Years ago, I went on a tour to SE Asia, including Cambodia. We got given a list of things to take include a massive list of medical supplies. I did the right thing and, like a kid at the beginning of the school year, checked everything off my list. I lugged that kit around with me, never using it, and ended up taking it home. Actually, I should've left it in Cambodia. Someone should set up a collection point for unused medical supplies.
Since then I've pared my medical supplies down to the bare minimum. I don't go into remote areas, I don't hike. I'm never that far away from a pharmacy or hospital. My needs are few.
So, what do I take:
Betadine ointment: I'm diabetic and this stuff is pretty much a non-negotiable. If I get skin off at all, I smother it in this stuff because infections can be deathly. That's probably doubly so in tropical countries. I used to have the liquid then I found the ointment -- so much less likely to spill all over your clothes. Still, do not apply this stuff just before getting in bed. It will stain anything in contact with it.
Sleep spray: not an essential but I found it in my mum's stuff when we were cleaning out her house. II'm not normally into hippy stuff like homeopathic medicine but it really does work. I have trouble staying asleep and probably get four hours max before waking up. With this stuff I can sleep all night.
Pills: You probably should not travel with random pills in a little box like this -- you should the packaging in case you get pulled over at customs but no one has every said anything. I have Imodium (two tablets - enough to get me to a pharmacy in an emergency) and some painkillers.
Tips on reducing your medical supplies:
- Don't take unnecessary drugs. Well unless if's for fun :) I so rarely take painkillers that when I do, they are super effective. People complain about the weak medicine in Japan but it works fine on me. I pretty much have build up no tolerance to painkillers or cold tablets at all. I just deal with shit by going back to bed.
- I used to carry a huge roll of elastoplaster (because band-aids are useless for foot blisters) but now I just only travel with well fitted shoes. It makes a huge difference. I did get some nasty blisters when I first got to Japan a few weeks ago but that was because my swelled up in the humidity here. I used to get really bad blisters as a regular thing but stopped wearing shit shoes.
- This is really important. I'm not a doctor, I'm not qualified to give medical advice BUT do not take Imodium except in dire circumstances and then only really short term. I'll put this really bluntly:
Only take it if you need to get somewhere urgently and the alternative is shitting your pants.
This includes situations like having to get to the doctor, a bus trip or flight you can't delay, needing to get across the city to get a new laptop because your old one has died. Otherwise, suffer in your jocks (literally) until it has run it's course or get to a doctor. Imodium treats symptoms not underlying causes.
Not shown here -- diabetes tablets and my blood sugar monitoring kits. If you do need prescription drugs, it's worth asking your doctor for the strongest strength available then taking half a tablet per time instead of a full one. It means much less to carry with you. You'd think your doctor would think of that themselves when you tell them you are travelling long term but don't assume that they will even think of it. It never hurts to ask.
What medical supplies do you have in your travel kit? Do you use them or is it just a security thing?