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10 Medicines To Include In Your Travel Health Kit

Everyone needs a vacation, but when traveling overseas it is important to make preparations to ensure holidays are not cut short by illness and sickness. Some simple steps include: packing prescription medications, and the prescriptions themselves; ensuring all vaccines are up to date; and checking whether medicines, such as antimalarial drugs, are necessary for your chosen destination. 

If you take prescription medication for existing health conditions these should, of course, be first on the list of items to pack. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise packing prescription medication in carry-on luggage and keeping copies of prescriptions and their generic names. The CDC also recommends packing a note on letterhead stationery from the prescribing physician for any medication that is injectable or a controlled substance. 

A well-stocked first aid kit should also be on everyone's packing list for vacations, whether you are planning a short trip overseas or heading off on a globetrotting adventure. Here are some medications to consider adding to your travel health kit.

1.  Antibiotics

You'll need to ask your doctor for these, but antibiotics could be the solution to a number of common ailments experienced while traveling, including diarrhea and sinusitis. Useful additions to a travel kit include Cipro (ciprofloxacin) and Zithromax (azithromycin).

2.  Painkillers

Basic over-the-counter painkillers, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen) are versatile additions to any medicine cabinet and could prove invaluable when dealing with fever and headaches abroad.

3.  Antacids

Antacids, such as Zantac or Pepcid, are used to treat heartburn and stomach aches. They are available over-the-counter and provide quick relief. 

4.  Antimalarials

Depending on your destination, it may be necessary to bring antimalarial medication. Malarone (atovaquone, proguanil) is one of the most commonly used antimalarials, as there are generally minimal side effects and it only needs to be taken for seven days after traveling, rather than the four weeks required by other medication. Alternatives include Lariam (mefloquine) and Doxycycline.

5.  Topical Hydrocortisone 

Another useful over-the-counter addition to a first aid kit, hydrocortisone creams such as Cortizone-10 (hydrocortisone) or Locoid (hydrocortisone), provides quick relief from insect bites, rashes, and other itchy skin conditions. 

6.  Anti-diarrheal Products

Medication such as Imodium (loperamide) is available over the counter and is effective for treating diarrhea when traveling. Other useful products to have are rehydration sachets to replenish essential salts lost due to diarrhea.

7.  Antihistamines

If you suffer from hay fever, antihistamines are always useful to have on hand, but they can also alleviate the symptoms of insect bites and other allergic reactions. Over-the-counter varieties of antihistamine include Claritin (loratadine) and Zyrtec (cetirizine).

8.  Sleep Aids

If you struggle to sleep or are traveling on a long-haul flight and wish to avoid jet lag, there are many medications available to help you return to a healthy sleep pattern. Physicians may prescribe medication such as Ambien (zolpidem), but over-the-counter sleep aids are also available, such as Zzzquil and Meladox (melatonin).

9.  Antifungal / antibacterial ointments

Topical antifungal and antibacterial ointments are versatile and very useful when traveling, particularly if you are likely to pick up cuts and scrapes that might become infected. An over-the-counter option is Neosporin (bacitracin, neomycin, polymyxin B), but more powerful prescription topical ointments are also available, such as Bactroban Ointment (mupirocin).

10.  Antiemetics and motion sickness medication

Whether caused by a bumpy car ride or rough seas, motion sickness can be very unpleasant. Fortunately, there are prescription drugs such as Transderm-Scop (scopolamine), which can alleviate the symptoms. Over-the-counter options include Dramamine (dimenhydrinate) and Benadryl (diphenhydramine). Other anti-nausea medication, for example, Zofran (ondansetron) or Phenergan (promethazine), are also worthy additions to any travel health kit.

Of course there are many other medications and items that could prove useful in a travel first aid kit. Sunscreen, ideally SPF 15 or higher with UVA and UVB protection, should always be packed when traveling to a hot country. Antibacterial wipes, eye drops, insect repellant, and basic first aid items, such as bandages, tweezers, scissors, gauze and band-aids should also be included. 

Be prepared and enjoy your vacation!