Unexpected health problems can put a damper on a holiday, be it a cold, upset stomach or itchy mosquito bites. To be prepared for these eventualities, it’s wise to always travel with a first-aid kit.

The kit should basically contain everything you’ve got in your medical cabinet at home, including painkillers, a fever-reducing medicine and medications for conditions such as diarrhoea, nausea, sore throat, coughing and sniffles.

“If you’re travelling with children, be sure to take child-friendly equivalents with you too,” says Rainer Loeb, a physician with the Cologne-based Malteser Hilfsdienst in Germany.

Pharmacist Ursula Sellerberg also advises taking wound dressings, antiseptic ointment and plasters for minor injuries.

Sunscreen and a medication for insect bites are essential as well.

Tomas Jelinek, medical director of the Berlin Centre for Travel & Tropical Medicine, recommends a low-dosed cortisone cream, which brings quick relief from swelling and inflammation.

Needless to say, you shouldn’t forget to pack medications for any pre-existing medical conditions you have, such as high blood pressure, herpes or allergies. Depending on your needs, you might also do well to take a synthetic thyroid hormone or birth control pills with you.

If you plan to go hiking, you should pack blister plasters. For a diving holiday, Sellerberg recommends ear drops that prevent auditory canal infections, which are usually caused by bacteria commonly found in water.

Active holidaymakers gearing up for a mountain bike or climbing tour should take extra wound dressings such as sterile gauze pads with them, along with disposable gloves and scissors.

If you’re travelling far from home, you’ll need to put even more into your medical kit. “An antibiotic for various symptoms is often advisable for long-distance travel,” Jelinek says. Since medical care in many parts of the world is worse than you’re used to, you should pack all the first-aid items you can.

While you’re abroad, you should be mindful of a sobering fact from the World Health Organization: Roughly 10% of all the medicines in circulation worldwide are counterfeit, and they’re often outwardly indistinguishable from the originals.

“The names of medicines and active ingredients are sometimes different in other countries,” says Sellerberg, pointing out another potential pitfall.

Your general practitioner will know which medicines are important to you and when they should be taken if your destination is in a different time zone. You should consult your doctor especially if you have a chronic illness and/or take prescription medications.

Before departure, acquaint yourself with the regulations on carrying medicines, preferably by contacting the embassy of the country of destination and your airline. Some airlines require a doctor’s certificate or written prescription for certain items, particularly syringes, strong painkillers and narcotics.

“It’s best to carry them in the original packaging,” Loeb says. This helps to clear up questions and avoid misunderstandings during airport security checks. – dpa/Jule Zentek

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