A first aid kit is an essential piece of equipment on any gap year or round-the-world adventure, but most travelers aren’t sure exactly what they need to take with them. So here is an expert guide on how to pack a first aid kit and what to include in it.
I have been traveling the world for almost fifteen years now, and in all that time I have patched up more travelers’ scrapes and sprains than I can remember.
Thankfully pretty much all of the incidents I have dealt with so far have been minor. Even during my time spent volunteering as an expedition medic in the Sahara, the jungles of Kalimantan and Borneo, and many other amazing places, I have been able to deal with most accidents and injuries that have crossed my path.
I have only been able to do all of this, however, because I have always packed my trusty first aid kit. It has evolved and been refined over the years, but I have always carried one.
It goes without saying that these are an absolute essential in any first aid kit. The most common form of minor injury is a cut or a graze, so it is always a good idea to carry a handful of plasters in a variety of sizes.
If you think you will be doing a lot of trekking on your travels and you aren’t used to that form of exercise, then some blister plasters are a good idea.
Gauze is the medical jack-of-all-trades. I never carry a first aid kit without a supply of gauze in it, and I can’t tell you how many times it has come in useful over the years. It can be used to apply pressure to a wound, clean an injury, soak up blood, help stop bleeding, and even form part of a basic dressing for small-to-medium wounds.
Crepe bandages (ACE or elastic bandages)
For when you have something a bit bigger than a cut, basic crepe bandages are useful for keeping small dressings clean and in place until you can get some medical attention.
Remember, you’re only going to use them in an emergency and hopefully only until you can get some professional medical care, so you don’t need too many of these, just one or two at most.
Surgical tape is one of those essential emergency items for when you need to apply and secure gauze or a bandage to a wound, although plasters can do the same job if need be.
Apart from the obvious benefits (staying sexually safe), these handy little items can be used as emergency water carriers or even filled with ice as an emergency ice pack. I’ve personally never had any call to use them in that manner, but it is a handy bit of information to keep in mind.
It happens to all of us on our travels: we get bitten by some form of insect and end up with a painfully itchy bump or rash. Don’t worry, the absolute majority of the time the bumps and stings aren’t anything to worry about at all, but they are damned annoying! This is why a good antihistamine cream is a useful addition to help control the itching and swelling.
When carrying any generic medication, it is essential that it is kept in its original packaging when you are traveling in case customs officials need to check it. The information provided here is for general travel health advice and information only. It is provided by a qualified nurse, but it is not a replacement for a personal consultation with a travel nurse specialist, your GP, or a doctor specializing in travel medicine who can tailor advice to your individual medical history and needs.