Forgey's advice is aimed at backcountry travelers, from short-haul hikers to those on
Everest expeditions. Most travelers can leave the hemostats and No. 11 scalpel blades at
home, and just pack some common-sense items.
Some of those items require early attention. Refill
prescriptions well in advance so you have enough for the trip. If you have a specific
medical condition, consult your doctor about what to carry and other travel-related
issues. Also, be sure to wear a Medic Alert bracelet if your condition warrants it.
Asthmatics already know to carry their inhalers, and people with allergies -- such as nut
allergies or bee stings -- that can lead to anaphylactic shock should never be far from
their EpiPen kits or other epinephrine systems.
to think about even earlier is establishing a relationship with a primary-care physician.
That's easy to neglect, especially for younger, healthier travelers who get their medical
care from one of the more impersonal health maintenance organizations, but it can help in
getting medications you may need.
Traveling with prophylactic ("just in case")
prescription drugs -- such as the anti-diarrhea drug Lomotil -- is often recommended. But
if you don't have doctors in the family, you're going to need a physician who knows and
trusts you in order to get the drugs. "I carry a painkiller like Tylenol with
codeine," says Dr. Gerald Levine, a San Francisco physician and avid traveler. But
Dr. Levine acknowledges that not everyone can get (or tolerate) codeine -- in which case
he suggests ibuprofen.
There are other suggestions, as well. "It's a
delicate subject, but hemorrhoidal creams are always a good idea if you're taking a long
trip -- even if you've never had hemorrhoids before," Dr. Levine suggests.
For travel to places with dubious sanitation, daily
Pepto-Bismol is sometimes recommended to prevent traveler's diarrhea. This means carrying
a lot: one 8-ounce bottle a day or eight 262-mg tablets a day, according to "Medicine
for the Outdoors," by Dr. Paul S. Auerbach (Lyons Press, $22.50).
If recommended by your physician, you may pack an
antibiotic, especially if you're traveling in the less-developed world. Follow your
doctor's advice closely.
A note for those visiting developing nations:
Travelers to some parts of Africa and South America must carry an International
Certificate of Vaccination for yellow fever. Travelers can list other vaccinations besides
yellow fever in another section of the International Certificate of Vaccination, although
it's voluntary. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains
worldwide information on its travel page, along with information on required and recommended