Some travelers think of everything - including packing a first aid travel kit for their vacation. Then there are travelers, who travel with a Spongebob Band Aid and an expired Aspirin package. However, any traveler can get sick, whether because of the change to a new climate, unusual food or bad hygiene on an airplane. A few things belong in any travel first aid kit. Medications for fever, pain, and inflammation, as well as medicine for constipation and diarrhea (the #1 travel sickness), are part of the basic equipment. There should also be some bandaging material, as well as sufficient sun protection products, especially if you visit Germany during the warmer months. Here are some tips for your upcoming Germany vacation.
Take as Little as Possible, But as Much as Necessary
The rule of thumb for this list: take as little as possible, but as much as necessary. Feel free to edit the list to your needs. Keep in mind that most “drugstores” in Germany (called Drogerien) do not actually carry any medication. You will have to seek an Apotheke for that. Look for this red symbol. Step inside and ask the pharmacist for help. Most of them speak a bit of English or have someone on their staff that can help with the language barrier.
Note: This list does NOT replace professional advice from your doctor or your pharmacist. Also, keep in mind that some painkillers and other medication, that is sold over the counter in the United States might need a prescription by a German doctor. Take Benadryl as an example, which has Diphenhydramine as a main ingredient. You can buy Benadryl in almost every store in the United States, but in Germany you need a prescription to pick up a package in the Apotheke. Different country, different rules. If you are not sure, take the over the counter medication with you on your trip.
Here is what I usually pack:
• Painkillers • For headaches and general pain, bring extra ones as needed. For example, a blister pack of 10 Aspirin pills will cost about $5 in a German Apotheke. Walk into an American drugstore and the $5 will buy you a 100 pack of Aspirin pills.
• Nasal Spray • The low humidity on an airplane always dries my nose out. After using nasal spray for two days, it is usually back to normal. This is my favorite nasal spray.
• Nausea & Motion Sickness • There is nothing worse than problems with your stomach and/or intestines. Grab a small pack like this. The pills are chewable and get absorbed by your system fast.
• Heartburn Relief • Vacations in different countries with new dishes and beverages leads us to eat too much and often too late in the day. This stimulates the acid production in our stomach, resulting in heartburn. I usually travel with a small package of Tums.
• Diarrhea • Another unfortunate consequence of eating unknown or unusual foods on vacation is diarrhea. It can also be caused by bacteria, for example Salmonella, which can be found in products that were not maintained at the right temperature. Grab a package of Pepto Bismol pills (not the liquid) and you should be taken care of if and when your stomach fights back.
• Band Aids • For small cuts, I prefer the Flexible Fabric Band-Aid, which is the most comfortable Band Aid I have ever used. My dad buys long strips of it and cuts them to the desired length. For travel, I prefer the pre-cut ones. I also pack a small tube of Neosporin antibiotic cream for small cuts. And yes, you also need a prescription in Germany for an antimicrobial/antibiotic ointment like Neosporin.
• Prescribed Medication • If you have a chronic illness, make sure to pack enough pills to cover you for your entire trip, plus two extra days - you never know, you could drop a pill down the drain by accident or have a delayed flight home. Carry them on the plane in the original prescription bottle/package with your name on it and DO NOT check them in your luggage. Keep them in your purse or carry-on bag. Too many bags get lost, especially if you have a connecting flight.
• Sleep Aid • Not only might the over-the-counter medication have a totally different name in Germany, some even require a prescription by a German doctor. One of my favorite sleep aids to fight jet lag is Melatonin, which you can buy at any grocery store in the United States. Its not as easy to get in Germany, which requires consumers to be over 55 years old and have a prescription, sold as Circadin in Germany. We’ve also had good luck with ZzzQuil, and use that to try and sleep on the flight to Germany.
• For good measure, throw in a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer, in case you find yourself without running water or want to disinfect your airplane tray table before taking off.
Two More Things
If you have an iPhone, make sure to fill out your Medical ID, so that first responders have access to your health information in case of an emergency. You can find Medical ID Health app setup instructions on Apple’s Help Page here:
For when disaster strikes during your Germany trip: Make sure to book travel insurance for your trip, since you never know what can and will happen. A recent family vacation incident was covered by less than a $100 travel insurance policy. Otherwise a weeks hospital stay including ICU station for several days would have cost us more than $25,000. Needless to say, we were very grateful for the added insurance coverage. For a quick quote (less than a minute), check our resources page and scroll to the bottom.
Have we forgotten something? Let us know what medical essentials you bring when you travel. Denise and I hope you have a safe trip!
Photo Credit: First Aid Kit Image by DLG Images shared via (CC BY 2.0).
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