I have been a medical professional for more than 10 years, so it’s a little embarrassing to admit I only recently realized I better get serious about taking a first aid kit with me on our family trips.
There was a time when I would pack up my (fully vaccinated) baby in a sling and say to myself, “Drivers license? Check. Phone? Check. Wallet? Check. Breasts to feed this baby with? Check!” and set off for the airport.
I figured I was traveling light, and anywhere I went probably sold baby Tylenol. But then I had a kid get really sick in a hotel room, and I had more kids, and well…traveling with your lovable little monsters will make you more aware than ever of risks you haven’t thought much about before. Risks I am not going to elaborate on here, because if you start thinking about all the bad things that can happen to your children, you may start bundling them in bubble wrap and never want to leave your house. Just trust me on this.
One reason I was always so blasé about first aid kits is that I have hated every one I’ve ever purchased. They never have the stuff I’m actually looking for in them. What am I going to do with five bandaids and four packets of Neosporin? If my boys all trip and skin their knees, I am going to need a hell of a lot more Band-Aids than that. And if something worse than that happens, I guess just pray.
So lucky for you AND me, I finally set out to create my World’s Best Traveling Medical Kit for my family. I wanted to be prepared for almost any eventuality, because while there is probably a pharmacy or hospital somewhere around, it may not be open at 11 p.m. Or the Wi-Fi could be down, your cell doesn’t have service, and the hotel wants to charge you $200 for a doctor to come to your hotel room.
I can’t believe it took me this long to learn to pack a good medical kit. But at least I finally did it! Good thing, too; on our last trip we never did have the life threatening laceration I was so prepared for, but we DID have our fair share of bug bites, and an unfortunate episode involving our toddler, a trip to the potty, and a dad who had just finished cutting jalapenos with his bare hands. Let’s just say I had to replace the Benadryl bottle in the kit when we got home.
This medical kit will cover you for everything from jock itch to the stomach flu to slivers to accidentally cutting a finger off. (Just kidding, you still have to go to the hospital for the finger. But you can handle a little split lip!)
My next step is to find or create the perfect bag for this stuff, but until then I have been using clear soft-sided toiletry cases (or you could use Ziplock bags). I put all the medications and liquids in one bag (inside Ziplocks), all the bandaging/wound stuff in a another, and all the “tools” in a third. I then put everything in a drawstring bag in my suitcase. Note that this is designed to be a pretty thorough medical kit, so it’s appropriate for checked baggage and for car travel — not for a carry-on bag. The TSA agents will not be kind about the liquids, or the scalpel!
*Note: I am not promoting any particular brand of the items below, but have used a lot of brand names for easy identification of the types of items I include.
- Band-Aids. LOTS. All sizes. (I don’t know about your toddler, but mine thinks he needs one every time he bumps anything.)
- Antibiotic ointment. Remember the first key with any wound is thorough cleansing with soap and water. Antibiotic ointment is secondary.
- Gauze pads and a gauze roll to wrap around them.
- First-aid tape
- Steri-strips or butterfly bandages for closing gaping wounds.
- Ace wrap
- Instant cold pack for injuries
- Tegaderm. These clear dressings cover a wound completely, making it waterproof — so you can still send the kid out in the ocean/beach without screams of pain. They make similar Band-Aids, which to me are worth the cost when on a warm weather vacation.
- Anti-fungal cream (e.g. 1% clotrimazole cream)
- Anti-itch cream (e.g. hydrocortisone cream)
- Children’s Benadryl (diphenhydramine) for allergic reactions
- Children’s Tylenol (acetaminophen) and/or
- Children’s Motrin (ibuprofen) for fevers/pain
- Children’s laxative for constipation
- Antidiarrheal medication e.g. Immodium
- Bottle of saline solution for rinsing eyes or wounds or sinuses
- Surgical blade or at minimum Swiss Army knife
- Alcohol swabs for sanitizing the above
- Ziplock bags
- A list of family medical conditions, medications and allergies, which is critical if you do have to take someone to the doctor.
I don’t include other “emergency” items in here that I would plan to have on my person anyway, such as clean water, or a strap/scarf that could be used in an emergency as a tourniquet, or a sling. Splints are useful, but not worth the space to me; in a pinch fingers and toes can be splinted to the adjacent finger/toe.
You will want to personalize your kit. Consider also packing:
- EpiPens if you have an allergic child.
- Extra doses of chronic medications just in case, in their original bottles for identification.
- Mylar blanket if you are traveling in cool climates, or just if you want to be extra prepared for emergencies.
Now you can breathe a sigh of relief, like I did when I finally (finally!) completed my medical kit. My wish for you is that you never need more than maybe a Band-Aid from this list. Happy travels!