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7 Travel Health Products Everyone Should Have

important travel health products
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We pack light. A few pairs of underwear, couple of shirts, one nice outfit – you get the idea. We certainly don’t want to carry around a medicine cabinet. Thankfully, many travel health products are conveniently sized and lightweight. More importantly, they are incredibly valuable.

Depending on where you are traveling, you might not need the products listed below, but if you are planning on camping, spending time in rural areas or traveling to countries in the developing world, pay attention.

Water Filter and Purifier

I have been using a SteriPEN Traveler in West Africa and it has been an all star for me. I have used it in urban areas where the tap water is not safe to drink and in rural areas where most of the water comes from wells. I also travel with a filter, which I use before the SteriPEN if the water is cloudy at all. Both of these products take up little space. In addition to purifying my water, the SteriPEN has also helped me save money – no more buying bottled water!

Update: we highly recommend checking out the SteriPEN Adventurer pictured to the left. Take the Traveler and make it more efficient, effective and lightweight and this is what you end up with.

Water Bottle

A long time Nalgene user, I recently switched to Platypus for all my water bottle needs. What’s great about Platypus water bottles is that they are not really bottles at all. Made from BPA-free plastic, the Platypus is a “soft” water bottle that you can actually roll up when it’s not in use. Don’t get me wrong, I love Nalgene water bottles, but this is about 80% lighter, takes up less space AND, in what may be the best feature of all, there is no water bottle or otherwise foul taste. Platypus claims the fresh taste comes from an “all-natural, silver-ion based anti-microbial we call SlimeGuard.” Whatever it is, it works!

First Aid Kit

Many people travel with a few band-aids, Neosporin, and some ibuprofen. That’s fine if you are taking a trip to Paris. If you are planning on camping or hiking or if you are doing a lot of traveling in developing world areas, you’re going to want a more substantial first aid kit. You can assemble your own (look for a future post on this), but you can also buy a pre-made kit like this one from Adventure Medical. This thing is loaded. It has everything from moleskin for blister treatment to oral rehydration salts for traveler’s diarrhea to suture and syringe supplies. Allergy, anti-inflammatory and pain medication is included, along with a thermometer and a variety of sterile dressings. It also comes with a book: Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicine. All told, it is only 6 x 5 inches and 4 inches deep, weighing in at 1 pound. Take out the book and it’s about half the weight.

Oral Rehydration Salts

Oral rehydration salts are critical to overcoming traveler’s diarrhea, but they can also be used to treat simple dehydration. These RecoverORS Packs have the ideal ratio of electrolytes to sugar and there is no extra artificial coloring or flavoring. They are great for simple dehydration and illnesses like traveler’s diarrhea. They also might help with that hangover! You can pick up WHO certified oral rehydration salts at almost any pharmacy no matter where you are in the world, but you might not be able to find this specific product (which is also WHO certified by the way).

Something to clean your hands

One of the quickest ways to have a GI nightmare is by not keeping your hands clean, especially around meal time. Most cultures prioritize cleanliness and even in places where food is eaten with the hands (usually the right hand), pre-meal hand washing is a given. That said, the water may not always be treated. This is where an alcohol based hand sanitizer comes in handy. Germ-X Antibacterial Hand Sanitizing Wipes are a big part of my travel health arsenal. I buy the 100 count box and then take a handful out (more depending on the length of travel) whenever I am going on a trip. I prefer wipes because they actually get the dirt off. If you are just using liquid, you may be sanitizing your hands, but you are also just moving the dirt around and not actually getting it off.

Multivitamin

We mentioned a story on multivitamins from Wanderplex in our last travel health round-up. We also brought them up in our 6 travel health tips. Look, the most reliable nutrition you can find is in whole fruits and veggies. That said, it’s not always easy to find nutrient rich dark leafy greens during your travels. Multivitamins are not going to single handedly keep you healthy, but they can certainly help, especially when you may experience several days of eating food that is not exactly filled to the brim with vitamins and minerals. Source Of Life multivitamins are what I use, mostly because they have everything I need without using preservatives or artificial ingredients.

Probiotics

The science is still out on whether probiotics make a significant impact in the prevention of traveler’s diarrhea, but after taking them for a few months, I’ve become a believer. See our article on probiotics for travel for more information on how probiotics work. My go to probiotics have been Enzymatic Therapy Acidophilus Pearls. A lot of people assume you can get adequate quantities of probiotics from yogurt, but most of the good bacteria in yogurt succumbs to your stomach acid before it can get to your intestines. Whether or not you want to take them as a preventative measure, you should definitely consider traveling with probiotics to take in the event that you have to go on antibiotics. Cipro, for example, will destroy both good bacteria and bad – probiotics can help restore the good.

How about you?

Have any travel health products you won’t leave home without? Let us hear about them in the comments.

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{ 10 comments… add one }

  • Reena @ Wanderplex September 22, 2011, 3:09 pm

    These are great, very practical tips!

    I used to have a water “bottle” like the Platypus, but it sprung a leak after 2 weeks of intensive use (it wasn’t this exact bottle, it was from Kathmandu, an Australian travel equipment company). How long has yours held up?

    • phil September 22, 2011, 3:26 pm

      Mine has held up for about 6 months now. On my last trip I had a platypus and a nalgene as a backup. The platypus worked great, though, and I ended up just using the nalgene as a “cup” in my apartment. I think you would have to be pretty rough with it to spring a leak. Thanks for the comment :)

  • Jim October 3, 2011, 3:29 pm

    Good tips Phil. I have just heard from a friend who spent 4 weeks travelling India, eating local food from street stalls. Never got sick. He reckons because he took a course of probiotics.
    So I’ll be trying them out . Each time ‘ve been to India I have been very sick, even with being cautious.

    • phil October 4, 2011, 2:43 pm

      Hey Jim,
      Thanks for stopping by. Yeah, I was initially skeptical of probiotics myself, but I’ve definitely noticed a difference since traveling with them!

  • Andrea October 4, 2011, 12:54 pm

    If we’re going somewhere where we could be subject to food poisoning we take a diarrhea kit, with the rehydration salts, antibiotics and Gastro-stop

    • phil October 4, 2011, 2:45 pm

      a diarrhea kit – that’s perfect! Definitely some key travel items right there. Thanks for the comment, Andrea.

  • Carlo November 22, 2011, 10:21 pm

    Thank you again for this. Great advice!

    • phil November 23, 2011, 10:21 am

      Hi Carlo,
      Great! Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Kieu ~ GQ trippin November 24, 2011, 1:42 am

    I’ve never heard of rehydration salt. Genius!! Just picked up Cipro which my Doctor recommends for diarrhea, burning and urinary tract. Basically, any funny business waist down, she says. Gotta maximize that Corp insurance while I still got it. =) Awesome site! Thanks for all the great tips.

    • phil November 24, 2011, 5:03 am

      Rehydration salts have saved me many times!! Even if you are not sick, they can be great if you are feeling dehydrated. Cipro is also good to have. It kills just about everything 😉 Thanks for the kind words. Glad you like the site!

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