National Services Scotland logo

Fit for Travel Logo

Information on how to stay safe and healthy abroad. About us.

 

Advice on First Aid

Accessing medical care during travel can prove challenging in some countries, it is therefore advisable to carry appropriate first aid kits.

A good first aid kit can help you self-manage basic health problems and help avoid buying potentially dangerous medications abroad.

Basic First Aid Kits

The contents of any first aid kit should be tailored to your individual itinerary, taking into consideration the type of travel you are undertaking, your destination, the duration and any existing medical conditions you have.

Basic First Aid:

  • first aid quick reference card
  • disposable latex-free exam gloves
  • adhesive plasters in assorted sizes
  • hydro-colloid blister plasters
  • gauze
  • adhesive first aid tape
  • elasticated bandage wrap for sprains and strains
  • steri-strips
  • cotton swab.
  • antiseptic and antibacterial (to prevent infection) such as iodine or alcohol based preparations
  • saline sachets to wash out wounds
  • aloe Vera gel for treatment of minor burns
  • topical corticosteroids for symptomatic relief of bites, stings and other skin irritations
  • thermometer
  • tweezers*
  • scissors*
  • if undertaking remote or high risk travel then consider taking sterile equipment such as: lancets, assorted syringes, needles, IV Cannula, dental needle*

*Note all sharp items should be carried in checked baggage to avoid being confiscated by airport or airline security if packed in carry-on bags.

Travelling with Medication

  • All medication should be kept in original packaging regardless of whether they are prescribed or over-the-counter purchases, this helps keep medications easily identifiable for officials at ports of entry.
  • If you have existing medical conditions ensure you have enough medication for the duration of your trip and additional supply in case your trip is unexpectedly extended. 
    • Consult the healthcare practitioner managing your existing medical condition before travel, they are usually best placed to advise about medication management.
    • Carry copies of all prescriptions, including generic drug names; this may help you to replace medications in the event they are lost or stolen.  

For detailed information on travelling with medicines please refer to the Travelling with Medicines advice page.

Medications

  • Adequate supply of regular medication (for duration of trip and additional in case trip unexpectedly extended).
  • If you have a history of severe allergic reaction carry Epinephrine auto-injectors; these should always be carried on one’s person in case immediate treatment is required. This products often have a short expiry date.
  • If required, antimalarial tablets. For detailed information please see the Malaria advice page.
  • Anti-histamines for symptomatic treatment of mild or moderate allergic reactions; consider both oral and topical preparations. Oral anti-histamines may also be used to treat motion-sickness.
  • Painkillers to treat pain and/or fever such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin (providing there is no medical reason for you to avoid these drugs).
  • Travel, unfamiliar diet and change in routine can upset the digestive system; a supply of mild laxatives for treating constipation and antacids for treating indigestion can prove useful.
  • Medication to manage travellers diarrhoea; oral rehydration salts for hydration, anti-diarrhoeal agents for symptom management of mild and moderate diarrhoea.
  • If required, medication to prevent or treat altitude illness. For detailed information please see the Altitude and Travel advice page.

Antibiotics

Unless travelling to a remote area where medical facilities are difficult to access antibiotics should not be part of a first aid kit.

  • Antibiotic resistance is widespread globally, and local knowledge of the correct antibiotic treatment to use is important.
  • Antibiotics use increases the chances of resistant bacteria establishing in your gut, which you may bring back to the UK and spread to others. It is important that antibiotics are only used when strictly required.

Medical Alert Jewellery

If you have a hidden medical condition, such as allergies or diabetes, consider wearing medical alert jewellery.

Water Purification:

Water can contain not only visible debris and harmful microorganisms, but also chemical pollutants. Water should only be drunk if its purity is known. This also applies to water used for making ice cubes and cleaning teeth. For detailed information please see:

Insect Bite Avoidance:

Insects can transmit dangerous disease causing parasites, viruses and bacteria between humans or from animals to humans. For detailed information about how to avoid insect bites please see:

Sun Protection:

Some sun exposure - below the level of sunburn - can be beneficial through helping your body create vitamin D and promoting feelings of general well being. However, excessive sun exposure is associated with:

  • sunburn
  • skin cancer
  • photosensitive rashes
  • aggravation of existing conditions such as rosacea and eczema
  • premature skin ageing

For detailed information about sunscreens please see:

back to top