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  How to prepare your first aid kit

First Aid

First, separate your daily medication (usual treatments, contraception, malaria pills) from the emergency medical kit (used less frequently).

The medical kit is to be used in emergency situations. It should be small and compact so you can easily take it with you on all excursions; it should be a bright colour so that you can find it easily and not forget it in your hotel room or while hiking... Be sure to choose a kit with a hanging strap. This will not only make it easier to access the various compartments, but being able to hang it ensures proper hygiene, regardless of the environment.

Here are a few tips to help you put together an adequate medical kit:

  • Verify its contents every year and update them if necessary: discard any medication or product for which the usage date has expired, or that was exposed to very high temperatures during a previous trip (particularly very hot or humid countries).
  • For every trip, remember to adapt the kit’s contents to your destination country. For example, if you are travelling to the United States, it is unnecessary to overload your kit; however, if you are visiting Central China, Yemen or the Andes Mountains, you will need a complete medical kit.
  • Also take into account how long you will be gone and plan accordingly.
  • Beware of carrying liquids when young children are around! Choose screwcap, airtight bottles that will not leak during a long flight, or from changes in air pressure. Choose small solid plastic bottles, which you can find at your local pharmacy or in a sports store. Single-dose, one-time use bottles are always the best choice.
  • Use zip lock plastic bags to protect your fragile articles and important documents from humidity (tablets, pills, capsules, but also your passport, medical prescriptions, vaccination booklet…).

Permanent items

The following list is only an indication of what you might include and in no way claims to be exhaustive:

  • Note all emergency telephone numbers. 
  • Remember to bring a thermometer, particularly if travelling with children. 
  • Pack multi-purpose scissors, safety pins and tweezers (for removing splinters).
  • For nicks, cuts and scrapes take along absorbent cotton and an antiseptic, (70° alcohol disinfectant or iodized alcohol, except if you are allergic to iodine). Single-dose vials of antiseptics are advisable.
  • Include cloth bandages or the equivalent, self stick bandages that do not stick to the skin, band-aids or plasters for blisters, adhesive stitching strips, and an assortment of bandages for cuts and other small wounds. Take one or two small plastic bags to collect the used bandages etc. for when no immediate rubbish disposal is available.
  • Creams and ointments for burns and sunburns.
  • If necessary, include water purifiers and vitamin C to mask the taste of the disinfected water and help you overcome the time change and bouts of fatigue. But be careful! Dosage is restricted to 1000 mg of vitamin C per day for adults and must be adapted to the weight of your child. 
  • Do not take syringes or hypodermic needles with you (except if you have documentary evidence of their necessity), because in certain countries, customs agents and airport security can prove to be extremely fussy when going through your luggage.

Emergency medication

Any kind of self-medication administered without professional medical advice can be very dangerous. It’s essential to verify with your doctor their amounts, directions for use and compatibility with other medications before leaving on a trip.

To treat any aches, pains or illnesses that might occur during your trip, take along emergency medication: The following list is only an indication of what you might include and in no way claims to be exhaustive:

  • Include seasickness pills or anti-emetic medicine to prevent nausea, vomiting or travel sickness 
  • To prevent diarrhoea, have diarrhoea tablets on hand, particularly if you are travelling to tropical regions or to areas where you will have to change your eating habits. And remember that the best prevention is proper hygiene. Wash your hands frequently and keep your fingernails cut short. In case you do come down with diarrhoea, be sure to stay well hydrated.
  • For heartburn, take anti-acid pills.
  • For pain and fever include a minor analgesic like paracetamol or aspirin, and some anti-inflammatories prescribed by your doctor. Be careful not to take the anti-inflammatory pills on an empty stomach and be sure to respect the proper dosage, particularly regarding children. These can also have an anti-coagulating effect. Check with your doctor about their interactions with your other personal medication. If you experience any sudden or unusual pain or fever, consult a doctor immediately. 
  • To relieve itching, be sure to have a topical anti-pruritic cream, ointment or tablets on hand. Ask your doctor for a prescription. He/she will also explain the side effects, particularly the drowsiness you may feel due to the antihistamines.
  • For cold sores: prescription dermal cream. UV rays can reactivate the virus in 24-48 hours and fatigue from travelling can encourage a severe outbreak. 
  • Also with a medical prescription: anti-septic eye drops, anti-malaria tablets, antibiotics, light sleeping pills in case they’re needed, and medication for infants or accompanied children.
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