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Well on your way: tips for creating a travel health kit

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It's been an interesting day - cardiac arrests, seizures, a chainsaw injury and a chemical burn. There's nothing like a first-aid course to make one paranoid about how much danger is lurking out there.

But it also got me thinking about checking my travel health and first aid kit. It's amazing how things go missing between trips.

Admittedly, I end up in some remote places, so some of the items in my health kit are not necessary if you're heading to the Gold Coast for a few days. But even if you plan to be luxuriating in a classy hotel, illness can strike in the middle of the night and there's nothing worse than having to find a pharmacy at 3am in a strange city.

Being well prepared also avoids have to mime physical ailments in pharmacies where communication is a problem. A girlfriend and I had an interesting time, for example, in Pakistan trying to explain to three young male assistants that we needed something for a urinary infection. We did not want to mime. The moral of this story is that you should carry a tube of suitable tablets with you (a one-hit treatment for thrush is also useful for women travellers).

One of my absolute essentials is oral rehydrating salts. These are crucial for making a quick recovery from travellers' diarrhoea.

If you are seriously off the beaten track, carry an antibiotic that will target persistent diarrhoea. Your doctor will recommend the best one for you. And while you're there, see if she or he will let you have a broad-spectrum antibiotic that you can use for other infections.

I have a snaplock plastic bag just dedicated to ointments for insect bites (handy the time I knelt on some ants while taking a sunset photo in Fiji - ultimately worse for the ants than for me but painful at the time), an antibacterial ointment and if you're really thorough, an antifungal.

An antihistamine is useful too (and can sometimes double as something to make you drowsy on airplanes), and while we're on the antis, carry an antiseptic like Betadine liquid (that came into its own the day I was bitten by a monkey in India).

And for us females who always seem to need more stuff than men: double-check your personal hygiene products. Otherwise you might end up, like me, in a covered bazaar in Uzbekistan with a local friend having to ask a stallholder if he stocked tampons.

He didn't, but he helpfully shouted out to his colleague further down the row. He was also unable to supply them so he called out to the lady on the other side of the bazaar. Eureka, she could help.

But she had a question that she bellowed to my interpreter: "How many does she want?"

- Jill Worrall

Click here for Jill's Escapism blog

- NZ Herald

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