Travel with a first-aid kit

Travel with a first-aid kit


  • Paracetamol

You can use this for pain or mild fever below 38.5 deg C.

  • Ibuprofen

Use this for a high fever of 38.5 deg C or more.

  • Piriton or Cetirizine

Use these for flu or allergic symptoms, such as sneezing, itching, watery eyes or a runny nose. These, or any kind of antihisthamine, can also be used to treat motion sickness.

  • Antacid

They work by neutralising excess stomach acid and are used to relieve heartburn or gastric discomfort.

  • Buscopan

These tablets are used to treat abdominal cramps, but are not recommended for children below six.

However, buscopan syrup can be given to young children, though parents should seek medical advice first.

Buscopan tablets are also not recommended for irritable bowel syndrome symptoms in children under 12.

  • Metoclopramide

This treats nausea and vomiting. It works directly on your gut, helping to move food in your stomach through your digestive system more quickly to ease the feeling of sickness.

  • Loperamide

This is for diarrhoea, a common occurrence in travellers, especially among children and the elderly.

  • Oral rehydration salts

This is good for rehydration and is used to prevent dehydration from diarrhoea. It contains glucose and essential minerals.

  • Ultracarbon

These tablets are used to treat stomach gas or wind.

  • Motion sickness medication

Two frequently used medicines are dimenhydrinate and cinnarizine.

Dimenhydrinate is available in the form of tablets or syrup (recommended for children two years and above), while cinnarizine is available only in tablet form.

Drowsiness is a common side effect.

For those who prefer a non-drowsy medicine, ginger tablets are a good option.

  • First-aid items

These include wound dressing for minor cuts and abrasions, plaster strips, an antiseptic solution and sterile cotton balls.

It is good to pack a first-aid kit as part of your holiday travel kit in case of injuries or accidents.

Such a kit should include two pairs of sterile gloves, an antiseptic cleansing agent such as saline, sterile wound dressings and gauze, bandages, aloe vera gel for sunburns or burns, an eye-wash solution, a pair of scissors and a thermometer.

Sources: Dr Raymond Choy, a general practitioner at Raffles Medical Changi Airport Terminal 3 Medical Centre; and Ms Mandy Wong, a pharmacist at Watsons Singapore.

It is the holiday season and if you are planning on going abroad, do not forget to pack a medical kit.

It will come in handy when an unexpected illness or accident happens.

"Travelling with children, including babies and toddlers, can be difficult especially when they are unwell," said Dr Raymond Choy, a general practitioner at Raffles Medical Changi Airport Terminal 3 Medical Centre.

It is best to be prepared and make sure your children receive their vaccinations at least four weeks before the departure date, he said.

Apart from medication for minor ailments like runny and blocked noses, coughs, sore throats and headaches, a holiday travel kit should contain tablets for food poisoning, a common concern among travellers, say experts.

Also, do not forget to pack any prescribed medications for chronic illnesses, such as asthma, diabetes and epileptic seizures.

They include inhalers and nebulisers for asthma, insulin for diabetes, anti-epileptic drugs and an epinephrine auto-injector like EpiPen for allergies, said Dr Choy.

"Prescription medication can be difficult to obtain in another country due to the prescription policy there."

Having to go to a local clinic to get the medication could be challenging, as there may not be medical services nearby, he added. Women also tend to forget to bring contraceptive pills, he said.

Before you travel, it is wise to visit the pharmacist to obtain medicines, such as loperamide, hyosine n-butylbromide and oral rehydration salts, which can come in handy for someone who has diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach cramps, said Ms Mandy Wong, a pharmacist at Watsons Singapore.

"Probiotics are highly recommended to protect the stomach from harmful bacteria. They also relieve stomach discomfort for someone who has constipation and bloating."

Taking probiotics may help to shorten the bout of diarrhoea, especially in children, as they help to rebalance the amount of good and bad bacteria in the intestines, she said.

Meanwhile, antacids neutralise excess acid in our stomach which could cause gastric pain, while activated carbon absorbs toxins from our intestines when we have acute diarrhoea.

Take probiotics and charcoal pills two hours apart, as the latter can prevent the absorption of probiotics, she advised.

Other helpful items to take along include a nasal gel spray, which coats the nostrils with moisture.

You can use this if breathing dry air in the plane cabin causes pain in your nostrils, or when you suffer from a nosebleed, suggested Ms Wong.

"Alternatively, wearing a paper face mask may provide some relief by trapping moisture in a person's breath. "Such masks can also protect travellers from air or droplet-borne infections."


Holiday medical kits can be customised to individual needs; or you can get a general-purpose one.

Some places, such as Raffles Medical, sell travel medical kits. The one at Raffles Medical costs $28 and is available to walk-in customers.

However, Dr Choy advises one to consult a doctor or pharmacist on the use of travel medication.

"Some of these medications are not suitable for children below a certain age, so parents are advised to consult their general practitioner or paediatrician first," he said.

Generally, paracetamol, ibuprofen, buscopan, piriton, ceterizine and oral hydration salts are safe for children, though one should consult a doctor for indications and dosages.

This article was first published on Dec 4, 2014.
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