For Fantasy Travel Week, we asked a medical professional, Dr. Jason Ough M.D., for the medicine kit essentials for traveling to more, um, turbulent parts of the world.
Okay, first off, this is not going to be a list of street drugs (sorry, hardcore Kitchen Confidential fans). This is intended to be more of a rough guide for building your own travel medicine cabinet. A few things go without saying — bring with you all current medications you're taking for any medical conditions you may have. Research your location thoroughly (the CDC and WHO websites are great places to start) and learn which vaccines are recommended. Then go see your doctor, tell them about your planned trip and make sure all your vaccines are up to date. Obtain whatever prescription antibiotics are recommended, especially for traveller's diarrhea if it's common in the region you're headed to (see #11).
The rest of this list can generally be assembled from your local Walgreen's. And if some of these meds are unfamiliar to you, please run them by your doctor. Disclaimer: nothing in this article is a substitute for real, face-to-face medical advice!
1. Ibuprofen Obvious pain-relieving properties. Late-night bingeing on cheap local moonshine? Your head will thank you. I'd personally recommend ibuprofen over acetaminophen in most cases, since there is always a concern of liver toxicity with too much Tylenol + alcohol. Any twisted ankles or other bumps or scrapes would benefit from a dose or two as well.
2. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) It's an antihistamine, a mild med that can soothe most allergic symptoms…and it also makes you sleepy. That's right. Take a couple of these before bedtime and you'll be out like a light. And no weird Ambien hangover, either. True story: my friend took an Ambien on a transoceanic flight, woke up, and realized that he left his bags at the airport. Not a good look.
3. Pseudoephedrine/phenylephrine (Sudafed) Both drugs are marketed under the Sudafed brand (phenylephrine has a PE affixed to the end). Both meds are great for clearing sinus passages. Also has the benefit of not causing drowsiness, like many other allergy-type medications.
4. Hydrocortisone cream Prevents itching, helps with bug bites. Always good to have with you.
5. Neosporin ointment Any topical antibiotic ointment is going to be a godsend when you get that inevitable cut or scrape and you're traveling in less than ideal surroundings. Helps with wound healing and keeps them nice and clean.
So that's the first-aid kit. Now, on to the good stuff. You know what I'm talking about.
6. Loperamide (Imodium) Anti-diarrheal. Slows that sh*t down when Montezuma's revenge is raging down in the bowels of your… bowels.
7. Magnesium hydroxide (Milk of Magnesia) Laxative and antacid. Speeds that sh*t up when you've been living off of street meats and haven't had a salad in a week.
8. Famotidine (Pepcid) or ranitidine (Zantac) Great at preventing heartburn. Take one before you go H.A.M. on that ghost chili curry. Helps prevent the ring of fire the next morning, if you know what I mean (and I know you do).
9. Tums/Rolaids Great for helping curb the heartburn when you forget to take a Pepcid before going H.A.M. on the ghost chili curry. How's that ring of fire feel?
10. Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) Used for preventing motion sickness. Way better than those silly bands that you wear on your wrist. Actually, take one of these while wearing those bands next time you're knocking around inside a rickshaw crossing streets in congested Hanoi, and you just might not vomit on your sandals.
11. Pepto-Bismol This is a good med to chug on a daily basis if you're in an area that may expose you to an increased risk of contracting that ever-feared nuisance, traveler's diarrhea (aka Montezuma's revenge, the Aztec two-step, the Pharaoh's revenge, mummy's tummy, Delhi belly, etc). It's not without its side effects and medication interactions, though, so double-check with your doc if you're planning to use increased dosing.
12. Oral rehydration salts When you get that inevitable bout of the trots, you're going to want to make sure you stay hydrated above all. Being dehydrated with the runs in a foreign land can only be a most miserable feeling. Use these little packets of salt and electrolytes and sugars mixed in with a nice, clean, pure bottle of water to keep your system tanked and keep yourself from having a headache, or worse — passing out.
Other helpful things to bring along with you: vitamins, Airborne, Purell or other hand sanitizers, probiotics. Happy trails!
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