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TravelThe traveler mom: After 30 countries in 6 years traveling with children, here’s what’s in our first aid kit

Even though my husband is an emergency room doctor, we've still had hours of worry, pacing around hotel rooms and wishing we’d been more prepared.
Phairis SajanAugust 8, 20187 min
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traveling with childrenCarry vinegar packets in case of jellyfish sting. Photo courtesy of Unsplash

When traveling with your children, there’s nothing like having your own personal physician along for the ride. My husband Amin has joined me and our two daughters on every trip we’ve taken while living in Abu Dhabi – that’s 30 countries in six years. But even though he’s been an emergency room doctor (practicing at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City) we’ve still had hours of worry, pacing around hotel rooms as our children struggle through fevers and vomiting, wishing we’d been more prepared. And so after years of experience, here’s what is in our doctor-approved first aid travel kit.

Packets of vinegar

We learned this in the Seychelles, when our nine-year-old daughter encountered a jellyfish. White vinegar helps neutralize the sting. First rinse the sting with seawater and then apply the vinegar. If you don’t have access to vinegar, you can use lemon or lime juice. After a seven-year-old child died from a poisonous jellyfish sting off the Philippines’ Caramoan Island recently, marine biologist Gerry Reyes told a local news site that vinegar is essential ocean-related first aid because it contains acetic acid, which “neutralizes the venom.”

Acetaminophen and ibuprofen

Make sure you have a healthy supply of both. Also, it’s a good idea to know your child’s weight so you can calculate the correct dose. You can also give your child (or yourself) both ibuprofen and acetaminophen at the same time, as they are different classes of medicines, to break a fever.  The correct dose of acetaminophen for children is 15 mg/kg every four hours (maximum four doses per day). For ibuprofen it is 10 mg/kg every six hours.

Steroid and antibiotic cream 

This cream, applied sparingly once or twice daily, will help settle nasty bug and mosquito bites. Steroid cream does thin the skin if used for a longer period of time, so avoid the face and use it only for a day or two. We take Betamethasone and Fusidic Acid.

Adult antiobiotic 

Many seasoned travelers carry Ciprofloxin, an antibiotic for adults that is used for traveler’s diarrhea. It can be used only in extreme cases – after two days of symptoms – if a doctor visit is not an option.

Children’s antibiotic

Azithromycin is an antibiotic for children that has the same impact Ciprofloxin has on adults. This can be used – with the same caution and care as with adults – if your child has diarrhea and has abdominal pain, fever or blood in the diarrhea. Diarrhea without those associated symptoms does not usually require treatment.

Anti-fungal cream

This cream, such as, such as Ketoconazole, comes in handy for fungal infections especially in the folds of skin that can develop in hot sweaty climates, particularly dry, itchy skin between the toes, or in the armpits or groin area.

Antihistamine tablets

These are for allergic reactions to those foreign pollinators that are encountered on the road. Some antihistamines can be very sedating, which may be helpful at bedtime but you want to make sure to have an non-sedating option for daytime. Diphenhydramine is sedating and Lortradine is non-sedating.

Bandages and steri-strips

In April, our nine-year-old swam head-first into the edge of a pool in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The cut on her forehead was tiny and so we decided to use the steri-strips in our first aid kit to patch her up. Small wounds that are no longer bleeding and have edges that can be lined up well (not gaping) usually do not require sutures. There are YouTube videos showing you how to do this yourself.

Any other medicines you personally might anticipate needing

For some women, this might be Flucanazole for yeast infections. Women know when they need this medicine and going to a doctor, especially in a foreign country, is not always an option or it can be a time and money drain.

Phairis Sajan

Addicted to traveling with her husband and two daughters, Phairis has visited more than 20 countries while in the UAE, including stays in Myanmar, Laos and Romania. Phairis started the Extra Bag Community on Facebook to encourage people to research whatever donations are needed at their destination, whether it is clothing or school supplies, and then find a place to distribute them upon arrival.