Traveler's Essential Medicine Chest

The Honolulu sunburn that left me unable to sit down for the next day's bus tour convinced me to never leave home without my SPF-30 sunscreen.

Heel blisters that popped up while I walked around Washington, D.C., made me realize how very little luggage space bandages and gauze require (and how foolish it is to sightsee in sandals).

The greasy fare in Irish pubs brought home the value of antacids.

The best travel medicine supplies have been refined with time and experience, sometimes including a trip to the emergency room. But since most travelers would rather enjoy their trips than learn from them, we asked four experts to compile the ideal travel medicine kit for adults, and one for families with children. Our experts, specialists in travelers' health, were Dr. John Horton, Westlake Village; Dr. Vic Kovner, Studio City; Dr. Terri Rock, Santa Monica; and Dr. Alan Spira, Beverly Hills.

Most of the items listed are available at drugstores or sporting goods stores. If time is at a premium, another option is a pre-assembled or custom kit; these are offered by many travel medicine doctors and via mail order catalogs.


Antibiotic ointment (such as Polysporin, Neosporin) for cuts, burns

Anti-diarrheal (such as Imodium A-D)

Anti-fungal powder or cream (such as clotrimazole) for athlete's foot, other fungal infections

Antihistamine (such as diphenhydramine)

Anti-nausea aid (such as meclizine, dimenhydrinate)

Bandages, gauze, elastic wrap (ACE) bandage, water-resistant tape, safety pins, moleskin

Cold pack (chemical type to activate when needed; available at sporting goods stores)

Cough syrup

Decongestant (such as pseudoephedrine)

Dental emergency supplies (temporary filling material, oil of cloves)

Eye wash or eye drops

Fever reducer, pain reliever (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin)

Finger splints

Flashlight and batteries

Hydrocortisone cream for bites, rashes

Indigestion aids (Mylanta, Maalox)

Insect repellent (30% DEET, Permethrin for clothing)

Melatonin for jet lag

Moist towelettes

Nasal spray (Afrin, Dristan)


Snakebite kit

Soap, liquid, for cleansing

Sunscreen, lip balm

Stool softener, laxative or fiber pills


Tweezers to remove splinters or ticks

Vaginal yeast remedy

Water purification tablets


Oral rehydration solution (such as Pedialyte)

Bed nets (if destination is mosquito-infested)


Bee-sting kit if allergic (EpiPen, AnaKit)

Acetazolamide (Diamox) for altitude adjustment

Sleep aids

Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) or other multipurpose antibiotic

Also take along a list of prescription medicines needed on a regular basis, with the brand and generic names. The brand name is likely to be different overseas. Travelers on any kind of opiate medications should check with a travel medicine expert to see if there is any problem taking it into the country of their destination. Keep all medicines in their original containers.

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