Calamity can strike anywhere, but the unfortunate fact is that more often than not it happens at the worst time possible. As far as “worst time possible” goes, you can’t get much worse than something happening while you are travelling, especially if you saved for months (or maybe even years) to jet off on your dream trip.
Unfortunately, if this does happen there is usually very little you can do beyond seeking medical attention (easier said than done in certain countries) and getting yourself back home as soon as possible. Even minor injuries can be a drag, and while they might not spoil your whole holiday they can definitely interrupt your day. You might need to head back to your accommodation to clean yourself up, or you might even have to cancel your plans for the day to give your injury a little rest.
I, personally, have had many such accidents while away on my travels. From minor scrapes to full blown breaks, I always seem to be the “unlucky” member of the group and it didn’t take me long to realise that it might be smart to start travelling with a first aid kid. Since that 2009 realisation me and my first aid kit, or disaster bag as it is grandiosely known, have been inseparable. Seeing as it is fast approaching our five year anniversary of traveling together, I thought it might be cool to write a short piece about what I keep in my first aid kit, how it has helped me and my friends out over the years and why you should consider putting together your own before you next foreign adventure.
Bring plasters! Novelty plasters, to be exact. I have a really low attention span so applying pressure to a cut and keeping it above my head is a total chore and something I get bored of after only a few minutes. With my trusty first aid kit by my side I can simply slap on a plaster and move on with my day.
But why novelty plasters? Well they are a great conversation starter for one thing! Offering one of these to your fellow hostel residents or other members of your touring party will make sure that no one forgets your face and will get friendships off to a great start. After all, who could resist a bacon plaster!
Also, if you are traveling in a poorer region of the world, these plasters make great sticker gifts for local children that you meet. You never know, you might even make a young person’s day with your brightly coloured gift.
Loads and loads of pain killers. From paracetamol and ibuprofen to anything with the “co” prefix, stock up, because there is always going to be someone about who could do with a little bit of medical numbing.
Pain killers first made an appearance in my kit after a trip to Egypt where the sun’s rays reflecting off the white sand gave me an immediate and constant headache, lasting from the moment we left our accommodation right through until sundown every single day. I managed to purchase headache tablets as well as darker glasses to help me turn my trip around, and my bumper supply of pain killers helped me befriend a few fellow sun weary travellers along the way; so it really was a double win for the pain pills.
Another reason to carry an ample supply of painkillers is that doctors and health clinics in many regions of the world are desperate for them. In areas of Africa like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Kenya, a donation of western painkillers would not go amiss at any community care centre.
Tweezers are a must have for any travel first aid kit. While most countries seem to have an unhealthy obsession with sanding everything down to a perfectly smooth finish, I found that in countries like Vietnam and Thailand, the opposite is true. During my travels in these two areas I picked up a lifetimes worth of splinters from everything from walls to work surfaces. In fact, I got so many splinters that pulling them out, a task I usually relish, became a crushing chore.
Remember, it’s important to chuck a pair of tweezers in you first aid kit even if you would typically carry another pair in your make up bag. Nothing is worse than wishing you could just pull a splinter, but knowing you have to wait till you get home to do so. You could pinch yourself raw trying to get it out with your nails and, although an infected splinter isn’t exactly an injury worth writing home about, it certainly is very annoying.
Be the hero of the hostel with assorted bits and bobs that no one ever has, but everyone always needs! From sterile tape and scissors (round end for air travel) to a sewing kit and bug spray, while these bits of kit might seem mundane, you will be surprised by how often they will be needed.
One great way to decide what “bits” to pop in your first aid kit is to take a look in your cupboards at home. The bathroom cabinet is a great place to start and might reveal some health and grooming items that you are thankful to always have on hand, but would forget about when packing a bag. Another great place to have a snoop around before you jet off is your (or your mother’s) sewing kit. Make sure you grab some safety pins, a sewing needle, a thimble and a few reels of cotton for quick clothing repairs.
In terms of the actual bag, I got all my first aid kits contents, as well as the bag itself from Chemist Direct in the UK. If you are setting off from the US then DrugStore.com has lots of pre filled first aid kits to get you started.
May all your travels be happy and, most importantly, safe!