collection of supplies and equipment that is used to give medical treatment
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Travel topics > Stay healthy > Travel health kit

A travel health kit should preferably be carried by travellers. For broader discussion of health issues, see Stay healthy.

This article contains general advice, followed at the reader's own risk. None of it should be taken as medical or legal advice.
If you need to bring medication or medical equipment for a journey, consult your doctor.

Understand edit

A general first aid kit is a good start, but it may not meet the needs of your location, or may include items that are illegal there.

You may not be able to purchase, or even require all the items on this list (depending on where you are and where you are travelling), and in some cases you may need a doctor's prescription to avoid having the items confiscated by border police or customs officers if your bags are inspected. If in doubt, consult a competent medical professional for advice.

Many people have different ideas on what is necessary for them - some people take more, others are better at improvisation.

Our articles Tropical diseases and Tips for travel in developing countries have additional information relevant to some travelers.

Stay healthy edit

  • Regular medication: If you are on any regular medication, take a good supply with you, together with a copy of the prescription. Make sure it's carried in hand luggage on planes. The prescription will help if you do need to replace it, or if customs are unsure what it is.
  • Antidiarrhea: Loperamide (sold as e.g. "Imodium") is the most common form of anti-diarrheal medicine for over-the-counter use. Never use it if there is blood in the feces – this could be an indication of something much more serious and requires immediate medical attention. See also Travellers' diarrhea.
  • Pain killer & anti-inflammatory: Ibuprofen (e.g. "Nurofen") and acetylsalicylic acid (e.g. "Aspirin") are good as an anti-inflammatory and as a general analgesic (pain killer). They also act as an antipyretic, reducing fever. Acetylsalicylic acid affects blood viscosity, be cautious if there are any issues with that.
    • Some people prefer paracetamol (e.g. "Tylenol", "Panadol") as a pain killer, but it is a much weaker anti-inflammatory than the other two and is risky if even moderately overdosed. It is, however, safer in areas with risk of dengue fever, as both ibuprofen and acetylsalicylic acid increase the risk of dangerous complications when dealing with a dengue infection. In any case, if you are in a dengue-risk area (most of the tropics), the safest course is not to self-medicate; consult a doctor instead. Paracetamol also helps in some cases where the other two aren't effective.
    • Diclofenac gel (e.g. "Voltaren") can help with sore muscles from hiking or stiff necks from sleeping on the wrong pillow.
  • Sunscreen: You are likely more exposed to the sun when traveling than during your normal routine back home. Sun burn can cause high discomfort and fatigue which is mostly avoidable with sunscreen (and a hat). An after-sun lotion containing aloe might help too. See also Sunburn and sun protection.
  • Adhesive bandages: Open cuts can become infected, especially when traveling. Clean the cut, cover up and continue your travels. Also useful for covering blisters on your feet.
  • Antiseptics: handy to have for preventing infections from minor wounds, popped blisters, and burns (once they have cooled). There are many options available, including ~70% ethanol or isopropanol solutions, 3% hydrogen peroxide solution and polyvidone iodine (e.g. "Betadine"). In Europe, pain-free Octenidine dihydrochloride is slowly replacing the more traditional substances. In the US, liberal use of antibiotics such as triple antibiotic ointment (e.g. "Neosporin") is common.
  • Insect repellent: Insect bites can cause discomfort, but also potentially infection and disease as well. Plan ahead, as in many areas where mosquitoes and other insects are a significant problem, effective DEET or icaridin-based repellents cannot be bought locally. Suitable clothing is important. See also Pests.
  • Motion sickness is a common complaint when traveling by ship, but some people also suffer from it when flying, riding the bus, or even taking the train. Dimenhydrinate (e.g. "Dramamin") can help with that and is available as an over-the-counter drug in many countries.
  • Condoms: HIV and hepatitis are much more common in some parts of the world, and unprotected sex with an unfamiliar partner is highly risky anywhere — and much riskier without a condom. Female travelers who use contraceptive pills should also carry condoms as even minor stomach upsets can decrease the pill's effectiveness. See also Tips for women travellers.
  • Proof of your health insurance coverage: Even if you're only taking a day trip across the border of a friendly country, the insured health care at your destination will not be the same as it is at home. Purchase the best health, life and disability coverage that you can afford, and keep a copy of the insurance details in your travel health kit along with your other health information. Of course in the European Union you'll mostly be covered across the border as well. If your usual health insurance won't cover your trip, consider travel insurance.

Off the beaten path edit

If you are going away from major towns and cities where medical help may not be accessible, you might like to consider taking a more complete first aid kit. Make sure you have the knowledge to use it, too! Consider water purification tables, sterile sets, and so on. See also Packing for a week of hiking.

Also, travelers may wish to take a comprehensive first aid course if traveling for an extended amount of time in a rural or wilderness area away from hospitals, preferably one focused on such circumstances.

Stay legal edit

Many countries and venues restrict the carrying of knives, scissors and other sharp objects which might be included in a travel health kit.

Countries with harsh anti-drug laws might outlaw painkillers and other medication.

See also edit

This travel topic about Travel health kit is a usable article. It touches on all the major areas of the topic. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.
First aid