Pack a first aid kit

Tuesday, July 17, 2007
If you're planning to travel off the beaten track far from urban centres, a knowledge of first aid could make all the difference between a minor health incident and a major one.

For a group or family trip, it would be useful for someone in the group to learn first aid before going away. You can take first aid courses through a number of community and health organisations. Contact the Australian Red Cross or St John Ambulance organisations or your state ambulance services to find out more information.

For most travellers, a basic first aid kit is a good idea in case of minor mishaps. The contents are flexible and should be tailored to your needs: your medications and your destination. Usually a doctor's letter or a prescription is useful to take with you.

Copies should be kept separately from your kit in case missing, damaged or stolen medication needs to be replaced.

You will need to get authorisation to carry any sharps (syringes or scissors) on aircraft. You or your doctor should liaise with the airline medical department if you are at all concerned.

Your medical kit

  • For all travellers: adhesive dressings, sterile gauze, bandages and tape, topical antiseptic wound cleanser, a thermometer, eye drops, insect repellent, insect bite treatment, scissors, tweezers, safety pins, basic painkillers (aspirin or paracetamol) and sunscreen (SPF at least 30+).

  • Advanced medical kit: especially if you're backpacking or heading to developing countries — alcohol-based hand disinfectant, rehydration solutions, antibiotics for gastro upsets and respiratory tract infections, water purification tablets, antihistamine medication, antibiotic creams, calamine lotion, cold and flu medicine including throat lozenges, dressings and bandages and a thermometer (digital is best).

Other essentials
Consider any specific requirements you may have: condoms, for instance, sleeping tablets or water disinfectants, and any medication that you have to take. Take medication to self-treat any ailments that you know you are prone to, for instance cystitis or thrush. Make sure you have enough medical supplies for the duration of the trip, particularly for prescription medicines, which may not be as readily available overseas.

Make sure that any prescription medicine or equipment (syringes, for example) is accompanied by a letter signed by your doctor or pharmacist, certifying that the medicine is needed for personal use. Carry this letter with the medical supplies at all times, especially going through customs, and carry your prescription medicines in your hand luggage, in case your other luggage is lost or misdirected during the journey.

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, it's a good idea to take a spare pair with you — you may not be able to replace them easily.

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