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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, October 29, 2006

Keep basic medical kit ready to go

By Irene Croft Jr.

Immunizations are only one aspect of healthy travel. Taking along a medical kit is essential, especially if you are traveling off the beaten track. Buying even the simplest medications abroad may present language and identification problems, so keep a basic kit ready to go, which you can add to for specific destinations.

Always carry prescription medicines in your hand luggage, but check with the Travel Security Administration (www.tsa.gov) to be sure your medications will not be confiscated.

Start with a medium, zippered bath-accessory bag, preferably clear plastic. Then list maladies that could occur while you're traveling outside the U.S.: diarrhea, red-eyes, dehydration, insect bites, blisters, seasickness, etc. Consult with a physician for remedies to health problems.

As recommended by physicians and travel writers, a generic health kit for adults should contain:

  • Supplies: Pack thermometer, small scissors, tweezers, sewing needles, moleskin foot-cushioning materials, Band-Aids, adhesive tape and dressings.

  • Antidiarrheals: Imodium A-D or Pepto Diarrhea Control containing loperamide works swiftly and safely. (Check with your physician first.)

  • Motion sickness: Choose medicine that doesn't leave you excessively drowsy, possibly Dramamine, Marezine or Bonine. If none is your stabilizer of choice, try those stretchy "sea bands" that affect pressure points on your wrists to prevent nausea. Scopolamine behindthe-ear patches are back on the market and worth investigating.

  • Sunscreens: Pack a broad-spectrum sunscreen and lipscreen with a Sun Protection Factor of 15 or higher.

  • Painkillers: Pack ibuprofen, aspirin or acetaminophen to counteract aches and pains that may accompany an active vacation.

  • Antihistamines/decongestants: Sniffles as well as allergic skin reactions can be treated with Chlor-Trimeton or Seldane. Contac, Comtrex and their generic cousins are effective in easing serious cold and flu symptoms.

  • Antibiotics: Talk to your physician about prescribing a broad-spectrum antibiotic to combat bacterial infections.

  • Antiseptics: Sprays and ointments such as Bactine, Bacitracin and triple-antibiotic creams will reduce infection and heal scrapes, bites and other minor injuries.

  • Insect repellents: Look for liquids, sprays, gels or wipes that contain a 25 percent to 35 percent solution of DEET. Certain products from Cutters and Off qualify. Applied to clothing and mosquito nets, Permanone Tick Repellent, with the natural insecticide permethrin, lasts for weeks and will kill all flying and biting insects on contact.

  • Skin salves: Neosporin ointment or hydrocortisone creams for skin itches, allergies, bug bites, and minor cuts and abrasions.

  • Laxatives: Constipation can be overcome by natural, homeopathic remedies such as bran tablets, or with Ex-Lax.

  • Soporifics: Mild sleeping pills could deliver a welcome boost on long plane rides and for the first couple of nights in a new time zone. Check with your doctor about the efficacy and safety of Restoril or Lunesta, reportedly fast-acting with little resultant hangover.

  • Eye/ear/nose drops: A soothing lubricant such as Moisture Eyes or Viva-Drops for tired, red eyes on airplanes and at the end of a day of sightseeing. Gentamicin antibiotic drops will cure eye and ear infections that commonly occur among travelers to the tropics. Spray a few drops of Ocean saline spray to moisten nasal membranes dried out from zero humidity on airplanes.

  • Dehydration: Take little packets of oral rehydration powder to counteract ills of dehydration from diarrhea or high temperatures. Or drink a solution of one-quarter teaspoon of plain table salt dissolved in pint of water to reduce risk of dehydration from oppressive heat.

  • Cough/sore throat: Fisherman's Friend lozenges offer speedy relief for a hacking cough and aching throat. Robitussin liquid is effective against such maladies.

  • Miscellaneous: Lip balm is essential to prevent dry lips while traveling. Aspercreme or Bengay ointments soothe minor muscle aches and pains. Tincture of 2 percent iodine (5 drops per quart of water) or commercial Halazone tablets may be used in emergencies to produce safe but yucky-tasting water. DenTemp, temporary filling mix, can provide comfort and relief when no dentist is available. Buy a miniature spray-pump bottle to fill with tap water for misting face and arms on long, dehydrating plane flights. Take moleskin to apply to toes for protection against blisters and "hot" spots. And always travel with a supply of adhesive bandages to cover scrapes and cuts.

    For basic, comprehensive product listings related to travel health, contact Travel Medicine Inc., (800) 872-8633 or www.travmed.com, and Magellan's, (800) 962-4943 or www.magellans.com.

    Irene Croft Jr. of Kailua, Kona, is a travel writer and 40-year veteran globetrotter. Her column is published in this section every other week.