The holidays are here so, whether you are going overseas or camping locally, make sure you have these holiday first-aid kit essentials…
“Accidents and illnesses happen and are particularly difficult to manage when you are in a foreign or remote location,” says Jackie Maimin, the CEO of the Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA).
“For this reason, the Independent Community Pharmacy Association urges all travellers to have a well-stocked medical kit and prepare for emergencies by sourcing information for further local assistance ahead of time.
When travelling to another country, it’s also a good idea to find out what vaccine requirements are set for that particular country and what medicines you are legally allowed to take into the country.
“Some countries require specific vaccinations before they will allow you through immigration, others consider certain medicines we can obtain over-the-counter as illegal, and many destinations don’t have adequate medical facilities – be prepared and you’ll have a better experience,” advises Maimin.
Related: Healthy food for the road
10 Holiday first aid kit essentials
- Travel sickness/Anti-nausea medication – This is important as there is nothing worse than starting your holidays feeling nauseous. This medication is available in tablet and syrup form.
- Antiseptic, dressings and plasters – For minor cuts and grazes, take along a bottle of antiseptic spray or wipes. These are easy to use and handy when you are on the go. Any medical kit must always contain a selection of plasters, sterile gauze dressings, bandages, medical tape and of course surgical gloves. Antiseptic cream or ointment is also a valuable addition to any medical kit. Your pharmacist will be able to guide you when selecting these items.
- Burn kits/dressings – Make sure you have a burn gel dressing in your kit. These are sterile and very effective at soothing a minor burn or scald. Never put butter on a wound and try not to burst any blisters that form. If the burn is over a large area or is a deep burn seek urgent medical attention.
- Scissors, safety pins & tweezers – Scissors and safety pins are useful for cutting and securing bandages. Tweezers for removing splinters (remember to pack scissors, safety pins and tweezers in your main luggage as you will not be able to take them into the aircraft cabin if you are flying anywhere).
- Sunscreen products – Choose one with a sun protection factor of at least 20. Include an after-sun lotion to soothe sunburn.
- Rehydration sachets and anti-diarrhoea tablets – Dehydration can happen quickly and with debilitating effects – especially in young children with vomiting or diarrhoea. Over the counter anti-diarrhoeal medicines can relieve symptoms of diarrhoea and upset stomachs very quickly. However, we recommend that these be kept for use for adults. Children with diarrhoea should be managed using rehydration fluids.
- Paracetamol/pain medication – Available as tablets, chew tablets, effervescent tablets, capsules and syrup paracetamol is the standard recommended in cases of pain and fever. Individuals with liver problems, paracetamol allergies or on long-term medication should check with their pharmacist whether paracetamol is safe for them.
- Insect repellent – Avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellents, particularly during the evenings and at night when they are most likely to bite. As an adjunct to malaria prophylaxis in malaria areas, insect repellents containing DET are recommended.
- Antihistamines – Over-the-counter antihistamines, which are available as tablets and syrups, are used to treat hayfever and can help reduce itchiness and inflammation caused by contact allergies and insect bites.
- Prescription and chronic medication – If you take any regular prescription medication, such as high blood-pressure tablets or inhalers for asthma, make sure that you take enough with you on holiday.
“It is also important to take along a copy of your prescription. You may require this at customs when travelling across borders or for repeat medication should you run out while on holiday, or if your luggage containing your medicines is lost,” advises Maimin.
“A good idea is to take a photograph of your prescription and your medication so that should it get lost you can show the pharmacist what you require. Telling a pharmacist that you are on a white pill for your heart is not helpful when trying to identify a medicine!”
5 key medical considerations for travellers
- Illegal medications: If you are travelling abroad it is wise to check the rules before trying to take medication into that country.
“For example, codeine is classed as an illegal drug in Greece, and individuals possessing it could conceivably be arrested, even if they were legitimately prescribed it in another country. Any medicines deemed to contain narcotics could have severe penalties in certain countries such as Indonesia if not declared at customs and the traveller must have a covering letter or prescription from their doctor,” says Maimin.
- Vaccinations: Before travelling, always check with your pharmacist whether any vaccinations are recommended for your destination.
- Travel insurance: Make sure you have travel insurance if travelling abroad or to far-flung places which will ensure you get the best treatment if you become ill or have an accident which requires treatment at a hospital or medical centre.
- Emergency numbers: Do some research about your destination and compile a list of emergency medical numbers such as local doctors, hospitals, poison helpline numbers, ambulance services, a paediatrician, etc.
- Local pharmacy: Pharmacists are always on hand to help. In nearly every South African town you visit you will find a local pharmacy with a pharmacist who is able to advise and assist you should you find yourself in need of medical advice, repeat prescriptions, and over the counter medications.
Source: Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA)
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