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Top Tips for Travellers

If you’re looking for an escape from the government leadership catastroshambles and the heatwave, then allow me to divert you into holiday mode with this short piece on essentials for your first aid kit. Whether you’re UK-camping or Côte d'Azur-ing, it’s useful to pack a few choice items that will ensure you breeze through any injuries. Conversely, forget them and you are likely to tempt fate into delivering a series of annoyingly unmanageable minor ailments. Yes, I am in a glass-half-empty sort of mood.

Admittedly my own medical box is full of niche medical equipment that most muggles don’t have access to. I’m talking about artery forceps, gallipots, sutures, hospital-grade anaesthetic gel, and a range of steri-strips arranged in ascending order of width. I’m joking (a bit). And before you imagine me raiding the dispensary cupboards in a fit of pique over a rota disagreement, let me reassure you that these were all items going out of date and therefore bound for the bin (we can and will discuss the ludicrousness of this another time).

Firstly, plasters. A staple in every bag and coat pocket I own. My favourite brand is Patch and you can buy these in local zero waste shops, Holland & Barrett, or order online. They come in a sturdy cardboard tube (unlike traditional ultra-squishable plaster boxes *rolls eyes*) you can repurpose or compost, and the plasters themselves are latex-free (yay for allergies!) and compostable. They have a cute panda design for younger victims, or plain for fussier folk who want to be subtle about their wounds.

Now for something a little left-field: Bonjela. Sure this is great for mouth-related soreness, but cleverly also doubles as a brilliant numbing agent you can use elsewhere on your skin e.g. when cuts and scrapes need a thorough clean (remember to use Bonjela Junior or Calgel or another child-friendly form on younger members of your holiday party as adult Bonjela must not be used <16yrs). And what could be more perfect for scrubbing then flannels? These really have come into their own this week as a godsend for hot necks and foreheads, as well as wiping grubby paws before eating on the hoof, and transporting soap or shampoo bars. If you have a freezer on holiday, pop one in, in a (reusable - obviously!) bag and watch people line up to savour its magical sleep-assisting properties when the weather is offensively hot.

If you can’t carry alcohol gel and a damp flannel on your picnics, then plastic-free wipes are your disposable option. More info on these in my ‘green baby’ podcast. Please ignore anything advertised as flushable – they really really aren’t. A few wipes will stay damp in a plastic bag or air-tight box with a sprinkle of water for longer journeys, or where you can’t fit the entire pack in your back pocket. Prize if you can!

Next, my junior editor recommended taking an ice pack. If you have a fridge at the other end or are carrying milk and don’t want to end up with diarrhoea rampaging through your crew, you’ll need to find a way to keep it cold. An ice pack can help here. Drop yours in the supermarket freezer and collect it at the end of your shop if you’re a chancer and don’t have your own freezer. I did not tell recommend this, ahem.

As well as thinking about how you are going to safely store your regular medicines (check if you need a doctor’s letter for these on the relevant embassy website, e.g. strong pain killers may be restricted when travelling into some countries in Asia and you could face jail), consider taking basic indigestion remedies, antihistamines, and paracetamol. There’s nothing quite like standing in an Italian pharmacy and playing charades (my worst nightmare in English also) with the pharmacist while locals gather to pityingly watch you flounder over basic words and actions that even a child would better master. Tablets have a lower carbon footprint than liquids, so do your bit for the planet by teaching your youngsters to swallow them safely (see this video). Recycle your empties in your local Superdrug pharmacy, and return unused/unwanted liquids or tablets to the pharmacy. Never flush or pour them away; remember the ocean starts at your plug-hole!

Being able to say “so long” to liquids and just buy tablets will also help with the financial pinch. And speaking of pinching, I rarely leave the house without a pair of tweezers and a 23 gauge blue needle for removing splinters. A pin or needle will work perfectly well but please sterilise it first. You can carefully drop it into a small cup of boiling water and leave to cool down before retrieving, or get a trusted adult to light a match and pass it carefully through the flame. I’ve learnt from experience to do this inside rather than when the wind is blowing towards you. Trusted adult, as I said.

Since we’re talking about flames, these are a good way to ward off beasties and their bites. Failing this, you can buy hydrocortisone and other bite-healing creams from your friendly pharmacy. These tiny tubes are easy to carry and can be hugely useful for dealing with the onslaught of mosquitoes and midges, nettle rash, or eczema flares from chlorinated swimming pools. Go and buy some. Do it now! And while you’re at it, grab a little tin of Vaseline for chapped lips, eczema, and tick bites if you’re struggling to remove the tick (and this is really important – you should visit your local A&E or minor injuries unit if you cannot confidently remove the tick in its entirety). Tick bites can occur anywhere in the UK by the way, not just in forests or deer parks. You're welcome.

Finally, stick with me here friends as we explore the issue of powder. I’m regularly advising patients to keep their feet clean and dry in summer months to avoid or treat athlete’s foot, which is a common non-worrying fungal infection that thrives in moist sweaty conditions. Yum right? And when skin is damp it can also develop little tears and breaks, which can lead to verrucas. To stop them developing in the first place it helps to keep your feet meticulously dry. So quit the drip-drying, use a hairdryer on a cold setting, and powder! Powder also helps avoid chafing thighs in runners (as I have discovered seeking tips on my upcoming 10k – please please sponsor me here *shameless shrug*), as well as instantly de-sandifying beach feet so that sandals don’t rub. But forget baby powder friends; what you need is cornflour in your bathroom. I can assure you, while others sweat, your under-boob area will remain smugly Sahara-esque. While others rage over the rawness of their inner thighs, yours will imperceptibly brush each other like common and indifferent acquaintances. This really is a cheap and cheerful game changer. I'm just sorry that you’ll never look at gravy in the same way again...

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