Packing tips: your holiday first aid kit


British summer 2018 has been unexpectedly hot and now summer holiday season is upon us.

Although Britain’s heatwave may have prepared us for how to protect ourselves in the sun, there is another dilemma when it comes to holiday prep: what medicines and ‘first aid’ kit should you pack? What will be available where you’re going, and what won’t? We suggest a sensible basis for packing what you need.

Consider where you’re going.

There is really no need to take anti-malarials to northern France, but they are essential if you’re going to sub-tropical Africa. Check the health advice for where you’re going well in advance. NHS Choices is a good place to start.

If you’re on regular medication, take enough to last.

Whether it’s heart pills, an asthma puffer, or hayfever tablets, get organised in enough time to get a repeat prescription if you need one. You really don’t want to be struggling to find a doctor who speaks English, or explaining to a foreign pharmacist that you can only use one brand of antihistamine. And if you need any emergency medicine, such as an Epipen, make sure it’s with you, and that your travelling companions also know where it is, and what to do with it.

It is also important to check local laws regarding prescription medication in your holiday destination and get a special permission letter from a doctor if required. For example, antidepressants are classified as restricted drugs in some countries.

Take at least some basic, everyday medicines.

Yes, basic medicines are available abroad. But it’s going to be easier if you can manage without having to find a pharmacy. So take whatever basic over-the-counter medicines are your staples. These might include painkillers and anti-inflammatories like paracetamol and ibuprofen, antihistamine cream and tablets, and anything else that you find you need fairly regularly.

If you can only use certain types of medicines or other healthcare products, take them.

Your child doesn’t respond to Calpol? Pack the ibuprofen. You’re allergic to plasters? Make sure you have an alternative. Again, it’s hard to explain, and you can’t be sure that the alternative will be freely available at your destination.

Be prepared to deal with bumps and scrapes.

Antiseptic wipes, gauze, a bandage or two, plasters, micropore tape: they don’t take up much room, but could be the difference between dealing quickly with an incident, and a morning spent scouring the local town for a pharmacy. But make sure that you know how to use everything you take!

Have some anti-diarrhoea medicine and rehydration salts.

Let’s just hope you don’t need either of these, but they’re good to have with you, just in case. Rehydration salts are also helpful if you get a bit dehydrated, for example, by lying in the sun too long, and not drinking enough.

One final tip: check the airline’s requirements on packing medicines

You may be specifically required to pack medicines in your suitcase or hand luggage, decant into containers or have them in the original packaging. Whichever, just do it. It’s really not going to help if your first aid kit is confiscated at the airport.