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DIY travel first-aid kit

To deal with health emergencies while travelling, pack a first-aid kit with these essential items

Having a travel first-aid kit will help you take care of issues such as minor cuts and burns, aches and pains, stomach upset or allergies quickly while overseas.

We recommend these items, on top of the usual band-aids and painkillers when putting together a first-aid travel kit.

Aloe vera gel (100 per cent pure)

Aloe vera gel has antiseptic properties, and you can use it to soothe dry or itchy skin; moisturise chapped lips; treat acne breakouts; and heal cuts, scratches, bites, burns and bruises. You can even use it for irritated gums and mouth ulcers.

But make sure you're getting pure 100 per cent aloe vera gel so you can use it for all the above conditions. Don't confuse 100 per cent aloe with sunburn cream or gels with "aloe vera added". Those are meant only for sunburn and may not be safe for use on open wounds, or when swallowed.

Anti-diarrhoea medicines and charcoal pills

If you suspect you have food poisoning or gut inflammation, get yourself to the nearest clinic.

If it's just stomach upset because you ate too many spicy buffalo wings the night before, anti-diarrhoea medication (such as Lomotil) will be your saviour. It slows down your digestive system, which reduces the need to go to the toilet.

Don't confuse this with charcoal pills, which simply soak up stuff in your gut (reducing bad bacteria and/or toxins) but are good to have on hand as well.

Nasal/sinus spray

These primarily work by moisturising and soothing dry or irritated mucous membranes, stopping symptoms such as congestion and inflammation.

There are many formulations of nasal sprays available. Steroid-based formulas may be highly effective, but aren't suited for long-term use. They also may require a prescription.

Other sprays feature non-drug ingredients such as mineral or plant-based compounds, which can be just as effective.

Analgesic rubs or patches

So you've shopped till you've dropped on to your hotel room's bed. As you kick off your shoes, a throbbing pain starts in your lower back and spreads down your legs.

This is when you take out the Tiger Balm patches or Ammeltz rub and go to town on your sore, lower limbs. Apply and let the heat bring you relief.

Just be careful with the hot water when you shower, because such medicines make your skin extra sensitive.


Too much alcohol, overeating or irregular meal-times can upset sensitive stomachs, leaving you with problems such as acid reflux, gastric pain, gas and bloating.

For a quick fix, pop some antacids or stomach tonics to neutralise excess acid in the stomach and help settle the gut. Look out for single-use packages to save space and keep your first aid kit travel-friendly.

Hand sanitiser, or antiseptic cream

Keep a small bottle of hand sanitiser/antibacterial gel in your first-aid kit as a quick and easy way to sanitise your hands before tending to any injuries.

In a pinch, hand sanitiser can also be used to disinfect a wound - but the high alcohol content means it will hurt, so do this only for shallow or small wounds.

For deeper wounds, and to minimise scarring, pack an antiseptic cream or powder in your kit. Applying some when dressing the wound will help prevent infections, allowing scrapes or cuts to heal cleanly.

This article was first published in Shape (