The kids are out of school and the sun is calling. I think we can all agree that summer means travel, whether it’s a weekend road trip, an exotic destination you’ve been saving for, or just a day hike on your favorite trail. I think we can also agree that nothing ruins a vacation faster than illness or injury. Montezuma’s revenge in Mexico? Sunburn in Hawaii? These are not the vacation memories you will cherish.
So, a little prevention goes a long way in your planning for vacations. While you should be sure to take a conventional first aid kit with you, available at all major drugstores, I’ve put together some extra naturopathic supplies for you to add. Be sure to store kit in a place that is out of reach of children. Check the kits regularly and be sure to replace missing items and medicines that may have expired. It’s also a good idea to tape a list of emergency phone numbers to the first aid kit, for quick access. Also, keep the number for Poison Control Center handy on that list and ALWAYS call in cases of poisoning or over-dosing.
Medications to include:
- Extra prescription medications, just in case
- NSAIDs for pain and inflammation (acetaminophen and ibuprofen – tablets and infant/child liquids
- Hydrocortisone cream (1%)
- Calamine lotion
- Antibiotic ointment (triple antibiotic)
- Diphenhydramine – tablets and children’s liquid (antihistamine for allergic reactions)
- Rehydration fluids (such as Pedialyte)
Natural Medicines to include:
- Homeopathic Arnica montana (NOT the herbal form): Use for improved healing of bruises, sprains, strains, injuries, and sore muscles. Available in sublingual pellets as 6C, 12C, or 30C and creams or ointments for topical use (never to open skin). Either form is fine to use, though the pellets are easier and smaller for travel. Use as directed on the label.
- Chamomile tea bags: Chamomile is a gentle relaxant and carminative, so it can be used for anxiety, teething, excessive gas and colic, upset stomachs, and reflux. The tea bags will store well and when you need it, you can make tea for oral consumption, or use the wet tea bags as poultices or eye compresses. It is a safe herb to use for children, just use small amounts, slowly over time, if giving orally.
- Eucalyptus Essential Oil: Eucalyptus is a natural decongestant, especially useful for nasal and chest congestion. Add a drop or two to a “carrier” oil (such as olive oil) in your palm, and apply to the chest and back before bed to help ease breathing during colds and flus. If using on young children, make sure they cannot touch their chest after you have applied it (i.e. apply under their shirt). Alternatively, apply only to the back.
- Rescue Remedy (Bach Flower Remedy): This is an energetic medicine for calming the mental and emotional state after any trauma, shock, or panic. It can be given to all ages and even animals. Available in liquid form and more travel friendly pastilles (lozenges). Very safe, so use as needed.
- Aloe Vera gel: An excellent herb for healing of wounds and all types of burns, including sunburns. Apply liberally and frequently to the area of concern.
- Shelf-stable (or freeze-dried) Probiotics: As beneficial bacteria for the GI tract, probiotics are useful to take daily on vacations to help prevent GI illnesses, including food poisoning. 10-20 billion organisms per day is the typical dose, and can be increased to 50 billion per day for illness. Also excellent to have during and after a course of Antibiotics, should those be needed.
- Grapefruit Seed Extract: As an anti-microbial, this product can be used daily as a preventative for GI illness, or can be started if symptoms do occur. It comes in liquid or tablet form, but keep in mind that the liquid can be quite caustic in the mouth if given straight, so do NOT take it that way. It is also extremely bitter, so very unpleasant to take. The tablets are preferred and also easier for travel. Use as directed on the label.
- Activated Charcoal capsules: As a detoxifying agent, activated charcoal is used primarily for food poisoning or other oral poisoning. (Please call the Poison Control Center for all cases of poisoning or over-dosing.) For food poisoning in particular, these capsules can be used to decrease diarrhea by binding the toxins responsible. This can settle the stomach and decrease subsequent fluid loss. Use as directed on the bottle you purchase.
- Homeopathic Arsenicum album: An excellent homeopathic remedy for food poisoning where there is BOTH diarrhea and vomiting. Available in travel-friendly sublingual pellets in various strengths, such as 6C, 12C, and 30C. Any strength will be fine, though 30C is preferred. Use as directed on the label.
I want to stress that while this first aid kit can be extremely helpful to you and your family for minor injuries, if there is any concern over the serious of any illness while traveling, please consult a local physician or urgent care center. A proper diagnosis and treatment is of utmost importance in serious cases. Also, consider enrolling in a local CPR class so that you are even more equipped to handle potentially life-threatening emergencies. It is well worth the training.
Above all, enjoy those vacations!
Tamara (Cullen) Evans, ND is a 1999 graduate of Bastyr University and currently practicing primary care medicine, with a focus on pediatrics, in Seattle, Washington. She currently serves as the Advanced Pediatrics professor at Bastyr University and she sits on the American Board of Naturopathic Pediatrics, an organization dedicated to the creation of a Naturopathic Pediatrics Board Certification Exam. Additionally, she was a founding Board member of the PedANP and has lectured both nationally and internationally. To date, her greatest accomplishment is raising her teenage son, Max.