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Travel First Aid

Going travelling? We're here to help.

First aid tips

Burns

Minor, or first-degree, burns usually turn the skin red and can sometimes cause swelling and pain. In the event of a minor burn, take the following steps:

  • Cool the burn: Hold the burned area under lukewarm running water for 15 to 30 minutes. Cooling the burn reduces swelling by taking the heat away from the skin. Don't put ice on the burn, as this may cause frostbite, further damaging the skin.
  • Apply lotion: Once a burn is completely cooled, apply an aloe vera lotion, an antibiotic ointment, or a moisturizer to prevent dryness and make the injury feel more comfortable. However, do not coat the burn with butter or a thick ointment such as petroleum jelly, because this traps the heat in the skin.
  • Cover the burn: Wrap a sterile gauze bandage loosely around the burned area. Bandaging keeps air off the area, reduces pain, and protects blistered skin.

Minor burns usually heal in about one to two weeks. Watch for signs of infection such as increased pain, redness, fever, swelling or oozing. If infection develops, seek medical help immediately.


Cuts and scrapes

Most small cuts and scrapes don't require a trip to the emergency room, but it is important to care for them properly to avoid infection and other complications. The following guidelines can help you treat simple wounds:

  • Stop the bleeding: Use gentle pressure applied over a clean cloth or bandage.
  • Clean the wound: Rinse the wound with clear water; soap may irritate the injury.
  • Apply an antibiotic: After you clean the wound, apply a thin layer of antibiotic cream to help keep the surface moist and kill bacteria that could cause infection.
  • Cover the wound: Bandages help the wound stay clean, keeping harmful bacteria out.
  • Change the dressing: Change the bandage at least once daily to keep it clean and prevent infection.
  • Get medical treatment for deep wounds: A wound that cuts deeply through the skin may require stitches. If in doubt, see your doctor immediately.
  • Watch for signs of infection: Visit your doctor if the wound doesn't heal properly or if you notice any redness, warmth or swelling.
  • Get a tetanus shot: Doctors recommend getting one every ten years.

Poisoning

Keeping dangerous substances locked away is the best way to prevent poisoning. However, if you suspect someone has been poisoned, look for the following signs:

  • Burns or redness around the mouth and lips.
  • Breath that smells like chemicals such as gasoline or paint thinner.
  • Burns, stains and odours on or around the person.
  • Vomiting, difficulty breathing, sleepiness, confusion or other unexpected signs.

If you believe someone has been poisoned, follow these steps:

  • Call your local poison control centre and follow their instructions. Directions on the product label telling you what to do may be inaccurate or out of date.
  • If the victim is unconscious or has swallowed a substance that is acidic, caustic, or has a petroleum base (such as gasoline or household cleaners), get the victim to the hospital immediately. Do not induce vomiting.
  • If the victim has not passed out and if the substance is something that is normally swallowed (such as medicine), the poison control centre may tell you to induce vomiting.
  • Get medical attention immediately. If you have identified the poison, bring the container with you. If you don't know what the poison is but the person has vomited, bring a sample of the vomit with you for analysis.

Medication safety

Chances are your family has a cabinet full of medications - from over-the-counter products to prescription drugs. Lurking in the back corner of your medicine cabinet may be some expired medications, and perhaps some prescription drugs you no longer use.

An important step in the proper use of medications is to educate yourself about the specific drugs you and your family are taking. All of your medications need to be carefully organized to avoid dangerous mistakes.

Here are a few tips to help keep you and your family safe:

  • Follow directions: Read the labels carefully and follow the directions to the letter. Be sure to finish the full course of your medication. Stopping a medication too early can cause the illness to return or make it more difficult to treat.
  • Storage: Ask your doctor or pharmacist for directions on how to store your medications. Certain medications need to be refrigerated and others should be kept in a cool, dry place. Make sure that all medications are in child-proof containers and are stored well out of your children's reach.
  • Drug interactions: If you're taking more than one medication, ask your pharmacist to check for any possible drug interactions.
  • Side effects: If you develop what you think is a side effect, contact your doctor or pharmacist immediately. There may be another medication with fewer side effects that can be substituted.
  • Allergic reactions: Allergic reactions from medications may include difficulty breathing, skin rashes, itching, swelling, racing heartbeat, nausea, severe diarrhea and feeling faint. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you experience any of these symptoms after taking a new medicine. If the reaction involves difficulty breathing, call for emergency assistance immediately.
  • Expiry dates: Unused and expired medications can be dangerous. Do a yearly inventory of your medicine cabinet and dispose of outdated or unused medications.
  • Never share: The medications prescribed by your doctor were meant to treat your particular medical problem. Never share your medication with anyone else.

First aid kit

The contents of your travel first aid kit will depend on your destination, your activities, and your health and those of the people with whom you'll be travelling. Our pharmacists can help you customize your kit, but here are some general items and common medications:

General items:

  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen (minimum SPF 30)
  • Lip balm with sunscreen (minimum SPF 15)
  • Thermometer
  • Oral rehydration solution packets
  • Basic first aid items (adhesive bandages, gauze, elastic bandage, antiseptic, tweezers)
  • Antibacterial hand wipes, gel, or liquid
  • Moleskin for blisters
  • Extra pair of prescription glasses or contact lenses

Common medications:

  • Antihistamine, decongestant and cough suppressant, alone or in combination
  • Motion sickness medication
  • Medicine for pain and fever, such as acetaminophen, ASA or ibuprofen
  • Antidiarrheal medication, such as loperamide or bismuth subsalicylate
  • Mild laxative
  • Antacid
  • Antifungal ointment
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • 1% hydrocortisone cream

Want to reduce jet lag? Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water because dehydration can worsen jet lag symptoms.

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