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Now this can be a very broad topic to cover but I'm going to give you some of the basics that I take with me when I travel in addition to some recommendations.  This will depend on where you're traveling too (within the United States or internationally), remoteness of the area (5-star resort vs 20-mile hike from civilization) and accessibility of medical care. As with any medications, make sure you check with your doctor if you have existing medical problems to make sure it’s safe. Got to love disclaimers for the lawyers.

I'll break this post up into 2 sections.  What I bring for ADULTS and what I bring for KIDS.  It's important not to mess this list up, hence 2 separate posts.  The other important fact is to know the difference between generic medication names vs brand name.  The best example is Tylenol.  Tylenol is the brand name of acetaminophen (the generic name).   I'll use generic names first as in most cases the only difference between generic vs brand name is marketing


I’d recommend buying the smaller, travel versions of all of the medications listed below.  It will save you on space. 

Your Prescribed Medications:  This may sound like a silly addition, but forgetting your medications can be a huge problem and end up costing you a bundle. I recommend carrying any of your prescribed medications on your person.  Do not check it in your luggage.  You may also not want to take all of your medication, but make sure you have it in the prescription bottle.  I usually recommend bringing a few days’ worth of additional doses in the event that you get delayed.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol):  This is a no brainer.  Not only effective for fevers, it can help with pain control for most things (falls, sunburn, scratches, hangovers, sore throat and headaches).  It's cheap, effective and easy to pack with you.  The typical dosing is 650-1000 mg every 6-8 hours. If your outside of the USA, acetaminophen (or Tylenol as commonly known in the US) is called Panadol.  If you exceed the recommended level, it can kill you, so always follow the dosing directions as an adult.  Just some food for thought.

Ibuprofen (Motrin): Also, a no brainer.  It has a lot of the properties of acetaminophen (Tylenol) as listed above.  This one is cleared by your kidneys while acetaminophen (Tylenol) is cleared by the liver.  It's great alternative coverage between doses of acetaminophen (Tylenol) if you're in a bad way.  We often recommend alternating between acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin) every 4 hours.  For example...take acetaminophen at 8am, ibuprofen at 12pm, acetaminophen at 4pm…etc. It’s possible to overdose on Ibuprofen, but really, really hard to do so. 

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl): This is great stuff.  It’s great for allergic reactions of most kinds and can serve as a sleep aid if you are having difficulty sleeping.  It can help with the itch after a sunburn or seasonal allergies.  The standard dose for adults is 25-50mg.  Now, some people will have the opposite reaction to diphenhydramine (Benadryl) when they take it and become very awake.  If this is the case for you, I wouldn’t take it as a sleep aid. 

Hydrocortisone cream 1%:  I usually feel that it’s a good idea to have a topical steroid.  It can be used for most minor rashes.  It’s small, easy to carry and relatively inexpensive. 

Oral Rehydration Solution:  This is an inexpensive, glucose and electrolyte solution used for rehydration from diarrhea or vomiting.  It’s great stuff as it can be carried in powder form with water added to it.  If you’re traveling in a foreign country where the chances of travelers’ diarrhea are high, this can literally be a life saver.  I’d recommend ordering some online (relatively inexpensive) and if needed, mix it with bottled water.

Neosporin:  Or some other form of topical antibiotic cream to use over minor scrapes or cuts.  This can be useful to help prevent infection and to decrease the length of time to heal.

Nonmedical additions:  A small pack of Band-Aids and a pair of tweezers for removing splinters are the other two additions I would add to your kit. These can come in handy yet take up minimal space.

Other things to consider:  If you’re going somewhere warm, sunscreen is a simple one to forget.  The sun sticks are handy as they can serve as a lite weight alternative to liquid or cream.  If you’re going to a foreign country where water or sanitation is a consideration, a discussion with your primary care physician about prescribing a short course or nausea medication like ondansetron (Zofran) or an antibiotic like ciprofloxacin for traveler’s diarrhea is not a bad idea.


Next week we will tackle the kids travel pack…


Dr. Paul