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Pack Your Bags for Healthy Travels
Wednesday, July 9, 2008 • Posted July 9, 2008

"Expect the best, but prepare for the worst" should be the official traveler's motto as we pack our bags for travel. A few ways to do this include having a traveler's health kit prepared and available at all times, and having appropriate documentation and medications for pre-existing conditions.

A traveler's health kit is simply a small bag that can be carried on airline flights, outings, and excursions; it can help travelers avoid ill health or treat unforeseen illnesses or injuries. Examples of items for your traveler's health kit may include sunscreen, insect repellent, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wound cleaner, bandages, over-the-counter medications like antihistimines, anti-diarrheal medicines, pain relievers, oral rehydration solution packets, and any other preventative medication recommended by your doctor (such as anti-malarial or motion sickness drugs). For a more complete listing of health kit items, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website at

For those with pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or cancer, consider wearing a medical ID bracelet. Have prescriptions for your medications and a letter signed by your doctor describing your specific condition and any needed medications for security personnel as well as for medical assistance in case of an emergency at your destination or en route. When packing your bags, be sure any prescription medications are in their original bottles so the precise names of the drugs and the instructions for taking them can be reviewed. Also, have the generic names in addition to the brand names - brand names may differ in other countries. You will also want to have an extra supply of your medications in the bag you carry with you in case of flight delays or other problems with your luggage. If you require syringes or other sharp items that must pass through security, have these supplies all together with the medications dispensed in them, and declare them when you reach security check points. Keep these supplies separate from other cosmetics or toiletries.

For all travelers, you should be aware of permitted and prohibited items for your mode of travel, and pack accordingly. For air travel, follow the 3-1-1 rule, which allows for 3-ounce containers of liquid or gel, placed in one clear quart-sized plastic bag - one bag per passenger. Note that if you are traveling with young children and have stored breast milk or formula, this is an exception and can be in bottles of more than 3 ounces; however, it will be observed at security check points. See the Transportation Security Administration's website for more information on permitted and prohibited items for travel at

If your family is coming along and you have young children, it is also a good idea to take a few moments to discuss what happens as you travel including air pressure, motion, security, and the like. If traveling by air or sea, don't forget to take your child's car seat with you for car transport once you reach your destination. Car travel requires infants to 1 year old and at least 20 pounds ride in a rear-facing car seat; toddlers over 1 year and between 20-40 pounds can be in a forward-facing seat with a 5-point harness. Children over 40 pounds and under 4'9" can be in a booster seat using the vehicle's lap/shoulder belt. And, of course, don't forget toys, snacks, safe drinking water, and any special medical supplies your child might need.

Pack your bags according to the motto "expect the best, but prepare for the worst." By following this motto, even those unexpected situations can be readily handled with appropriate information and care.

For more information on what to take with you for health and medical purposes, please see our HealthHints newsletter at

Source: Janet M. Pollard, MPH, AgriLife Extension Associate Health, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M System. April 2008.

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