After a trip to Guatemala where a few of us ended up with severe parasites and after the death of my friend Keiko Golambos to virulent malaria, I was asked to put together an emergency travel kit for international outreach. This is a kit for a group leader which would be customized to destination and there would also be herbs that each member ought to take, such as Artemesia annua and astragalus to protect immunity and to protect from parasites. I would also travel with fresh garlic and fresh ginger root, purchased at the destination.
It takes humility to realize that just because you consider yourself a traveler instead of a tourist, or because you want to go native, that you have not been exposed to the local bacteria and that foreign parasites can do nasty things to you. Humans usually have defenses for the bacteria and parasites in their own environment. You even have resistance to some biting insects. When you travel, that protective biota is likely not to work unless you arrive slowly on foot instead of rapidly by airplane. It takes time to change your biota. So you need to protect yourself. And if you come down with a tropical disease, go to a tropical disease specialist.
Read up on diseases in an area before you go- not only for yourself but for people you may be treating. I would not have gone swimming in Lake Atitlan if I had known what lurks in the algae bloom- and my US infectious disease specialist had never heard of it. Keiko might have been treated for the more virulent form found in Ghana had she known about its prevalence and difference from common malaria.
Take care of small things- a blister in New York City may be an annoyance, but it is an area of entry for serious diseases in many countries with other bacteria, worms or viruses.
I personally am agnostic on adult vaccinations. I do vaccinate for tetanus because the risk of the disease is worth the risk of the vaccine. If there are outbreaks of severe diseases like malaria, yellow fever or dengue in your destination and if the vaccines are generally effective for those conditions, consider them or alternatively natural protective treatments. Remember that mosquitoes at home and mosquitoes abroad may not be repelled by the same compounds so arm yourself with more than one repellent and take B vitamins.
Here is what I came up with, which you should customize for destination and size of party:
Medical Kit for Trip Leader (take on side trips):
- Sang huang san powder (may be mixed with alcohol as a tincture for infections, dysentery, muscle injuries or heat conditions; sprinkled on open wounds, taken as a decoction (boil 15 minutes,) or the decoction can be used as a wash on skin rashes. Herbal ice: premier external gao for 1st stage sinew and bone injuries with swelling, pain and redness (heat.) Traditionally made with coptis, scute and da huang rhubarb but other yellow roots and blood movers can be used.
- Antidiarrheal compounds:
- Symptomatic: Immodium, Homeopathic Nux Vomica, Pepto Bismol, Huo xiang zheng ji tang, prescription codeine
- Health Concerns Artestatin, HC Quiet Digestion, Wormwood/Angelica/Dandelion tincture to take at meals throughout the trip.
- Activated charcoal capsules
- Rehydration salts Can also use coconut water or diluted ginger ale (with sugar) and some salts, but use the real thing for prolonged diarrhea
- Probiotics not requiring refrigeration (but use fresh probiotics.)
- Anti constipation: Health Concerns Aloe 22, also for parasites but not with diarrhea.
- Sleep: Sleep mask, lavender EO, earplugs if needed
- Essential oils in small amounts. Use topically except for life threatening illnesses and works best on acupoints. For small areas like points, you don’t need to dilute unless the person is sensitive:
- Tea tree –antiseptic, works on MRSA, antifungal, use neat
- Lavender-universal EO. Antiseptic, anti burn, antimicrobial, insomnia, can use neat
- Peppermint- dot on Ren12 for indigestion, cooling, reduces fever
- Catnip/citronella/geranium as mosquito repellent
- Rosemary for general immune function. Dot over glands if immune system is weak, over St 36, and if needed St 25 or 37 for diarrhea.
- In areas with malaria, dengue fever, lyme disease or serious insect-borne diseases, a DEET based mosquito repellent to be used on clothing along with herbal essential oils on skin. Mesh clothing and headwear can also be used. And don’t forget to inspect hidden places because ticks move.
- Sunscreen if working out of doors. If you are used to temperate climate sun, tropical is different. A hat and long light sleeves. Sun poisoning isn’t pretty.
