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5 Ways To Avoid A Medical Emergency Abroad

By Cotswold Outdoor
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Illness can be scary when it strikes in a foreign country, especially if you don’t speak the language, or know how to find a doctor. Here’s a few ways you can prepare and lower the risk of a medical emergency abroad.

preparing to travel the road

1. Research Before You Leave

Researching local medical services before your trip, may provide a little piece of mind if you or someone you’re travelling with were to fall ill.

Guidebooks usually have a chapter on local health considerations which can help you to prepare and feel confident in knowing what to do should the risk arise.

Informative websites for immunisation are or for tips on staying healthy on your trip, receiving treatment overseas and where it can be subsidised or free.

Attending a first aid course in preparation for your travels can teach you some techniques for cleaning and dressing wounds, which could prove invaluable, should you need them whilst in a remote or unsanitised area.

2. Pack a custom first aid kit

Whilst travelling the inevitable knocks and grazes in hot weather or unhygienic environments can quickly become infected. Whether you buy one ready-made or put one together yourself will vary depending on your type of trip and the distance you plan to travel away from towns and cities.

A small first aid kit containing wound closure strips can be used to close large or deep cuts, stopping further bleeding, and preventing the inconvenience of pausing your trip to visit a local clinic, where sterilised needles aren’t always guaranteed.

Crepe bandages are another necessity. If you plan to do a lot of walking, they can be used as a knee support, or after a snake bite to firmly bandage the bitten area.

pack a first aid kit

Top Tips

1. Take medicine that you know has worked I the past.

2. Make a note of the prescribable names that aided your recovery, as well as names and doses of regular medication that you take.

3. Remember to take spare essentials like asthma inhalers.

4. Oral rehydration sachets (OSR) are a necessity for the inevitable bout of traveller’s diarrhoea.

5. Using iodine can purify drinking water, so you can drink safely wherever you are

Stomach problems are common where contaminants get into your body, through food prepared by someone who didn’t wash their hands properly after using the toilet. The risk is greatest in highly populated areas where hand washing is poor, or where knowledge of microbes is low, typically Latin America, India and Nepal.

Dysentery, hepatitis A and E, typhoid and worms are also common. Try to avoid raw food, and untreated waters, consuming only freshly cooked, piping hot dishes and bottled drinks.

3. Avoid altitude sickness

Taking steps to avoid altitude sickness involves general preparation, as well as focusing on your first aid kit.

Wearing technical clothing, applying the layering system

Knowledge of your route, equipped with maps, and compasses, and if you’re lucky a local guide, will all help to avoid this.

Getting lost, cold or falling off a path is more likely to ruin your trip than the risk of altitude sickness, if you are unprepared.

Watch the video below to find out more about the layering system or view our guide to the layering system.

If you are venturing above 3,000m it would be wise to read up on recognising altitude sickness.

Plan your trek so that you take several days to reach the summit

Sleeping no higher than 300m above the previous night’s camp. Sleeping low in the valley rather than on a high ridge is safer.

Whilst bottled oxygen and pressure bags can aid recovery from acute mountain sickness (AMS), the only cure is descent, a drop of 500m should be enough. Don’t wait until morning to get them down the mountain.

4. Protect against malaria and irritating bites

If you are taking prescribed tablets on your trip, try them out two or three weeks before departure just in case they make you feel unwell.

Pack loose clothing and a good insect repellent, try it on your skin before you go. DEET based products repel best and are highly effective at deterring the mosquitos that spread dengue and yellow fever, as well as leaches and ticks. However, it can irritate some people who suffer from eczema or sensitive skin. Trying Mijex Extra or Jungle Formula could be the answer.

Top tips to keep bites at bay

1.Spraying Permethrin onto your clothes or try insect repellent clothing for extra repellency

2. Sleeping under a permethrin-treated bed net for an uninterrupted slumber

3. Plug in a mosquito-killer or lit coils

4. Spraying hotel room nets with permethrin or DEET as the chemicals render even the holiest of nets protective

5. Take hydrocortisone or antihistamines in your first aid kit to prevent bites causing swelling and other symptoms


avoiding biting insects