While anything from aspirin to Valium can be purchased at pharmacies throughout Asia without a prescription, bringing a simple first-aid kit from home will help you avoid the hassle of finding what you need quickly.
Unless you intend to hack through the jungles of Sumatra, your first aid kit should be a lightweight, practical affair. Use this basic first aid packing list for some ideas when preparing for your trip to Asia.
First Aid Packing List Essentials
- Plasters (Band-Aids) of varying size come in handy, particularly to cover “hot spots” before they turn into blisters.
- Medical tape will help keep those bandages in place while you sweat.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is the best thing to carry in case a fever pops up.
- Ibuprofen (Advil) is useful for swelling from a twisted ankle, and general aches and pains after a long day of walking.
- Anti-diarrhea tablets (loperamide) are an unfortunately necessity in Asia. Just a general change in bacteria and diet usually lead to traveler's diarrhea. Keep a tablet close in case you are on a long bus or train and your bag is inaccessible.
- Alcohol wipes are good for disinfecting wounds and tweezers or other instruments.
- Sharp tweezers can be used to remove splinters, ticks, and other things that don't belong under your skin.
- Hand sanitizer should be used before working on any injury, and it comes in handy after encountering squat toilets.
- Gauze pads are sterile and can be used to clean and cover scrapes or injuries too large for a plaster.
Smart Extras to Include in Your First Aid Kit
- A digital thermometer can be used to monitor fevers and to determine if you should seek more serious medical help.
- Liquid bandage can be used to quickly seal small cuts and insect bites – important in humid places where the smallest cut can become infected easily.
- Antihistamine tablets (Benadryl) are useful for keeping allergies and rashes from exotic plants in check.
- Motion sickness pills (Dramamine) will come in handy on rough bus and boat rides. Keep one handy in case your bag is stowed.
- Multivitamins will supplement your diet and boost your immune system to fight the germs encountered on public transportation.
Building a First Aid Kit
Some people opt to start with a purchased first aid kit -- mostly for the nice case -- then add or remove items as necessary. Soft cases are best for packing. (check prices online)
Carrying Prescription Medicine
While getting held up in customs for bringing prescription medicine from home is very rare, better safe than sorry -- particularly if you are carrying a large amount of pills for a long trip. Carry your medicine in the original bottle and keep a copy of the prescription handy in case you are questioned.
Buying First Aid Supplies in Asia
Pharmacists in Asia are usually quite helpful, however, they may or may not know the Western brand names that have become synonymous with first aid specifics. European brands tend to be more common. Try asking for a “plaster” rather than a Band-Aid; substitute “Paracetamol” for Tylenol.
Using Budget Travel Insurance
In the event that your first aid kit just isn't enough to get you better and back on the road, you'll need travel insurance coverage for Asia. A suitable plan should be purchased at home before you leave for your trip; the peace of mind and baggage coverage is worth the additional trip cost!
- Learn about getting budget travel insurance for Asia