It’s a question travel clinic nurses hear all the time; “I’m going abroad. Do I need to take a travel first aid kit?” OK, maybe not if you’re off to London to catch “The Lion King”, but in areas such as Africa, South America and parts of Asia it’s a sensible question. It’s always a good idea to have first aid equipment when travelling, but if visits are planned to remote areas, where medical facilities may be inadequate, you should take a sterile travel first aid kit containing needles and syringes.
In many countries rates of infection with blood borne viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C are higher than in the UK. Some of these countries do not have medical standards as high as those in the UK and equipment used may not be adequately sterilised, blood used for transfusions may not be screened for HIV, Hepatitis B and C. In these situations, a sterile travel first aid kit may prove vital if you are seriously injured.
You should be carrying adequate supplies so you can self-treat common traveller ailments, such as cuts, grazes and burns. In hot climates where there may be dust or poor hygiene you are more susceptible to infection. Wounds should be cleaned immediately, covered and if any signs of infection develop you should seek urgent medical help.
Even if you are ultra ultra careful and manage to avoid any sort of dangerous situation, accidents can still happen and you can still fall ill. You might fall off your bike, twist your ankle playing football, or just catch a good old fashioned tummy bug. Ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance that will adequately cover you in the event that you get sick or injured. Pre-existing medical conditions must be disclosed to your insurance company, as non-disclosure could invalidate your claim.
Make sure your insurance covers you for all the activities you wish to experience on your travels and includes cover for medical evacuation, personal injury and terrorist activity. A frightening statistic is that only 60% of insurance policies cover terrorism, so make sure you read the small print and have adequate cover.
What should my travel first aid kit have in it?
The exact contents will vary depending on your specific needs. Things to consider adding to your travel first aid kit include:
Emergency Medications: antibiotics for wounds that have become infected, pain killers, prescribed medications - keep these in their original packaging.
Diarrhoea Treatment: oral rehydration salts, especially for children. Prevention is the best cure, so start taking antidiarrhoeal medication from a couple of weeks before you leave. Alcohol hand gel can be useful for when there are no hand washing facilities available.
Injuries: a selection of dressings and gauze swabs.
Lotions: you can purchase treatments for eye infections from your local pharmacy, an antibiotic ointment for skin infections such as fucidin and a cream to apply to burns may be useful. An antihistamine cream is useful for treating rashes and insect bites.
Equipment: scissors, tweezers, tick removers and safety pins, sterile gloves, a digital thermometer.
Mosquitoes: mosquito nets, insect repellents .
Sterile Equipment: sterile needles and syringes, intravenous cannula for a drip, suture material for sewing up skin. These should be in a specially designed kit. Do not carry single needles and syringes as customs may suspect they are for drug use. Purchase a specially prepared sterile first aid kit that includes a declaration that the contents are for personal medical use in an emergency.
Documentation: first aid book, details of blood group and regular medication, copies of prescriptions if carrying prescribed medication.
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