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3 First Aid Items to Never Travel Without

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3 First Aid Items to Never Travel Without

Dec 09, 2022

The holidays are here and you’re getting ready to hit the road for a well-deserved vacation—the one thing you should always remember to take with you is a first aid kit. Emergency room physician Troy Madsen, MD, says the majority of the items most people would include in their kits, he leaves out. Dr. Madsen goes through his top three first aid travel kit items and tells you why it’s important to never travel without them so that you won’t have to spend countless hours in the ER.

Episode Transcript

Today we are talking about first aid kits. You may think of a first aid kit, you go online you buy something and it has all kinds of different things ranging from band-aids to Benadryl, to different creams and all these sorts of things. Tell you what, when I travel I don't carry any of those things. I figure a lot of things I can just buy in a pharmacy. If I need cold medicine I can go buy it. If I need Tylenol or Benadryl I can go buy it.

There are three things that I found as an emergency physician are potentially essential to keep you out of the ER. There are some reports out there, and I've talked to some people, who talk about ten hour waits in the waiting room. That is the absolute last thing you want to do over the holidays. So there are three things I carry. I'm going to tell you what those are. These may be a little surprising for you.

Item #1 to Include in Your Travel First Aid Kit: Antibiotic

The first I carry is ciprofloxacin. This is an antibiotic. You're going to need a prescription for it. You're going to need to talk to your doctor. But I will tell you why this can keep you out of the ER. If you have family members, and it's particularly females who may be more prone to urinary tract infections. That's just a horrible thing for a person to go through. You feel miserable and you need treatment.

I find when someone comes to the ER, particularly females, and they tell me, hey I feel like I have a urinary tract infection, they are right 89% of the time. The only reason they are in the E.R. is because they know they need an antibiotic. If you can just get a prescription and have a few pills of ciprofloxacin, just a simple antibiotic or if there is another antibiotic that has worked for you in the past. As long as you have a few of those pills available you can save your self an incredible amount of headache and a trip to the ER.

Item #2 to Include in Your Travel First Aid Kit: Anti-nausea Medication

The second thing I carry is an anti-nausea medication called Ondansetron. The generic name is Zofran. It's a generic medication now. It's very cheap. Again, you have to have a prescription for it. The absolute last thing you want to do, let's say you are traveling, you are in a hotel, you're feeling miserable you're vomiting, just imagine trying to get everything together, get a cab, get down to an ER, sit in a waiting room for six hours just to get back in a room, get and IV in, get some fluids and then get that same medication in an IV. That is what you're going to get. If you can just have a tablet or two of Ondansetron, again the brand name is Zofran. It is a generic. It's very cheap. If you can just have that in your travel kit, you can save yourself and incredible amount of headache. A lot of studies out there have shone that if you can just keep the pill down and drink some fluids you don't need an IV.

Item #3 to Include in Your Travel First Aid Kit: Superglue

The last thing I carry is going to sound a little bit strange but this will save you a whole lot of trouble and that is superglue. I actually take the medical form of superglue that we use for lacerations is almost the same thing as over the counter superglue. The medical form of superglue has a little bit of a chemical mixture that makes it so it burns less and irritates the skin a little less. You can even buy that online. You can find it under the brand name Derma Bond. The reason I carry this is because the third reason you don't want to have to go to the ER is for a laceration. Say you have a glass in your hand or something. It falls and breaks. You go to pick it up and a piece of glass cuts your hand. It's a simple thing that otherwise you would just put a band aid on.

You're thinking okay my tendons are all working fine. This isn't a dirty wound. I don't have a lot of stuff in there where I am concerned about tetanus or anything like that. You try to put a band-aid on or bring it together and it's just not going to work. You also want to make sure it's not a cosmetic concern. There is nothing on your face or anything like that. You are just thinking I need something to hold this wound together. Superglue will do the trick. The way you put it on is just hold the wound together, put a little bit across it, that's going to hold it in place. Then you can add a little bit more to hold that wound together. You don't want to get a lot of it in the wound. The biggest risk here is a little bit of skin irritation. It may burn a little bit. It's going to do the trick. It's going to fall off after about a week. The wound is going to heal up under that and should do just fine.

Anyway, these are my tips. I'll be honest here I am going a little bit rogue. You are not going to hear every doctor talk about these sorts of things. From my experience as an emergency physician I find pretty much everything else I can go out and by at a pharmacy if I need it. These are the things that are going to keep me out of the ER. Help me to avoid that ten hour wait or whatever I might be facing wherever I am and make life a little bit easier while I am traveling.

updated: December 9, 2022
originally published: December 23, 2013