Other than a couple of minor colds and a few brutal hangovers, I haven’t really gotten sick since I’ve been traveling or living abroad. I swear by a large daily dose of Vitamin C (an orange or a packet of Emergen-C), lots of water and regular exercise.
However, I’ve learned that there are some things you don’t want to wait until you need them to buy them. I’ve done my fair share of frantically searching for a band-aid while blood is gushing or desperately wishing a dose of cold medicine would magically appear when I can’t bear to leave the couch, much less my house. These are the nine things that I hope I don’t have to use, but I’m never without–just in case:
- Pain reliever/nighttime pain reliever: Headaches, minor aches and pains, hangovers: pain relievers are usually easy to find, but who wants to find a pharmacy the morning after a big night out? Plus, the go-to name seems to be different in every country (my pleas for ibprofen? tylenol? advil? were met with blank stares by my Australian coworkers: it’s nurofen here). Save yourself the headache and keep a stash on hand.
- Band-aids: I’ve learned from experience that these are something you don’t want to wait to buy until you need them (I did the opposite when I was broke and moved into my first place after university: a nasty incident with the very sharp food processor blade taught me otherwise). My clumsiness with both kitchen knives and shaving razors have left me bleeding in unfamiliar surrounds more than once. Lesson: keep a few band-aids of varying sizes on hand.
- Blister protectors and/or moleskin: Old shoes wear out, new shoes become necessary. There’s nothing worse than wanting to explore a new city on foot and being held back by incredibly painful blisters–or having a big night on the town ruined because you can’t walk in your gorgeous new heels. I like the cost effectiveness of moleskin, but keep a pack of fancy blister protectors on hand in case there aren’t any scissors handy.
- Laxatives: Traveling–particularly long-haul flights–can knock your body out of its routine. When a balanced diet loses priority, it’s nice to have a packet of laxatives on hand to kickstart things back into normalcy.
- Allergy medicine: While I don’t get “allergies” per say, I get nasty allergic reactions to mosquito bites and I often get heat rash when temperatures start to rise. I keep a pack of both Benadryl (causes drowsiness) and Claritin (non-drowsy) on hand–you never know if you might run into something abroad that causes a reaction.
- Dayquil/Nyquil: I prefer fresh orange juice, homemade chicken noodle soup and a day on the couch to combat any cold or flu. But when I don’t have time to be sick, I pop a Nyquil before going bed to sleep soundly and wake up feeling better. (Side note: I once heard that most medicine dosage recommendations are formulated for a 150-pound man, overpowering women of a smaller stature. Now I always take half the dosage, and get fewer negative side effects.)
- Hydrocortisone (anti-itch) cream: Mosquito bites, jellyfish stings, bee stings: those are the things you never plan for, but can totally ruin your day. Hydrocortisone cream can also work wonders on any rashes or minor skin irritations that may pop up.
- Athletes foot cream: Even with shower flipflops, I always seem to pick up athletes foot in hostels and public pools. Super gross, but a few nights of athletes foot cream tends to erase it pretty quickly.
- Neosporin: The easiest way to prevent nasty infections and scarring from minor cuts and scrapes.