Traveler's First Aid Kit

What should a traveler's first aid kit include?

The American College of Emergency Physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourage travelers to pack a first-aid kit or a travel health kit so that common medical emergencies can be properly handled should they occur. Pack the following items in your carry-on bag and keep it with you at all times:

  • Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and/or aspirin to relieve headaches, pain, fever, and simple sprains or strains

  • Antihistamines to relieve allergies 

  • Antacid medication 

  • Antinausea or motion sickness medication (You may also want to include medication for altitude sickness if traveling to high altitudes.)

  • Antibacterial hand wipes or an alcohol-based hand cleaner (should contain 60 percent alcohol or more) 

  • Bandages of assorted sizes to cover minor cuts and scrapes

  • Bandage closures, such as butterfly bandages, to tape edges of minor cuts together

  • Triangular bandage to wrap injuries and make an arm sling

  • Elastic wraps to wrap wrist, ankle, knee, and elbow injuries

  • Gauze in rolls, as well as two-inch and four-inch pads to dress larger cuts and scrapes

  • Adhesive tape to keep gauze in place

  • Scissors with rounded tips to cut tape, gauze, or clothes, if necessary (Note that this may not be allowed in your carry-on bag if traveling by air.) 

  • Safety pins to fasten splints and bandages

  • Antiseptic wipes to disinfect wounds or clean hands, tweezers, scissors, or other utensils

  • Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection in cuts, scrapes, and burns

  • Hydrogen peroxide to clean and disinfect wounds

  • Disposable, instant-activating cold packs to cool injuries and burns, as well as for use in strains and sprains

  • Tweezers to remove small splinters, foreign objects, bee stingers, and ticks from the skin (Note that this may not be allowed in your carry-on bag if traveling by air.) 

  • Disposable rubber gloves to protect hands and reduce risk of infection when treating wounds

  • Thermometer to take temperatures in case of illness

  • Calamine lotion to relieve itching and irritation from insect bites and poison ivy

  • Hydrocortisone cream to relieve irritation from rashes

  • Sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher

  • Aloe gel for sunburns

  • Insect repellent (Those appropriate for use on children should contain no more than 10 to 15 percent DEET, and 30 to 50 percent DEET or up to 15 percent of picaridin for adults, as the chemical can cause harm when absorbed through the skin.)

  • Over-the-counter medicine for diarrhea (Talk to your doctor about a prescription for an antibiotic you can take in case of diarrhea.)

  • Cough and cold medicines

  • Epinephrine auto-injector for individuals with severe allergies

  • List of prescription medications and generic names

  • Latex condoms

  • Water purification tablets

  • Extra pair of contact lenses or prescription glasses

Be sure to follow the same precautions with the medicines in your first aid kit as you do with all medications, and use only as recommended by your doctor. Make sure children cannot get into the first-aid bag; use child safety caps whenever possible. Also be aware of volume limits in carry-on bags. Some of these items may need to be packed in your checked luggage while flying. Check expiration dates and discard medication that is out-of-date. If someone has a life-threatening allergy, carry the appropriate medication with you at all times.