I’ve had 3 separate times in my trip when a first aid kit has come in handy.
The first time, was my motorbike accident back in the Philippines. My first aid kit was definitely not well stocked enough for this, but fortunately, there were pharmacies nearby.
The second time, was when I had a parasite in Cambodia. I had plenty of Imodium, but I ended up going to the hospital after 5 days of being ill.
The third time was a kidney infection in Myanmar. I had antibiotics and paracetamol so was able to recover reasonably quickly.
I’ve learnt the hard way what I need in my first aid kit.
But you don’t have to. It’s so easy to pack a few essentials and they don’t even need to take up much room. I kept all of my first aid supplies in one of those small ziploc bags they hand out at UK airports for liquids.
Here’s a full list of everything I keep in my backpack for minor accidents and illnesses.
Pain Relief – I have paracetamol or ibuprofen for general aches and pains. Some people might choose different pain medication, that’s totally up to you.
Antihistamines – I suffer from hay fever back in the UK so I usually keep antihistamines close by. In the tropics, they’re also useful for helping stop the itching of insect bites.
Imodium – When travelling it’s almost guaranteed you’ll suffer from an upset stomach at some point. Anti-diarrhoea tablets will help manage this, especially if you’re on the move.
Dioralyte – When you’ve had that upset stomach you’ll want to replenish the lost electrolytes so you’ll definitely want to take some Dioralyte.
Antiseptic – You’ll want to stop any cuts/grazes from getting infected.
Plasters – Get a pack of different sizes and get waterproof ones if possible. The humidity in the tropics makes cuts get infected much faster than in the UK.
Gauze – Good for larger cuts/grazes. Especially useful to carry if you’re planning on hiring a motorbike.
Anti-Malaria Tablets (optional) – if you’re going to a country with a high risk of malaria, it’s recommended that you take some antimalarials. In South East Asia, the risk of malaria is low in most countries. It’s entirely your choice whether to take them.
Hydrocortisone – I’ve had this with me all the time because back home I occasionally get eczema. What I’ve learnt is that it’s one of the best things to stop insect bites from itching.
Most towns and even villages have a pharmacy in South East Asia, so it’s easy to keep medication supplies full. Many medications which are prescription only back in the UK, can easily be bought over the counter. This is great for me, as I have asthma, so I can buy reliever inhalers cheaply and without the hassle (and expense) of visiting a doctor.
You want to pack essentials but also avoid overpacking as you don’t want to be carrying too much around. Find that balance and take what suits you. Remember, pharmacies are easy to come by in larger towns and cities so you can always restock when you need to.
Before you travel, I would recommend visiting Fit4Travel, the NHS’s website for people travelling abroad. It advises whether you’re likely to need malaria tablets for your destination and what vaccinations you should be up to date with before you travel.