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What Medications Should You Pack in Your Travel First Aid Kit?

1) Ondansetron (Zofran) for nausea

Food poisoning (or traveler’s diarrhea) is extremely common when traveling to foreign countries. Trust me, if you get food poisoning, you will want ondansetron pills or dissolvable tablets to fight off the nausea. You’ll need to get a prescription for these.

2) Oral antibiotics for infections

To fight off traveler’s diarrhea, a urinary tract infection or sinusitis that may surprise you on your trip, ask your doctor for a short course of an oral antibiotic like ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin (Levaquin) or azithromycin (Zithromax).

3) Imodium for diarrhea

Yes, antibiotics will fight the bug that causes your food poisoning, but diarrhea can be a pain while you’re still recovering. Imodium can help here. If you have more than three episodes of diarrhea in 24 hours, you’ll want to take Imodium, which you can get over the counter.

4) Pepcid, Zantac or Prilosec OTC for heartburn

For heartburn and sour stomachs that can happen with new foods, pick up Pepcid, Zantac or Prilosec OTC at the pharmacy—all are available over the counter. While any one of these three will help, the antacids (Pepcid and Zantac) will work faster than Prilosec OTC.

5) Ibuprofen or acetaminophen for fever and pain

Ibuprofen (Advil, Motril) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) are great for fevers and general aches and pains. Pick either up at the pharmacy for fever, headache, toothache or whatever else may ail you.

6) Ambien (zolpidem) for sleep

Ambien (zolpidem) is a prescription medication that can help you sleep on long plane flights, or regulate your sleep pattern when you arrive at a new place and have jet lag. You can also try melatonin supplements as an over-the-counter option, but it just doesn’t work as well.

7) Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or loratadine (Claritin) for allergies

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or loratadine (Claritin) is good for allergy symptoms, food allergies, inflamed bee stings and hives that may pop up out of nowhere. Buy these over the counter.

8) Hydrocortisone cream for itchy rashes and bites

An itchy rash, bite or bump will be less itchy if you use hydrocortisone cream on it. Hydrocortisone 1% cream (Cortaid) is available over the counter.

9) Bactroban (mupirocin) for infected cuts

Bactroban (mupirocin) is an antibiotic ointment you’ll want if you have an infected cut or sore, or you step on coral (yipes!). Unlike Neosporin, Bactroban is available by prescription only and treats the superbug, MRSA (methicillin resistant Staph Aureus). Bactroban also works better than Neosporin at fighting infections.

10) Dramamine for motion sickness

Bring Dramamine with you if you think you’ll be on a bumpy car or boat ride. Dramamine is available over the counter. If you are going on a cruise, you may also want to ask your doctor for a prescription for Transderm Scop (scopolamine); it’s a patch, which works brilliantly for motion sickness and won’t make you sleepy.

11) Diamox for altitude sickness

Taking a trip to the mountains? You’ll want to consider bringing Diamox (acetazolamide). This prescription-only medication works to relieve altitude sickness—dizziness, headache and shortness of breath when you travel above 7000 feet, especially if you ascend quickly.

12) Malaria pills to prevent malaria

Lastly, if you’re traveling to a tropical region, you’ll want to ask your doctor about malaria pills to prevent malaria, which is transmitted through mosquito bites. Malarone is the most common medication used to prevent malaria. Check the CDC website here for more information about avoiding malaria on your travels.

Of course, making a checklist of medications to pack isn’t as easy as traveling with them. If you’re traveling abroad, be sure to check with the embassy of your destination country to confirm that the medications you plan to bring are legally allowed in. And follow TSA rules: The TSA website recommends that you clearly label all of your medications, bring medical documentation like prescriptions, and declare all medications at checkpoint.

Hope this helps.

Dr O.

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