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Advice on first aid

You should seek medical advice for anything more than simple complaints that you are confident in treating.


Health insurance certificate is usually essential and check repatriation is included.

Personal medications

Remember to take adequate supplies of any personal medications. These may not be easily obtained at your destination. They may also be known locally by different names. You must carry documentation to show that any medications are for personal use only. These includes sterile equipment for the prevention of blood bourne infections and in some circumstances (e.g. when oxygen is being carried) this should be backed up by a doctor's letter or certificate.

First Aid Kit

(A check list of items you should consider including)
Emergency medications: these may include paracetamol tablets for headache and antacids for indigestion.
Diarrhoea: fluid replacement powders can be useful especially for children. Anti-diarrhoea tablets can be obtained from your chemist and are normally used only by older children and adults (carefully read the instructions).
Minor injuries: gauze squares, non-adherent dressings, bandages, fabric plasters, adhesive tape, scissors, tweezers and safety pins.
Bites: insects repellents and an antihistamine cream may be helpful.
Sterilising water: tablets for emergencies (especially if filters are not being used)
Sun exposure: sun-block and a cream for using after sunbathing (you should not allow yourself to become burnt!).
Infections: selected antibiotics may be needed by those venturing away from good medical facilities. This needs a careful discussion with your doctor on how and when to use them.
Malaria: you may need to take preventive (prophylactic) tablets and emergency treatment for malaria if going to remote areas.
Sterile pack: consider taking a sterile pack containing, for example some sterile needles for prevention of blood-borne infections if going to areas where health care facilities may be poor. Remember this must be professionally prepared and properly labeled so as to avoid any problems with customs.
A good first aid book can be helpful.

Emergency Medication

These guidelines are not intended to be applicable to all travellers who must always consult their own doctor for specific advice, especially if on regular medications for existing illness. Professional advice should be sought whenever possible but sometimes this can be difficult due to language differences or remoteness. Most of the medications described below are only available on prescription but your doctor may be prepared to give you courses to take away for use in emergencies which may be charged for through a private prescription. You should make sure you understand clearly, through discussion with your doctor, when to use each medicine, the correct dose and what side effects might occur. Make sure all your personal medications are stored in a waterproof container and kept cool if possible.


Sudden onset, but not severe, diarrhoea Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of clear fluids (e.g. water, juice, coconut milk or proprietary rehydrating fluids such as 'dioralyte'). Imodium may help if diarrhoea continues or if you have colic - taking too much may make you feel sick and then constipated after the diarrhoea has settled. Sudden onset, more severe, diarrhoea and/or feeling unwell with fever or persistent vomiting Avoid dehydration by drinking clear fluids as above. Use Imodium sparingly as above. If you have fever, profuse diarrhoea, or blood in the motion take a short course of 'ciprofloxacin' can shorten the illness. Other antibiotics including 'augmentin' and 'doxycycline' may also be helpful. Persistent vomiting which prevents you from drinking plenty of fluids can be serious and you must then seek medical attention quickly since intra-venous fluids may be necessary Persistent diarrhoea (may be due to giardiasis or amoebic infection) Diarrhoea sometimes grumbles on, often with nausea, anorexia, a lot of wind and frothy smelly motions. Medical attention should be actively sought but if delayed you could try 'metronidazole' (Flagyl).


There are many causes of fever but malaria is a major cause and requires prompt treatment. Malaria occurs occasionally even if you are taking anti-malarial tablets correctly. You may get shivering followed by sweating. Between fevers you may not feel too bad. If in doubt consider fever to be due to malaria until proved otherwise if you have been in a malarious area. You must try to get a doctor's help but if this is delayed you can take emergency therapy (e.g. 'Malarone' or 'Co-artemether').

Skin problems

Itchy bites An antihistamine cream may help. Antihistamines themselves sometimes cause a rash. 'Promethazine' is an oral antihistamine that is also a mild sedative that may help if lots of bites stop you sleeping.

Infected bites and skin sores

You can try 'Fucidin' or another antibiotic ointment (or simple iodine) on the sores but you should take an oral antibiotic if the skin surrounding becomes hot, red and painful.

Other conditions

A bad sore throat, urinary tract infections or a cough with green spit - many antibiotics may help these conditions including 'Augmentin', 'doxycycline' and 'ciprofloxacin' that you may be carrying for other purposes. Urinary tract infections may require a more selective antibiotic such as 'trimethoprim' and you may wish to discuss this with your doctor if you are prone to this problem.
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