Assembling your own first aid kitContent of First aid kit plasters, bandage and pills

14 November 2016 – By Dr John Mackellar

Whatever the destination, you must consider buying or assembling your own first aid kit.

Australians travel a lot, every year about 7.6 million will travel abroad. Others will travel through Australia’s outback or simply have a long weekend on the river.

First aid kits have several specific purposes and should include items appropriate to your destination and planned activities. There are many commercially available kits, but travellers often decide to make up their own or to add to one readily available. Whatever you decide, you should aim at practicality – not too heavy to carry but relevant to your trip.

If you intend walking more than usual, you should consider a blister kit (small adhesive dressings, antiseptic ointment [eg Betadine] and sterile gauze). If your walk is likely to extend to trekking over rough terrain, you should anticipate minor injuries and sprains. Your first aid kit should then include several sizes of light-weight and of heavier hospital-quality bandages, with safety pins. A fibre-glass sling and finger splints may be useful in the event of upper limb injuries. Non-adhesive dressings should be included.

Much larger and all-inclusive kits will be needed if major injuries (such as falls from motor bikes) are likely. These might include CAM walkers, crutches, resuscitation equipment and IV fluid giving sets, depending on the remoteness of your trip and the availability of evacuation – if needed.

Special kits might be considered where snake and mammal bites are expected, where burns are likely or where dehydration is expected. Insect repellents are a key component of all first aid kits.

Most first aid kits will include simple medications for emergency use – not those prescribed to maintain good health. These might include pain killers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, antihistamines to relief hay fever or the itch of insect bites, broad-spectrum antibiotics (discuss with your doctor), antimalarials and antidiarrhoeals (discuss with your travel doctor).  You might also include sun screen and antiseptic ointments.

Special medications, such as insulin, some antimalarials and tablets to combat altitude sickness, may require protection from the weather and high temperatures.

Australians working abroad may spend many months in remote locations (eg West Africa, Borneo, Antarctica) with only minimal or no access to good medical care. Serious injury or the development of serious illness, although unlikely, must be considered in preparing for emergencies abroad.

Some items for consideration might include:

  1. Availability of basic life-support equipment.
  2. Resuscitation equipment to manage dehydration or serious illness.
  3. Management of major trauma.
  4. Access to evacuation aircraft.

And some specifics:

  1. Available treatment of malaria.
  2. Availability of rabies immune globulin (RIG).

There are many other scenarios which should be considered and most will not be managed by the availability of a first aid kit. Although serious injuries on a holiday are unlikely, it is often a good idea to consider how you would manage these, especially when a long way from medical or nursing care.

If you have questions regarding your first aid kit or travel health, we have two doctors who are able to answer your questions. Dr Olga Ilic and Dr John Mackellar are both specially trained in travel health. Dr John Mackellar is also a member of the Travel Clinics Australia group. Appointments can be made for both doctors by calling (03) 5823 5446.


Kialla Medical Clinic
21D/8025 Goulburn Valley Highway
Kialla, Vic 3631

Mooroopna Medical Centre
87 McLennan St
Mooroopna 3629