Family First Aid Kits and Medicines

A comprehensive guide on what to think about, and what medicines and first aid to take when travelling with young children

Start with the basics you use at home

Before stocking up on first aid supplies and medicines for your little ones first think about what you use regularly at home. Do you use Calpol and Vicks for a cold? Does a Peppa pig soother come out of the fridge every time there is a fall? Is Nurofen your favourite trick for teething? Make sure they are included in your family travel first aid kit by default.

Where and how long

Depending on where you are travelling and for how long will dictate what you really need to pack and what you can leave at home.You could be forgiven for thinking that your destination will stock the same healthcare products as home, but be warned – they don’t! Here are a few of our experiences to learn from.

When Poppet was 15 months old we went to Orlando in Florida. During our holiday Poppet had a terrible episode of nappy rash. We had nothing more than a couple of sachets of Calpol with us assuming that we could easily buy something like kids’ paracetamol in the US. We were quite wrong. Every bottle of acetaminophen (the American name for paracetamol) said from 2 years plus. In the end, in a Disney baby change with a screaming Poppet, I bought some Tylenol for children older than 2 and did the dose calculations to work out what to give her (I work in healthcare so have experience of this and I wouldn’t recommend you do this if untrained as the strength of medicines are quite different to the UK). Even if it is easy to buy children’s paracetamol at your destination it might not be in a flavour your child is used to. The ones I saw in the US tended to be grape and cherry! In the UK it is Strawberry. When your little one is off-colour something familiar is usually best in your family travel first aid kit.

I was also 20 weeks pregnant with Champ during this holiday and suffering from pretty bad heartburn. Another assumption was that I would be able to get Gaviscon or something similar. I didn’t want to carry 2 great big bottles out with me taking up half my luggage allowance and the few chalky tablets I had wouldn’t last long. There was nothing remotely similar I could get without visiting a doctor first. So I was wrong again!

When Poppet was 2 years old we stayed in a lovely toddler-friendly gite in Normandy, France. She settled well on our first night but woke up in the morning with a rash on every exposed bit of skin. The only explanation was that she had a reaction to the laundry detergent on the sheets. Did we have an antihistamine with us? No. We could buy something similar to Benadryl cream on a Pharmacy but there was no mixture that we could buy. We then had the task of rewashing and drying a duvet cover, sheet and pillow case in less than a day in a gite with no tumble dryer or central heating which we could switch on, and it was pouring with rain outside. But we did it!

Our third cautionary experience is when we travelled to France when Champ was a bit older. I had learnt from our previous experiences, almost. Whilst on the ferry Champ was full of cold and really miserable. I had packed plenty of Calpol, Nurofen, Vicks etc, but they were all helpfully in the car. I went to the little shop on board and asked if we could buy any children’s’ paracetamol but the answer was a resounding no! The ferry was owned by the French firm Brittany Ferries and in France you can’t buy children’s’ medicines anywhere other than a pharmacy so even on a ferry you can come unstuck and should always carry a sachet or two in your handbag or daysack.

So in summary:

  1. Children will very frequently get poorly on holiday. They have different water and foods to contend with, they get over-tired, there are changes in temperature and seemingly innocuous things like different detergents. So be prepared for this and the surprise won't ruin your travels.
  2. If you use something regularly at home take it with you.
  3. Carry medicines in your hand luggage. But remember if you are flying you can’t take more than 100ml of a liquid with you unless the medicine is prescribed (I once tried to take a bottle of chlorphenamine liquid (generic Piriton) in my hand luggage as it was in a flavour that Poppet would take (learning from our France experience). This was taken off me at the bag search and we were forced to buy peppermint-flavoured Piriton at the Boots airside (a very unchild-friendly flavour). Sachets of Calpol and Nurofen will be your friend whilst flying.
  4. If your child takes prescribed medication take a copy of the prescription with you and keep the medicines in labelled boxes. Be warned that some medicines may not be legal in the country you are visiting. Certain countries require you to obtain prior permission if you will be taking controlled drugs with you. You can usually find the information you need from the embassy or consulate of the country you intend to visit. Take spare medicine with you in case of loss or delays in travel.

Family Travel First Aid Kit

Here are the basics that I would recommend taking with you in or with your first aid kit. I would recommend taking a decent first aid kit with you but you may need to tinker with this to make it a bit more child-friendly. The bits I would add are as follows:

  • Plasters (child-friendly ones if you want the tears over with quickly)
  • Wound cleansing wipes
  • A thermometer
  • Sachets of Calpol - include a spoon or syringe to measure the dose accurately.
  • Stickers or chocolate (in the event that the Disney Princess or Spiderman plasters didn’t stop the tears)
  • If you will have a fridge then take a cold pack for bumps and bruises (this is a little more friendly and comforting than a bag of peas, but they will do if needs must). If out and about lots consider an ice pack which can be activated by squashing.
  • Antiseptic spray - wounds can become easily infected in hot climates.
  • Bandages and tape
  • Tweezers

Additional medicines to consider


Medicines I would suggest you consider taking (when traveling from the UK)

  • A bottle of paracetamol suspension (Calpol is one brand. Generic versions should be available from every pharmacy in the UK). Don’t forget to pack a spoon or syringe so that you can measure the dose accurately.
  • A bottle of chlorphenamine solution if your child is over 1 year of age (this will help ease irritations such as chicken pox, insect bites, allergies etc)
  • A vapour rub for coughs and colds
  • Rehydration salts (e.g. Dioralyte, Electrolade) in case of a bout of sickness or diarrhoea
  • Travel sickness remedies (Joy-Rides can be taken from 3 years, Kwells from 4 years and Stugeron from 5 years). Children under 3 years of age are not usually prone to travel sickness. If yours is see their Doctor as there is another medicine they could try).
  • If travelling to a malarial area your children will need their own antimalarial medication. Check with a travel health clinician at least six weeks before your travel (as vaccinations may be required as well).

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