It can be really handy to have some common over-the-counter (OTC) medicines around especially when you are on holiday abroad. There is no one-size-fits-all list for a travel medicines kit, however, here are some pointers to help you organize a medicines kit for your next travel.
How is your personal health?
Current medications: Are you on any long-term prescription medications (such as for high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, heart problems)? Oral contraceptives for example, would only be effective if the cycle remains unbroken. Never forget to bring your regular medicines with you, and maybe some spare (not in large excess), in case of unexpected changes in travel plans. When travelling with prescription medications, leave them in the original packaging with your name printed on the labels, you may also be required to bring a copy of the prescription or note from prescriber, depending on the regulations of the country of visit.
Allergies: If you are known to have allergies, always bring some antihistamines or EpiPen (if prescribed) with you.
Where are you heading to?
Long-distance flights: If you will be on a long-distance flight, do pack sufficient medications in your carry-on for the duration of the flight. If you are prone to urinary tract infections (UTI) and travelling on a long-distance flight, you may want to consider packing some urinary alkalinisers and increase water intake during travel.
Country regulations: Certain countries impose restrictions on the medications that can be brought in by travelers. For example, non-prescription preparations containing decongestants such as pseudoephedrine is prohibited in Japan. It is always important to check with the particular country’s immigration office or embassy prior to traveling.
Countries endemic for communicable diseases: It would be useful to bring and use mosquito repellants when travelling to places endemic with zika, dengue or malaria. Travelers visiting certain African countries may require malarial prophylaxis and should consult their medical practitioners 4-6 weeks prior to travel date.
What is your travel style?
Adventurous with street food: Those who are adventurous with trying various street food might want to consider packing some oral rehydration salts (ORS) and medications for food poisoning, although it is always best to avoid eating food with questionable hygiene.
Nature/ Outdoors: Those who anticipate spending substantial time hiking or camping in the great outdoors might want to consider packing antibacterial ointment, antiseptic wipes, alcohol swabs, insect repellants, sunscreens and sterile gauzes. Oral rehydration salts (ORS) would also be useful to replenish lost electrolytes from sweating/ heat. If access to potable water is a problem then consider packing drinking water germicidal tablets.
Some of over-the-counter (OTC) medications to consider packing on a holiday:
- Antipyretics and analgesics such as paracetamol, aspirin* or ibuprofen* for headaches, fever or muscular aches.
- Antihistamines such as cetirizine or loratadine to relieve allergic symptoms such as runny nose, congestion, pruritus or hives.
- Antidiarrheal medications such as diphenoxylate or loperamide.
- Medications for motion-sickness such as dimenhydrinate.
- Laxatives such as bisacodyl, bulk-formers or lactulose.
- Oral rehydration salt sachets to replenish lost electrolytes.
- Antacids for reflux/ heartburn.
- First aid kit: bandages, antiseptic wipes, antiseptic ointments.
- Broad spectrum sunscreen to protect against UV rays.
*not for those already taking blood thinners such as aspirin or other NSAIDs.
Always remember to retain the instruction labels so that you know what the medications are for and how to take them. When in doubt, do not hesitate to consult the local pharmacists.
- Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016. Traveler’s Health. Pack smart. Last Accessed 14 May 2018. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/pack-smart
- Embassy of Japan in Australia. 2017. Bringing medicine into Japan. Last Accessed 14 May 2018. http://www.au.emb-japan.go.jp/itpr_en/visa_medicine_en.html
- NHS Choices. 2015. Can I bring my medications abroad? Last Accessed 14 May 2018. https://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/1074.aspx?CategoryID=70