sharp tweezers can be used to remove splinters, ticks, and other annoyances that don't belong under your skin.
- Hand sanitizer should be used before working on an injury, and it comes in handy after using squat toilets where soap is rarely available.
- Gauze pads are sterile and can be used to clean and cover scrapes or injuries too large for a plaster.
Smart Additions to Your Travel First Aid Kit Packing List
- A digital thermometer can be used to monitor fevers and to determine if you should seek more serious medical help. This is particularly useful in places where dengue fever is a problem.
- Liquid bandage can be used to quickly seal small cuts and insect bites -- important in humid places such as Southeast Asia where the smallest cut can become infected easily.
- Antihistamine tablets (Benadryl) are useful for keeping allergies and rashes from exotic foods and plants in check.
- Motion sickness pills (Dramamine) will come in handy on rough bus and boat rides. Keep one handy in your money belt in case your bag is stowed and inaccessible.
- Electrolyte mixes are good to have on hand in case the heat gets to be too much on the islands. Because of high sodium content, not all are healthy additions to add to drinking water on a whim; check ingredients.
- Latex gloves are essential if you'll possibly be administering first aid to someone else or come into contact with bodily fluids.
Building a Travel First Aid Kit
Some people opt to start with a purchased first aid kit -- mostly for the nice case -- then add or remove items as necessary. Soft cases are best for packing; a waterproof case is ideal (check prices online). Avoid packing heavy liquids that may leak; look for wipes or travel-sized counterparts.
- See some unique packing hacks for better carrying your stuff.
Carrying Prescription Medicine
Although getting held up in customs for bringing prescription medicine from home is very rare, carry your medicine in the original bottle and keep a copy of the prescription handy in case you are questioned -- particularly if you are carrying a large amount of pills for a long trip.
Buying Travel First Aid Supplies in Asia
Pharmacists in Asia are usually quite helpful, however, they may or may not know the Western brand names that have become synonymous with first-aid items. European brands tend to be more common. Try asking for a "plaster" rather than a Band-Aid; substitute "paracetamol" for Tylenol.
You'll find pharmacies through Asia that carry gauze, ice packs, and all the other bulky items you may want to leave out of a lightweight travel first aid kit. Remember the mantra: buy it if you need it!
Using Budget Travel Insurance
Along with getting the expected vaccinations for Asia, you'll want to get travel insurance coverage for your trip. A suitable plan should be purchased at home before you leave for your trip; the peace of mind is worth the additional trip cost!
- Learn about getting budget travel insurance for Asia