- Packets of sugar. Sugar was a battlefield antiseptic, providing a matrix for wound healing, ulcerations (even diabetic) and festering sores. Also useful for hypoglycemia or diabetic coma. You can mix with sang huang san powder for topical use.
- Saline (contact lens) solution for irrigating wounds and a few salt packets.
- Tiger balm and Die da jiu trauma liniment. The latter is for trauma, bruising, even insect bites.
- Arnica and Rescue Remedy
- Triple antibiotic cream or Goldenseal/Plantain/Calendula salve
- Aspirin or Naproxin or willow/yanhusuo tincture
- Prescription items:
- Albuterol inhaler for asthma
- Epi-pen for severe allergic responses or sublingual Benedryl
- Antibiotic like Cipro to be used for severe illnesses-check before you go for likely effectiveness with local diseases
- Codeine for diarrhea or pain
- Small packet of clay powder. Can use with water or Echinacea tincture to draw out insect bites, stings or for skin conditions.
- Echinacea or Echinacea/Propolis tincture with spray top- energetically neutral to cool anti-infective. Or colloidal silver spray. Neem, black walnut, lobelia, yarrow and wild yam tinctures.
- Iodine, Lugol’s solution or betadine disinfectant
- Water purification tablets or a water filter
- Bandaids of various sizes, butterfly bandage, compress packets, sterile dressing, medical tape and blister protection
- Tools: penknife, EMT scissors, tweezers, superglue, some duct tape wrapped around a pencil, lancets, Ace bandage or Cobain tape, safety pins, unlubricated condoms (can carry water,waterproof), pocket CPR kit, paint stirrers for splinting, LED flashlight with new batteries, Non-latex gloves, 34 x 1” acupuncture needles and a travel sharps container, moxa and matches.
- Instructions for use
- A kit to carry everything. I personally like the Lewis and Clark or LL Bean travel kits.
Jayne Stevlingson Tamburellocame up with a homeopathic travel kit, which I shall quote as I am not a homeopath. These have the advantage of being small, portable and easy to extend if you are running out. Since homeopathics work by resonance you need a more precise correspondence between the patient and the “personalities” of the remedies- herbs have a bigger fudge factor. So a small guide might be in order. For all medicines: 5 pellets every 15 minutes until symptoms calm down, then titrate down.
Hives/Burns: Apis 30C
Ippecacuanha 6C or 9C (with spasms)
Antimonium crudum 9C
Magnesium carbonica 9C (esp for milk sensitivities)
Nux vomica 9C (with indigestion)
Podophyllum 6c or 9C : traveler’s diarrhea
Add cinchona 9c if watery, profuse but not painful
Add colocynthis 9C if person needs to bend over
Gelsemium 9C: motor diarrhea due to anxiety
Kali carbonica 9C
Carbo vegetalis 9C
Argentum nitricum: Motor diarrhea, IBS, Lot of flatulence
Nux moschata 9C
Tabaccum 9C : Paleness, nausea made > by fresh air
Ipeac 9C (if worse by fresh air)
Borax 9C if made worse by up/down movement (sea or plane) or side to side movement
Petroleum 9C if aggravated by passive movement-slow movement by trains (need to sit forward on trains), made better by closing eyes, eating, heat. This is good for taking prophylactically before a trip.
I would also be remiss if I did not mention Sevensong’s extensive first aid charts, photos and information on setting up herbal first aid for large gatherings. Sevensong has provided natural first aid for the Rainbow Gathering for many years, with emergencies from snakebites and sun prostration to drug overdoses. Do go to the site linked below and read his archives and look at his charts. You can also read books like Ditch Medicine, Where there Is No Doctor and the NOLS Wilderness First Aid Book.
On Formulating Herbs for Montezuma’s Revenge. Acupuncturebrooklyn.com
How to Store Your Emergency Meds. Acupuncturebrooklyn.com
Sevensong’s Natural First Aid Protocols. Sevensong.com