A nurse’s advice on what you must have in your travel first aid kit

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Last weekend I went on a little trip with two friends of mine. During a hike along the cliffs in the picture above, one of them fell and injured their hand. Luckily, the other is a nurse and happened to have most of what was needed to clean and dress the wound in her travel first aid kit. As accidents can happen anywhere I asked her what a traveler should always carry with them. Now, I want to share her list with you, so that you can be prepared when things don’t go as planned.


The kind of sunscreen will depend on your skin type. If you are exposed to the sun for a longer period of time, make sure to bring a hat. If you notice you got too much sun, go straight into the shade, put a wet towel on your head/neck, drink loads of water and rest.
I actually have a few scars from travel accidents over the years, and always put on SPF 50 before on those areas before I leave the house.

Insect repellent

This is especially important in the tropics, but even in European countries because of ticks. Those you should remove immediately and watch the bite for a few days: if you notice a ring of red skin around it, go see a doctor to eliminate Lyme disease. The same goes for headaches and neck pain following the bite which could indicate meningitis.

Disinfectant for wounds

This is first aid kit basic, easy to find in pharmacies around the globe.

skate wound
skate wound

Band-Aids, tape, hairspray

Scratches, blisters and small wounds (less than finger width) you can treat yourself. Anything larger than that you may need stiches for. Clean the wound with disinfectant (Octenisept), then use band-aid. In order to make the band-aid water and dirt proof you can spray hairspray on it, but make sure NOT to spray it into the wound itself.

Sterile wound dressing

If you are going hiking, trekking, skiing, climbing or boating and won´t have medical facilities anywhere close, you will have to attend to your injuries yourself. Take sterile dressing so you can avoid infections.

Rescue blanket

Also bring a one of those blankets to keep you warm in case of emergency. They are light and packed efficiently so they don´t take up room in your luggage. And when you do need one, you´ll be glad you brought it.

For absolutely any animal bite, ALWAYS go see a doctor, because that type of thing can lead to very unpleasant infections. This is beyond what a first aid kit can do.

Pain killers

For headaches, the flu and other aches, have a pain killer of your choice in your first aid kit, ideally something that also helps bring fever down, such as paracetamol.
If you go with ibuprofen or aspirin, only take it for a few days, because if you overdo it they can cause stomach ulcers. (I had no idea! So happy to have a medical expert amongst my friends!)

Nasal spray

If you catch colds easily you may want to bring nasal spray, expectorant, and lozenges.


I learned that word this week 🙂 If a runny nose is keeping you from enjoying your trip, try Ambroxol, Gelomyrtol or ACC. These are available in pharmacies in Europe – I am not sure what the American equivalents would be.


If your throat is soar, you can get Neoangin or Dolodobendan in Europe. Alternatively, try gargling with chlorhexidine.

First aid kit for gastrointestinal infections

This may sound gross, but if possible, allow your body to dispose of all the germs that caused the infection. Just make sure to stay hydrated, otherwise this can quickly become dangerous.

If you have no choice because you need to catch a plane or something, you can take a loperamide (Imodium) that will stop your bowel movements completely.

Coal tables bind toxins. And a dimenhydrinate like Vomex helps against nausea and vomiting. These are also great against motion sickness (bus, ship, etc.)

Very important: Drinks loads of water or juice or tea (at least 2 to 3 liters a day). Coke and salty snacks are good to give nutrients, electrolytes and energy back to your body when you have trouble keeping anything else down. Who knew these were good for you?!

In any case, listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs, by giving you an appetite for it.

Of course I hope none of us will ever need any of the advice above. I want you all to stay healthy and not get hurt! But it´s always best to be prepared, so hopefully this can help in times of sickness.

Have you ever been sick or hurt abroad? What did you do? Do you currently travel with a first aid kit? Let me know about your experience in the comments below!

Author :
traveler, globetrotter, expat with an insatiable appetite for travel, anything from backpacking to luxury hotels, currently based in Barcelona

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