Travel First Aid

What is Fisrt Aid ?
First aid refers to medical attention that is usually administered immediately after the injury occurs and at the location where it occurred. It often consists of a one-time, short-term treatment and requires little technology or training to administer. First aid can include cleaning minor cuts, scrapes, or scratches; treating a minor burn; applying bandages and dressings; the use of non-prescription medicine; draining blisters; removing debris from the eyes; massage; and drinking fluids to relieve heat stress.

In alphabetical order, we take a look at what to include in your holiday first-aid kit. But don’t think you need to haul all these items along with you every time – there’s a difference between a trip to Thailand and a stay in Nepal. Think through the trip and buy what you need in sufficiently small portions.

And don’t forget the medicines in your first-aid kit have a limited lifetime. Check ‘use by’ dates and ask your pharmacist for advice to ensure the contents of your kit remain effective and safe to use.

Allergies

Tablets containing antihistamines are effective against allergies, itching, skin rashes and insect bites.
Older antihistamines such as chlorphenamine (eg Piriton) cause drowsiness, so caution will be required when driving. Newer antihistamines such as loratadine (eg Clarityn) are non-sedating.
Most remedies are available without prescription from a pharmacy.

Constipation
Unfamiliar food and travel can cause acute constipation. A laxative can be used in the short term. Laxatives come as suppositories, tablets or syrups. Constipation is best prevented with a high-fibre diet and fluids.

Diarrhoea
If you have diarrhoea when travelling it is important to keep hydrated by drinking oral rehydration solutions such as Dioralyte.

In an emergency many travel health professionals also recommend taking a single 500mg tablet of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin (eg Ciproxin). This is a prescription-only medicine, and you should discuss its use with your doctor before leaving for areas where it might be needed. This dose is for healthy adults who are not pregnant or breastfeeding.

Medicines such as loperamide (eg Imodium) can be used for short-term treatment of mild diarrhoea, and can be useful when travelling.

Heartburn and stomach acid
If you have a tendency to suffer from stomach acid, heartburn and a burning sensation when you consume sharp-tasting foods and drinks, take an antacid in your kit.

Infection and inflammation
If you think you may need antibiotics when travelling abroad, you should discuss this with your doctor before you leave. Your doctor can prescribe what you need, although this may need to be done on a private rather than NHS prescription.
In several parts of the world antibiotics are available without prescription and without visiting a doctor, but as far as possible you should consult a doctor before taking antibiotics.

Pain
Painkillers are indispensable for headaches, muscle pain, toothache and menstrual pain. Take a remedy containing aspirin (eg Aspro clear), paracetamol (eg Panadol) or ibuprofen (eg Nurofen).

Blister packs are preferable, because loose or effervescent tablets may absorb moisture from the air and become ineffective. Aspirin should not be given to children under 16 years of age, unless on the advice of a doctor.

Syringes and needles
Having your own syringes, needles and possibly scalpels ensures a high level of hygiene can be achieved if you have to be admitted to hospital in countries with a lower standard of hygiene than the UK. Most travel clinics and large pharmacies have packs with sterile needles.

Thermometer, scissors and tweezers
A small digital thermometer is handy if you suspect a high temperature. Scissors and tweezers may also prove useful.

Travel sickness
The discomfort caused by travel sickness in the air, car or at sea can be prevented with the use of antihistamines. A pharmacist can advise which ones are suitable for your circumstances.

Sores and blisters
Take a skin-disinfecting agent with you to clean sores, eg a small bottle of chlorhexidine. Antiseptic wipes are also useful.
Bandages and plasters are useful to have at hand in case an accident should happen. Blisters can be helped with a special plaster, available from pharmacies.

Sunburn
Sunburn is prevented with a sunblock cream that has a high sun protection factor (SPF). A natural remedy with aloe vera may alleviate any redness after sunbathing.
Local anaesthetics and painkilling gel may be useful in dealing with problems caused by too much sun. Discuss such treatment with your pharmacist.

Vomiting
As with diarrhoea, the important point is to replace lost fluids. Frequent small drinks, if possible using ones that contain salt and sugar, are preferred.

Water purification tablets
Water purification tablets can be purchased from pharmacies or outdoor pursuits stores. Excellent containers that act as physical and chemical filters are now available from large chemists and travel clinics.

If you are Travelling to Himalaya Trekking (High Altitude Sickness)
Altitude sickness, often known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is a particularly important medical consideration while Trekking in Nepal. Altitude sickness means the effect of altitude on those who ascend too rapidly to elevations above 3000 meters. The initial symptoms of AMS are as follows:

Nausea, vomiting
Loss of appetite
Insomnia/sleeplessness
Persistent headache
Dizziness, light headedness, confusion
Disorientation, drunken gait
Weakness, fatigue, lassitude, heavy legs
Slight swelling of hands and face
Breathlessness and Breathing irregularity
Reduced urine output

 

These symptoms are to be taken very seriously. In case of an appearance of any of the above symptoms any further ascent should be avoided; otherwise more serious, even life-threatening problems can occur. The only cure for Altitude Sickness is to descend to lower elevations immediately. Acclimatization by ascending to no more than 300 to 500 meters per day above 3000 meters, and the proper amount of rest and re hydration are the best methods for prevention of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) .