by Dr. Rajiv Narula
Travel Medical Kits
Passports, tickets, visas, other travel documents, vaccination books, money, credit cards. and travel medical packs are some of the items that are essential when traveling. In most cases having a successful trip requires planning for events, some expected and some unexpected ones that may occur while enroute to your destination and while you are there. This column will focus on the importance of having a carefully planned travel medical pack as part of your travel gear.
Most health issues that are faced by a traveler are preventable. Some of these pre cautions are vaccine-based, others may depend on medications that are to be taken prophylactically. Yet other health related issues require you to abstain from certain activities, modify eating and drinking habits, use of insect barriers etc.
>Even with all these preventative strate gies, the possibility of an illness or injury occurring has been reported by 64% of participants in a recently published study by Dr. David Hill, in the Journal of Travel Medicine.
According to The Adventure Travel Report by the Travel Association of America, approximately half of Americans have taken an adventure vacation. According to this report, 92 million adults (46%) took soft adventure vacations such as, skiing, sailing, and horseback riding, while 31 million (16%) Americans took hard adventure vacations such as mountain climbing, sky diving and cave exploration.
Twenty-five million (13%) took both. With activities like these the odds of injury or exposure to illness are higher. Altitude sickness, parasitic illnesses, failing injuries, decompression sickness are some illnesses that this group of travelers maybe exposed to.
Therefore for these people and for ones who travel to less-developed countries of the world, being prepared is the motto. A pretravel consultation with a travel medical specialist prior to trip of this sort is essential.
Preparing or buying a travel medical pack is one way to try to minimize the problems that one may encounter on your trips. Factors such as inability to find medications, different trade names of medications, possible inflated prices, and basically the inconvenience of wasting precious time are some good reasons to pack your own travel medical pack or to buy one before you leave.
Travel medical kits are of several different kinds, depending on the type of activity planned, the ages of the travelers involved, the duration of travel, medical history and allergic problems of the traveler.
Most of these items are available in pharmacies. A First Aid Kit should include Gauze pads,
gauze roll, adhesive tape, ace bandage, scissors, tweezers, thermometer (yes an old fashioned
mercury one), band aids of various sizes, steri-strips , sterile cotton, antiseptic cream, sun
screens, instant ice pack, flash light, tampons, sanitary pads, condoms, oral rehydrating salts,
Permetherine spray, sustained release DEET repellent - this pack would be considered a basic one.
For travelers who are going on adventure-type vacations, or who are staying for periods of more than a month, I would add a syringe kit (sterile syringes and needies),and a suture kit; these are useful as they minimize the chance of picking up bloodborne infections which you may pick up from the use of resterilized medical equipment.
ln general most illnesses encountered by travelers are upper respiratory, gastrointestinal or have
to do with skin problems; there fore packing medications specific to these ailments - Tylenol,
Ibuprofen like anti- inflammatory, Imodium, Mylanta , Benadryl, cough/cold remedies, hydrocortisone cream, are essential.
If you take prescription medications, carry a list of them with dosages; all these medications
should be in their original, labeled packaging. A letter stating which medications you take from
your doctor would also be use ful. A Medic Alert Bracelet is useful if you have any chronic
illnesses or have allergies.
If you have a cardiac history, a copy of your EKG can come in very handy; also keep the
telephone number/fax number of your private physician handy. it is advisable to put all these in a
waterproof pack, preferably one which you can put in your carry on luggage, thus making it
accessible when the need arises. All these precautions may take the fun out of a spontaneously-planned trip, but, in case of an incident, you will thank me.