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One of the attractions of bicycle touring is the element of danger, but how prepared are you for an actual medical situation? If youíre getting ready for an international cycle tour, youíll need more than some aspirin and Duct tape. You need to be ready for whatever your chosen location might dish out.
My recommendation is to buy a comprehensive medical kit and start from there. I still carry the same first aid kit I bought ten years ago, but Iíve probably replaced all the supplies a few times over. Make sure your kit comes in a durable, well-marked bag with clear sealable pockets. You donít want to be scrambling around in an emergency. Consider your destination and be prepared for the dangers of that region. Will you be cut off from medical help? Will you be in the tropics? Snow? Snake-infested jungles? That snakebite kit wonít be of much good if you donít know how to use it. A course on backwoods wilderness survival could be a lifesaver.
Hereís a packing list of medical supplies that your cycling first aid kit should include.
International health and first aid manual - Make sure you read through it before leaving for your trip.
Adhesive bandages, various sizes - This is my most often replaced supply, as I find I give them away often. I like the large size pad for knee scrapes. It is worth it to spend a little money on bandages, as the cheaper ones will lose their stick easily. A roll of self-adhesive, elastic bandages will always be useful. There are also liquid bandages on the market now. Iíve only seen them, but they look to be an effective way to keep dirt out of a wound. Wound closure strips are good for holding cuts closed. An Eye Patch bandage will protect an injured eye until you reach medical help, or in case you need a quick pirate costume.
Gauze, pads and rolls - I often cut the pads for use as bandages and tape them on with medical tape.
Medical tape - Sometimes I use medical tape instead of bandages for small cuts. I like to carry a roll of both wide and narrow tape.
Ace-type elastic wrap bandage
Antiseptic wipes - These run out quickly. You can replace them, or just use gauze and iodine or rubbing alcohol to clean wounds.
First Aid Antibiotic Cream - Use to treat burns, cuts and blisters after cleaning and under bandages.
Moleskin/Blister Pads - I donít get so many blisters while biking, but a day of hiking will chew my feet up. While I still carry the old style moleskin, there are lots of new blister pad products on the market.
Blunt edged scissors - Use these for cutting bandages and tape. Theyíre also handy for the occasional haircut.
Safety pins - I keep some in my repair kit as well so Iím not tempted to use my first aid safety pins for clothing repair.
Tweezers - Tick and foreign body removal. Keep the pointy-tip tweezers in your medical kit, and donít use them to pluck your eyebrows.
Surgical Gloves - I once came upon a car accident in Australia. While waiting for the EMT, I helped clean up a young man with a nasty head wound. As I wiped the blood gushing out of his scalp, he explained how heíd just been released from prison. How thankful was I to be wearing my surgical gloves.
Sealable plastic baggie - Itís just polite to properly dispose of medical waste.
Eye drops/Saline Solution - More than once, Iíve gotten a bug lodged in my eye while whipping downhill. A squirt of saline relieves the irritation of bug or dirt in the eye.
Iodine and/or Alcohol - Both are excellent disinfectants. In a pinch, iodine can be used to purify drinking water as well.
Cotton tip applicators - Much cleaner than a finger for applying disinfectants and First Aid cream.
Irrigation Syringe - The type with the curved applicator is very good for squirting bits of gravel and dirt out of road rash. During coastal rides, I often meet surfers who are slobs about cleaning coral wounds, which can get infected in a matter of hours. More than once, I found myself digging chunks of coral out of someoneís foot using a Q-tip and a syringe full of water and iodine.
Most first aid kits available are geared for domestic wilderness travel such as a 30-day voyage though the Grand Canyon, but an international traveler has different needs. Abroad there is a whole host of new illnesses and health factors to contend with. The two first aid kits below are an easy way to check off most of the medical supply list for your international bicycle tour.
My pick for travel in developing countries
An Ounce of Prevention
Medication with Doctorsí Notes
Antibiotics to Consider
Doxycycline - Antibiotic for the treatment of malaria. There are other malaria medications available. You need to speak with a doctor about which is best for your specific destination, as different regions have different strains of malaria. Remember to take into account the side effects of malarial medications. If you use Doxy, always wear sunscreen, as it will increase your sensitivity to sunburn.
Metronidazole (Flagyl) - Used to treat Giardia or Amoeba infections.
Ciprofloxacin - Cipro is an antibiotic used to treat infectious diarrhea, pneumonia, typhoid and many other bacterial infections.
Amoxicillin - Broad-spectrum antibiotic for general use.
More Supplies to Consider
Snake Bite Kit
I have used several brands of bicycle panniers and
highly recommend Ortlieb.
See Why I switched to Ortlieb waterproof Panniers?
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