Dont forget your first aid kit…

You're a senior. So when you get away from it all, do not assume that you are leaving some of life's little emergencies behind.

Upset stomach, blistered feet, sunburned hides and twisted ankles are some of the injuries that can put a damper on a vacation, at least temporarily. If your destination is exotic enough, there will be local medical considerations that require you to treat minor illness and injury on your own.

Be prudent. Take steps that will enable you to handle travel medical emergencies. Treat this like any other part of your vacation planning by checking out available information, learning some skills and packing a few things that will help you when you are away from home.

There's no substitute for a doctor's advice or qualified first aid training, so talk with your physician about any health concerns you have before embarking on your journey. Taking a first aid course, which includes CPR instruction from the American Red Cross, American Heart Association or your local adult education source is something everyone should do, whether traveling or not.

If your vacation is within the United States, dialing 911 is the source for emergency medical care anywhere in the country.

Find out from your travel agent, tour company or the State Department how to find medical help in the foreign country you are visiting. Most developed countries have medical services and hospitals comparable to what you find at home. However, you should determine how to get medical help in an emergency and how to pay for it. Don't assume your medical insurance will cover treatment abroad.

Make sure you have any required immunizations well before your trip. Don't schedule immunizations at the last minute; you might need recovery time from their effects. If you wait too long, you might also face the risk of not allowing enough time for multi-injected vaccines to be administered in proper sequence.

Write to the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers for medical and immunization information about your destination country. The material is free, but donations are welcome. The address is 417 Center St., Lewiston, NY 14092.

Two online sources of information are worth browsing for information about disease and health risks in foreign lands. The State Department at maintains background information about more than 200 foreign countries. The health and safety warnings run the gamut from warnings of unexploded land mines in the former Yugoslavia to advisories regarding communicable diseases.

Check with your doctor regarding any prescription drugs you take. Make sure you have an adequate supply for the trip, plus a five-day reserve in case you are delayed when returning home or when traveling in your destination country. Pack a list of the drugs you take and any allergies to medication you have so a doctor will know what you need in case you can't answer his or her questions.

Pack a first aid kit and know how to use it. There are a number of small, travel-sized kits on the market. An excellent kit from Adventure Medical Co. will allow you to treat minor injuries whether you are in downtown Chicago or the middle of the Sudan. It costs about $60 and is available in most outdoor sports stores or online at

If you want to assemble your own kit, consider the following list of essentials. Pack them in a clear, zipper bag so you can see the contents easily:

*Six to 10 1-by-3-inch adhesive bandages for minor cuts and scrapes. (Foam bandages resist sweat and wetness better than plastic tape).

*Six to 10 4-by-4-inch sterile gauze pads to staunch blood or cover large wounds.

*A small roll of duct tape. (It's sturdier than athletic tape and also has various repair uses.) Use to wrap sprained limbs or hold large bandages in place.

*Povidone-iodine solution to disinfect wounds and, when dissolved in water, to flush large wounds.

*Scissors and tweezers to cut bandages and tape and to remove thorns, splinters and stingers.

*Disposable razor to shave away hair around an injury (makes bandage removal less painful).

*Butterfly closures to close small gaping wounds.

*Safety pins.

*Small, metallic fabric blanket (good for wrapping a cold victim or shading a hot one).

*Insect repellent (DEET-based preparations will work worldwide).

*Sun block (waterproof if you anticipate a lot of boating, swimming or exposure to spray).

*Ibuprofen 200-milligram tablets (relieve pain, reduce inflammation and fever).

*Diphenhydramine 25-milligram capsules (sold over the counter as Benadryl). For cough suppression or use as an antihistamine.

*Cimetidine 200-milligram tablets (sold as Tagamet). Use to relieve upset stomach or acid indigestion.

*Loperamide 2 milligrams (brand name is Imodium). Treats diarrhea.

*Reserve cache of your prescription drugs, an extra pair of eyeglasses or spare contact lenses and wetting supplies.

Always check with your doctor to make sure these drugs are right for you. Follow directions to the letter.