Health Supplies Should You Pack – and What You Can Leave At Home

I travel light, very light, carry on only usually. Which is not to say there are not some health supplies that I don’t always have with me. Remember if you are travelling light – you will need to make sure your liquids are in containers of less than 100ml (3oz).

Suntan Lotion

The most common problems on holiday are to do with too much sun and too much booze. Particularly if you are hitting  the beaches somewhere warmer, don’t under-estimate just how much damage the sun can do to you. Fall asleep for a few hours on an Australian beach and you will wake up in hospital with third degree burns and possible sun stroke. Good quality, waterproof, suntan lotion can be expensive but its essential. Its one of the few things that can be cheaper at home than in most of the developing world. SPF30 is usually recommended for fair skins.

Australia's Killer Beaches and Sun

Australia’s Killer Beaches and Sun

DEET-rich Insect Repellent (30%)

Mosquitoes aren’t just inconvenient – they can be deadly. No anti-malarial is 100% effective, and then you still have the potential for dengue fever and, the much rarer, Japanese Encephalitis. This is not a time to worry about going organic. I can 100% assure you that citronella smells nice, but does nothing to repel mosquitoes. If desperate cigarettes work well too (its the smoke). Personally I stick with the DEET – and wash my hands well before touching any plastic like a laptop or cell hone.

Travel Socks for Long Haul Flights/Buses/Trains

These can be a life saver. They are highly recommended for any long-haul (over 2 hours) flights. But more people probably get blood clots from long car or bus journeys (trains are better as you can get up and walk around easily). Personally I stand and walk regularly on a flight, airlines don’t encourage it, but if you have an aisle seat, particularly toward the back of the plane, its easy enough to do. The socks are good though if you take sleeping pills and sleep soundly on flights, or if you just don’t like getting up and walking around, use them. Anyone who has in of the risk factors (including high blood pressure, recent surgery, or anything vaguely heart related) should buy them and wear them).

Some other stuff I usually take along:

Dehydration Mixture

I never carry antibiotics for stomach upsets, Google “antibiotic resistance” if you wonder why. If you do get sick, its hardly ever more than a few hours of unpleasantness, it won’t kill you! What you do need to be careful of is, not getting dehydrated, a medically sound re-hydration mixture is 1 teaspoon of salt and 1tablespoon of sugar in a 1 litre of water. Proper dehydration mixture which you can get in small packets, take up hardly any space, taste a LOT better, which is important if you feel nauseous.

DIY Travel Health Kit

I do take a tiny kit, in a water proof pouch I got given at some point. A resealable plastic bag will work as well. It usually includes the things that we use and includes:

  • Advil or Aspirin
  • Travelcalm tablets (I get very badly sea sick, can work for bus and car sick people too)
  • Contraceptive pill and any other prescription meds
  • Antiseptic cream for insect bites and heat rash
  • Some blister pads and strong tape if we are doing a lot of walking
  • Needle and thread – usually for clothes, but I’ve sterilised the needle with a flame and used it to dig out splinters
  • Tweezers – also good for splinters, and hairs that grow in the wrong place
  • Tiny scissors – but I sometimes lose these to the zealots at airport security.

What You Don’t Need To Bring

A mosquito net. Really, you do not! Unless you are camping that is. If you are staying in accommodation, however cheap, if you need mosquito nets will be provided. Some Duct tape to repair the holes in it  may be useful, but otherwise, no you really don’t need a net.

You can get combined insect repellent and suntan lotion but even as a bite-prone (yes insects do bite some people more than others, its a blood chemistry thing apparently) blond, I often don’t need to have both on at the same time, so its not really worth it

An expensive, branded medical kit. Most of them have a whole lot of stuff you don’t need or use. Create one of your own and take only what you will use.

Water purification tablets. Almost everywhere in the world, if tap water is not safe to drink you can buy water. If you are going very remote, everywhere in the world you can buy Iodine – which is effective and cheap.

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