March 27, 2011
The Modern Medical Kit for Family Travel
A small, customized medical kit can be a real lifesaver when traveling with children. Never leave home without one.
1. Technology is the new first aid. Cell phones enable you to consult with all your child’s health care providers – pediatricians, orthodontists and allergists, for example. (Surprise! they may come right to the phone when you call from out-of-town – even more likely if you’re calling from overseas.) Many medical issues can be resolved via telephone when experts know your family. Also, before leaving home, ask if they respond (promptly) to emails. Picture of rashes can help make diagnosis.
2. Carry a smartphone. Think Internet. Search first aid and go to cuts, bruises, insect bites, whatever. Locate nearby pharmacies, emergency rooms, or restaurants that have gluten-free menus. In non-English speaking countries, find doctors that speak English, look up the local names of medications, and learn how to ask simple questions in the local language.
3. Load your smartphone with your children’s medical information. Include their immunization records, allergies, recent weights (many medications are dosed by weight) and the telephone numbers of your health insurance carrier. Denied reimbursements for medical expenses incurred “out of area” are among the most common grievances against insurance companies. Some cover only emergencies out of area – and they, not you – define emergency and require preauthorization. They may exclude coverage for accidents incurred while participating in hazardous vacation-related activities, scuba diving, for example. Overseas, you may not be covered at all. Have you checked your policies recently?
4. Jot down emergency telephone numbers as you travel. Telephones numbers are often posted along highways, especially when you cross state lines, and at the entrances to rural parks and beaches, for example. Overseas, many non-English speaking countries have English speaking operators to help you. Check guide books or the web for numbers.
5. Anticipate your medication needs before you leave home. Pharmacies may be difficult to find or closed when you need them. Overseas, in many developing countries, more than a third of items bought in pharmacies are subpar: counterfeited, outdated, improperly stored or deliberately diluted, says the World Health Organization.
6. Buy or assemble a personalized first aid kit. Preassembled kits are available online and at camping supply stores, with specialized kits for children, camping, auto travel, etc. Or you can easily assemble your own. Kits should include items to treat minor accidents, everyday rashes, colds, upset stomachs, and such. See list below. Avoid elaborate kits that include many unfamiliar items. “Small” is your key word; small enough to easily carry when hiking.
7. Recall your children’s recent illnesses. Most illnesses that occur when traveling, even on exotic trips, are the everyday illnesses that your child would have at home: wheezing, ear aches, sore throats, and stomach aches, for example. Check if you used medications on previous trips. Ask your physicians for prescriptions, if necessary, and instructions on how to use them.
8. Carry items specific for your trip. Will you need sun screens and insect repellents or medications to prevent or treat malaria, altitude sickness or stomach upsets, for example? Go over your kit before each trip. See if items need replenishing and check expiration dates. Keep the kit at hand, not in checked baggage or in the car when you go hiking or to the beach.
9. Select durable substances. Are your items sensitive to heat or cold? Some substances deteriorate rapidly when left in cars in hot weather. Many liquid antibiotics are prepared as powder and retain potency for prolonged periods in that form. Once diluted (usually with plain water) potency may last only a week. Ask pharmacists not to dilute and to instruct you on how to do it (it’s simple). Note that liquid substances may be challenged at airport security screenings. Keep items in their original, labeled containers. Carry an explanatory letter from a physician if you have large amounts of medications, narcotics, and syringes and needles.
10. Know how to use your medications. Lists of adverse reactions to all medications are available on the Internet. Know what to do if your child vomits an essential medication, refuses to take it, or takes or is given an excessive amount. Again, check internet. Chocolate syrup and strawberry jam are good disguisers of bad tastes, and generally do not interfere with potency.
Medical kit contents
First aid items:
Small first aid book
Pediatric glycerin suppositories
Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
Saline nose drops
Antibacterial sanitizer hand wipes
Iodine skin cleanser
Sunscreens with SPF of 30
Large plastic bag (for keeping warm in an emergency)
Electric coil and adapter (to boil water and heat bottles)
Water purification drops
Electric outlet safety plugs
Permethrin-containing spray (for spraying clothing and mosquito netting)