The Traveler's Medicine Cabinet
Dr. Richard Wenzel, an expert in infectious diseases at Virginia Commonwealth University, lists 11 items that should be in every tourist's first-aid kit.
By Amy Chen, November 2008 issue | Subscribe to the magazine
The drug eases heartburn by combining a stomach-acid reducer with an antacid. "But be careful mixing antacids and antibiotics—it can reduce the effectiveness of the antibiotic," Wenzel says.
Band-Aids & Neosporin
"I bring a bunch of Band-Aid sizes on trips to treat everything from a blister to a banged-up knee," Wenzel says. And Neosporin keeps cuts from getting infected.
The ibuprofen in Advil not only reduces pain and fevers, it also can relieve inflammation of the muscles and tendons after a long hike—Tylenol doesn't do that at all.
Ultrathon Insect Repellent
Repellents with higher concentrations of deet protect longer against bugs. "Find something with 30 percent deet or more," says Wenzel. Ultrathon is a 34 percent deet lotion with a time-release formula that lasts up to 12 hours.
Dramamine helps prevent motion sickness when taken at least 30 minutes before traveling. "It also makes people drowsy," Wenzel says. "So don't take it before flying if you know you'll have to drive when you get off the plane."
When diarrhea strikes, Imodium can stop the symptoms within 30 minutes, unlike Pepto-Bismol, which takes up to six hours to kick in.
In addition to alleviating hay fever symptoms, this drug can be used to treat hives and an itchy nose or throat caused by food allergies.
Many Neutrogena sunscreens are made with a formula called Helioplex, which the company says helps stop UVA absorbers from degrading too quickly—making the sunblocks last longer.
Wenzel says this prescription antibiotic is the most effective diarrhea cure—especially in places like India and Thailand where bacteria are becoming more resistant to Cipro. For quick results, he recommends taking four 250-milligram pills with Imodium.
Cortaid Maximum Strength anti-inflammatory cream contains 1 percent hydrocortisone, which is the highest concentration available without a prescription. The cream soothes rashes and bug bites.