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First Aid and Medical Kit for Travel to Africa

First Aid Packing List

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It's important to pack a comprehensive medical and first aid kit when you travel to Africa. Hospitals and doctors are few and far between, especially in rural areas, and their medical supplies are thin on the ground. The doctors are well-trained and very familiar with local diseases and ailments however, so you should trust their prescriptions and take their advice. They will probably recognize the symptoms of malaria or dengue fever a lot quicker than your family doctor at home.

The list below is based on information from the Lonely Planet Guide Book and geared to the independent traveler. If you are spending a week in Morocco or Egypt on a tour, you probably won't need such extensive medical artillery.

See the end of the article for information and tips on travelers medical insurance.

Note: Don't forget to check up on vaccinations you may need before you travel to Africa.

First Aid and Medical Kit Packing List

  • Prescription Antibiotics: If you get an infection you may want to treat yourself since the closest hospital could be far away. Your doctor at home should be able to prescribe the right antibiotic that will treat a wide range of ailments, ciprofloxacin is one.

  • Anti-diarrheal Medication: Travelers diarrhea is very commonplace and you can usually leave it to nature to sort itself out. But if you're about to embark on a long car, bus or train ride, it's handy to have some medicine available.

  • Painkillers and anti-inflammatories: Advil, aspirin, and Tylenol.

  • Antihistamines: for allergic reactions. Benadryl works well and if you have severe allergies (to peanuts or bee-stings for example) you should always take at least 2 epi-pens with you.

  • Antibacterial ointment/powder: Cuts and sores can get infected quite quickly in the tropics. Bactroban is a prescription cream that is effective and personally I always bring some antibiotic powder with me which can be applied without having to use a band aid as well.

  • Anti-malaria pills: Check with your local travel clinic which malarial prophylactics will work best for the region you are planning to travel in. There's also a self-diagnostic kit that you can bring along to check if you have malaria by pricking your finger. More information about malaria ...

  • Hydrocortisone Cream: For allergic skin reactions and itchy bug bites.

  • Bandages, band aids, gauze and gauze rolls with adhesive tape

  • Scissors, safety pins and tweezers: Some Swiss army knives have scissors and tweezers that will do fine, just make sure don't pack it in your hand luggage.

  • Thermometer

  • Insect Repellent with DEET: Whether you're a fan of DEET or not, it's the only stuff that'll work in Africa and it's better than getting malaria or dengue fever.

  • Sun Block

  • Oral Rehydration Salts: If you pack these and have any left, give them to someone who may be able to use these locally before you go. Dehydration kills many young children in Africa and a simple rehydration kit can save a life.

  • Iodine Tablets: Bottled water isn't always available in more remote places and you may not be able to boil your own easily. These tablets won't taste so good (mix with orange squash to make it more palatable) but the water will be safe.

  • Syringes and Sterile Needles: Since HIV/AIDS is spread through dirty needles, it's a good idea to bring your own along since some rural hospitals are forced to re-use theirs.

  • Antiseptic Hand Wipes

Travelers Medical Insurance

It is very important that you get some insurance to cover any medical costs while you travel in Africa. Most of the time you'll probably pay out of your own pocket and get re-embursed from the insurance company. So make sure you have a credit card or extra cash set aside for this purpose. Keep your receipts and make sure you are treated by a licensed medical professional.

Suggestions for Travel Insurance Companies:

For residents in the USA: Insure My Trip and BootsnAll Travel

For residents in the UK/Ireland: Go Travel Insurance; STA Travel Insurance and Travel Insurance Online.

For residents in Canada: Travel Underwriters.

Note: If you get sick while you travel in Africa, don't forget that the doctors there probably have more expertise in local diseases than your family doctor at home. Trust their prescriptions and take their advice.

More information about health and safety in Africa...

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