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When you arrive into a new place / city country / etc. it can be difficult to find some essential goods. Everything is new. First aid material and medicines are sometimes forgotten when planning a trip but it's a specially critical aspect if you are in a situation where you need them. Finding a pharmacy or something similar when ill or hurt is not a "must have" experience abroad.

What first aid material and medicines are absolutely essential when travelling?

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This would vary from place to place, and person to person. Some hypochondriacs would want to take everything, others wing it. And it'll differ in different countries if you want to be prepared - cream for sunburn, frostbite, snake venom etc. However, most outdoor shops sell a basic med kit, and I'd say that would generally keep you covered for most things. –  Mark Mayo Feb 26 '13 at 20:20
    
If you are male and don't usually worry about this stuff but you are travelling with a female, I've found that she is likely to be carrying a bunch of first aid and medicines that you didn't think of (-; –  hippietrail Feb 27 '13 at 5:35
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3 Answers 3

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Let me suggest a rule I learned from packing for camping that I think applies just as well to packing for business or leisure travel. It seems a little counter intuitive at first. Don't bring things you need for emergencies. Bring what you need for trivial little annoyances.

From a camping point of view, this means treatments for sunburn, bug bites, blisters, and "tummy troubles." I don't bring slings or splints or giant pads of gauze. If we need those [and we never have], we can use shirts and sticks and towels. People who are grumpy, in pain, or distracted by trivial stuff make bad decisions, trip and fall, and generally are at risk of needing emergency treatment. By treating the petty stuff we all stay healthy, and we enjoy the wilderness trip we've worked so hard for.

Similarly, when I travel within civilization I bring common-or-garden painkillers (what you would take for a headache sitting at your desk, no prescription needed and no regulation by other countries), bandaids (for blisters or small cuts), sunburn cream if I'm going somewhere sunny, antacids, and other "minor" and "trivial" stuff. If you are injured or fall really ill, you're going to get medical treatment in that country. Unless you're climbing Everest, they'll have what they need to deal with your appendicitis or whatnot. What you need to bring is the familiar and comfortable treatments (that you already know how to use) for the kind of petty stuff that might keep you from enjoying your trip. I enjoyed the adventure of working out how to buy hair conditioner in Berlin, but it would have been much less fun to work out how to buy something in a foreign language when I was suffering from whatever symptoms needed to be treated by it!

By treating the petty stuff I can relax and enjoy the wonderful place I've come to, without being dragged down by a small pain or itch or not wanting to walk far or to go in the sun. That's the real purpose of bringing the medications.

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I think this depends too much on what country or region you are in. Hot climates require different care to cold climates; humid and dry climates similarly require different contents. In some countries I carry anti-histamines.

The only things I consistently pack are painkillers and plasters, and even painkillers are left out when flying to certain countries as different standards can make them illegal.

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On an administrative viewpoint, European people travelling in Europe can receive medical treatment free of charge or with reduced cost with an european health insurance card (or on Wikipedia).

It replaces E110, E111, E119 and E128 european medical forms.

A smartphone application is also available with general information such as emergency phone numbers for the 31 covered countries.

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Note that the European Health Insurance Card is not available for all Europeans. For example, if you are privately insured in Germany, then you don't get it. Private insurance companies offer insurance that you can use when traveling. I assume, normally you pay in cash, then hand in your receipt to the insurance company, just like you would in Germany. –  feklee Feb 26 '13 at 12:41
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protected by Mark Mayo Feb 26 '13 at 20:20

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