What’s in your overseas doctor’s bag?

One of the great advantages of being an unemployed bum a locum doctor is the ability take holidays whenever you want without having to worry about applying for leave, arranging cover or abandoning patients and colleagues. Mindful of taking full advantage of my situation, I’m packing up my bags and heading off to Europe this week. I fly through Doha into Geneva, spend a weekend snowboarding in the Italian Alps before travelling down to Barcelona and on to southern Spain for a reunion with some of my oldest and dearest friends.

When I am travelling alone or with non-medical friends, I generally feel that I aught to be able to provide some level of acute medical care if required.  However, with packing space at a minimum, the medical kit has to be pretty succinct.

Here’s what I’m thinking of taking with me:

  • Paracetamol
  • Salbutamol puffer
  • Antibiotics – maybe amoxycillin or cephalexin?
  • Metoclopramide
  • Antihistamine eg promethazine
  • PPI eg esomeprazole
  • Antiseptic solution
  • Antifungal / steroid cream
  • Bandaids

If I was going to a tropical area, my kit would generally also include:

  • Loperamide
  • Oral rehydration solution
  • Norfloxacin
  • Insect repellant

And of course I wont be leaving home without a tablet full of downloaded #FOAMed podcasts to listen to on the flight.

I would love to hear from other doctors about what they carry with them when travelling at home or abroad. Is there anything useful that I am missing?

Hopefully will not be called on to provide medical assistance while in Spain

Hopefully will not be called on to provide medical assistance while in Spain

Comment below or tweet @nomadicgp. Gracias amigos!


Thanks to everyone who commented. On your advice, I chose cephalexin as my poAb and also got some azithromycin. I also added aspirin, prednisolone, loratidine and mylanta. Here it is all fitting neatly into a sandwich sized zip-lock bag.


Happy travels!


12 thoughts on “What’s in your overseas doctor’s bag?

  1. Brain a bit fried from BNL today, but loooove travel medicine and so can’t help myself.

    I always carry azithromycin 1gram as a stat dose rather than a fluoroquinolone (but often take both in the kit). Probably wouldn’t take it to Europe though. Single AB of choice for first world travel is Cephalexin (skin, resp tract, bladder). Too many UTIs resistant to amoxycillin and it’s not as good for skin. I always cough up for Ondansetron rather than metoclopramide. Agree big time on PPI, it’s been one of my most used for fellow travellers who tend to overindulge! Always have an NSAID too (maybe why I end up needing PPI?!)

    My list in the developing world is much longer and I won’t go into it!! One thing though, have always carried loperamide, never used it. Antiemetic, ORS, azith!

    Sorry #FOAMed, but I’m on holidays, my tablet tends to be chock full of books, 50% holiday trash, 50% travel literature!

  2. The lack of room is always a dilemma! Cephalexin instead of amox. Azithro is a good idea. Non-sedating antihistamine. And, depending on where you are going (like trekking or remote adventures), codeine can be a good strong pain relief option, often without the hassles of endome/etc and you aren’t limited by dose like paracetamol/codeine meds. Sometimes I’ll take some eye /ear drops too. And fixomul for everything.

    Happy travels.

    • Wendy are you packing Azithro for chest or traveller’s gastro? I just checked AMH and it is also indicated for strep pharyngitis / tonsillitis and of course pertussis. Handy!

  3. Depends on where I’m planning on going. Duct tape, handkerchief, 20 mg prednisone tabs, diphenhydramine 25 mg tabs, racemic epi 1:10.000, insulin needles/syringes, if I’m deep in the bush, I might also take some ketamine.

  4. For antibiotics? ciprofloxacin, metronidazole, and maybe trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole for orals. Tincture of Iodine for its numerous purposes, also.

  5. Azithro or roxi for chest.

    On a slightly different note: for expedition medicine, especially if you are the team doctor, I would take duct tape (first aid and best blister treatment out there), pregnancy test (abdo pain plus pos test = ectopic until proven otherwise), epipen (or have each person bring one if really remote), collapsable spacer for salbutamol, prednisolone (severe asthma, bites, intractable nausea). Then bandages / antiseptic / dressings.

  6. You’ll also need a nice letter (maybe from one of the other doctors in your clinic) to explain why you are carrying these meds. I know that more patients are coming in asking for explanatory letters as some airlines are getting more strict (e.g. Emirates). Great topic though Pen.

  7. Pingback: The Travel Consultation | Nomadic GP

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