Make sure you pack these holiday medical essentials

Posted on December 13th, 2017

The holidays are here, and many people are preparing to go away for the festive season. Whether you’re going overseas or just going camping locally, make sure you are medically prepared for your trip.

Remember to pack these holiday medical essentials

Accidents and illnesses happen, and they are particularly difficult to manage when you are in a foreign country or remote location. Don’t leave the house without these holiday medical essentials.

The Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA) recommends packing these 10 holiday medical essentials:

Travel sickness or anti-nausea medication

There’s nothing worse than starting your holiday feeling nauseous. This medication is available in tablet and syrup form.

Antiseptic, dressings and plasters

For minor cuts and grazes. Take along a bottle of antiseptic spray or wipes. These are easy to use and very handy when you are on the go. Any medical kit must always contain a selection of plasters, sterile gauze dressings, bandages, medical tape and of course surgical gloves. Antiseptic cream or ointment are also a valuable addition to any medical kit. Your pharmacist will be able to guide you when selecting these items.

Burn kits and dressings

Make sure you have a burn gel dressing in your kit. These are sterile and very effective at soothing a minor burn or scald. Never put butter on a wound and try not to burst any blisters that form. If the burn is over a large area or if it is a deep burn, seek urgent medical attention.

 ALSO SEE: 5 first aid tips for heat burns

Scissors, safety pins and tweezers

Scissors and safety pins are useful for cutting and securing bandages and tweezers for removing splinters. (Remember to pack scissors, safety pins and tweezers in your main luggage as you will not be able to take them into the aircraft cabin if you are flying anywhere.)

Sunscreen products

Choose one with a sun protection factor of at least 20. Include an after-sun lotion to soothe sunburn.

ALSO SEE: Our top 6 sunscreens for babies and kids

Rehydration sachets and anti-diarrhoea tablets

Dehydration can happen quickly and with debilitating effects – especially in young children. Over the counter anti-diarrhoeal medicines can relieve symptoms of diarrhoea and upset stomachs quickly. However, we recommend that these are only used for adults. Children with diarrhoea should be managed using rehydration fluids.

ALSO SEE: Signs and symptoms of dehydration

Paracetamol/pain medication

Available as tablets, chew tablets, effervescent tablets, capsules and syrup, paracetamol is the standard recommended in cases of pain and fever. Individuals with liver problems, paracetamol allergies or on long-term medication should check with their pharmacist whether paracetamol is safe for them.

Insect repellent

Avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellents, particularly during the evenings and at night when they are most likely to bite. As an adjunct to malaria prophylaxis in malaria areas, insect repellents containing DET are recommended.

ALSO SEE: Anti-mozzie safe solutions for baby


Over the counter antihistamines, which are available as tablets and syrups, are used to treat hay fever and can help reduce itchiness and inflammation caused by contact allergies and insect bites.

Prescription and chronic medication

If you take any regular prescription medication, such as high blood pressure tablets or inhalers for asthma, make sure that you take enough with you on holiday.

“It is also important to take along a copy of your prescription. You may require this at customs when traveling across boarders or for repeat medication should you run out while on holiday, or if your luggage containing your medicines is lost,” advises Jackie Maimin, the CEO of ICPA. “A good idea is to take a photograph of your prescription and your medication so that should it get lost you can show the pharmacist what you require. Telling a pharmacist that you are on a white pill for your heart is not helpful when trying to identify a medicine.”

5 key medical considerations for travellers

 Illegal medications

If you are traveling abroad, check the rules before trying to take medication into that country. “For example, codeine is classed as an illegal drug in Greece, and individuals possessing it could be arrested, even if they were legitimately prescribed it in another country. Any medicines deemed to contain narcotics could have severe penalties in certain countries such as Indonesia if not declared at customs and the traveller must have a covering letter or prescription from their doctor,” says Jackie. 


Before traveling, always check with your pharmacist whether any vaccinations are recommended for your destination.

 ALSO SEE: Are your child’s vaccinations up to date?

Travel Insurance

Make sure you have travel insurance if traveling abroad or to far-flung places, which will ensure you get the best treatment if you become ill or have an accident which requires treatment at a hospital or medical centre.

Emergency Numbers

Do some research about your destination and compile a list of emergency medical numbers such as local doctors, hospitals, poison help line numbers, ambulance services, or a paediatrician.

Local pharmacy

Pharmacists are always on hand to help. In nearly every South African town you visit, you will find a local pharmacy with a pharmacist who is able to advise and assist you should you find yourself in need of medical advice, repeat prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications.

Xanet Scheepers

About Xanet Scheepers

Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.