Despite that fact that in a single year I had a horrible jelly fish sting, had leeches, had an allergic reaction to a repellant, and was attacked by a monkey — I don’t travel with a huge medical kit. In fact, it can usually fit in a sandwich baggie. Frankly, it is impossible to plan for every situation and you can’t really pack for the most extreme and dire situations. I pack for the most common and plan to procure what I don’t have locally or accept that emergencies might happen and I need to have a plan that doesn’t include me walking around with a pharmacy.
While most might not consider it a medical item, having a way to drink safe water is the most preventative action you can take for your health. My reusable water bottle and Steripen top my list! I am a huge fan of Nalgene water bottles for several reason but the most importantly: they don’t break, they can attach to a bag with a carabineer and they won’t melt so they can be “cleaned” with boiling water if you don’t have access to clean water or soap.
Band aids for small cuts and medical tape for blisters. Some people also carry mole skin and prefer band aids for blisters but I am a huge believer in medical tape. It is more versatile, doesn’t come off as easy and is easy to pack. If hiking, I replace the medical tape with duct tape as it is also useful for blisters but then can be used for dozens of other emergencies!
Neosporin or other anti-bacterial cream for blisters, cuts and infections.
Imodium for any stomach trouble. I am told by doctors that the over the counter is the same as a prescription.
Nail clipper and nail file. While these seem cosmetic, they are multi-use and invaluable to keeping toe nails trim and smooth which prevents blisters. And while not life threatening, a hang nail or ingrown nail can put a damper on an otherwise perfect day.
Aspirin / Ibuprofen for obvious reasons
Child’s aspirin to prevent blood clots (of course consult your doctor to see if this is right for you)
Allergy Medicine. I don’t suffer from allergies regularly but I always carry a few Benadryl or Claritin with me. These are useful in case you come in contact with a previous unknown allergy or run into unforeseen circumstances.
Sun screen and bug spray
Antibiotic – just in case but be cautious about using them for anything that is not super serious (talk to your doctor). I always pack a few, but have never had to use them (knock on wood).
A few other thoughts:
Make sure to know your destinations rules about original containers.
I also always travel with a multi-vitamin and recently have added a probiotic.
Make sure to get all needed vaccinations before travel.
Make sure your travel insurance and / or health insurance will cover you in case of an emergency. Most countries won’t accept insurance up front as payment, so make sure you have a way to get enough cash or have a credit card with a high enough limit for an emergency situation.
Have the address of the Embassy in your phone.