July 22, 2011

Our medical kit & health on the road

We have just spent 1 year travelling overland in a Land Rover in Africa and wanted to share with you our medical / health care tips.
Hygiene & Basics
Two overriding issues you have to think about are clean drinking water and basic body hygiene.  Bugs love Africa!!!  We used a charcoal / ceramic water filter and filtered all water we consumed orally.  We never got seriously ill and only had a couple episodes of "50:50" number 2 action.  We also washed our hands and tried to have flannel washes when water was low or no showers were handy (that's quite often in Africa).  Bottom line, keep clean and drink clean water and you minimise a lot of problems.  Also, if you cut yourself, clean it and treat it quickly with Savlon or Savlon spray.  Cover up feet, ankles and arms in the evening.  We only used DEET on our clothing and tried to avoid spraying it on our skin.  
We also had all our jabs done well in advance - we had approx' 7 visits to the local clinic in the UK.  Visit your GP and chat with the nurse.  They have access to MASTA and can advise what you need based on your route.  You will need Yellow fever certificate and a list of the jabs you have had, it does get asked for in Africa, esp. Nigeria!!
We took the Lonely Planet pocket health book.....VERY good buy and it helps give you a second opinion if you are a solo traveller.  Its small enough to pack in a bike too.  We looked at this a lot!!

What medical kit did we take?
We have listed the main items we took.  They were packable into 3 small bags (pictured).  We kept a basic kit in the front cab and the smaller medical kits were kept in the shade / cool part of the vehicle.  We kept our malaria pills, text kits in the fridge.  We have tried to indicate the frequency of usage too as a rough guide. 

  • Doxycyclin tablets Malaria prophylaxis - used daily
  • Malarone tablets Malaria treatment   (4 Tablets in one dose for 3 days) - not used
  • Canesten / Clotrimazole cream Topical cream for vaginal / skin fungal infections - used
  • Vagisil cream Treatment for vaginal irritation - not used
  • ASPAR / Hayleve antihistamine tablets Treatments for hay fever & allergies - used
  • Hydrocortisone / Eurax Topical cream for non infected itchy skin rashes - used
  • Mycil / Daktarin cream & Daktarin Powder Anti fungal treatment for athlete’s foot - used
  • Chloramphenicol antibiotic ointment Infected eyes / bacterial conjunctivitis treatment - not used
  • Safyr Bleu Eye irritation liquid drop treatment - used
  • Savlon Pavidone spray Treatment of skin wounds, abrasions - used this a lot!
  • Sodium Chloride solution ampules Washing of small wounds - used
  • Cetrimide / Germolene / Savlon antiseptic creams Treatment of minor cuts - used this a lot
  • Calamine cream Treatment of sunburn & windburn - used
  • Ibuprofen tablets Musculo skeletal pain relief / anti-inflammatory  - used a lot
  • Paracetamol tablets General pain relief / headaches - used
  • Lemsip powders Treatment for flu - used
  • Friars Balsam liquid, Sudafed tablets, Strepsil sweets Treatments of colds / cold decongestion - used the latter
  • Senokot tablets (laxative) Treatment for constipation - not used
  • Normalone / Imodium tablets Antidiarrhoel treatment - used once
  • Electrolade powders sachets Rehydration treatment - used several times
  • Haemorrhoid suppositories Treatment of hemorrhoids / pain relief - used once
  • Bisodol (tablets) Antacid treatment - used
  • Aquatabs tablets Emergency water treatment - not used
  • DEET - used sparingly and generally on clothing
Medical Hardware
  • NOMAD Sterile kits x 3 - used some items from these kits
  • Dental kit x1 - never used
  • Malaria near Patient Test Kits - used once for another person
  • Compeed blister pack x1 - used once
  • Tapes (various) - used Antiseptic wipes (various) - used
  • Latex gloves (various) - used
  • Rehydration spoons x2 - used once
  • Plasters, bandages & burn dressings (Various) - used
  • Wound dressings (various) - used
  • Steri-strip wound closures (various) - not used
  • Tweezers - used Scissors x2 - used
  • Thermometer - used Safety pins - used
  • Emergency foil blankets x2 - not used
  • Emergency glow sticks x2 - not used
  • Blood donor cards - reference only BUT good to know your blood group
What conditions did we get?

On the whole we only had minor complaints that were easily treatable:

Thrush, blisters, sunburn, athletes foot, headaches, dehydration, flu, 1x skin infection from mossie bite, a few boils, 1x hemorrhoid (old age).  We both suffered from sun sensitivity from using Doxycyclin tablets.  This was worse at the equator.

What extra medicine did we need?

We bought some Cyprofloxicin (for treating skin infections) in Mali.  Easily obtainable and good for treating infected bites and boils.

Nick and Vick
Stonehenge to Cape Town 2010/11
48,361km in 366 days


Anonymous said...

We used a charcoal / ceramic water filter and filtered all water we consumed orally. tell......
how exactly did you consume the water OTHER THAN orally????

Langebaan Sunset said...

Good question Anonymous ;-)

You consume water in other ways such as cooking, washing, basic hand hygiene etc.... we only filtered the water we consumed orally - this prolongs filter life. Water for hot drinks was obviously boiled - all other water for other tasks was used unfiltered.

Hope that helps answer the question



Anonymous said...

Very good information!

We are also preparing an Africa trip and thinking of taking a waterfilter.

Didn't you use bottled water?
Or was this also filtered?



Nick said...

Hi Peter,

We took a water filter - see our prep page for details. INVALUABLE!!! We pumped out water from a 40 litre main tank and filtered all drinking water and water used for cooking etc.... It was a carbon ceramic type with up to 3000litre capicity. You can buy the kit to use in your vehicle from Brownchurch in the UK.



CanAmSteve said...

Good info. I've not done the whole trans-Africa trip but have travelled extensively in sub-Saharan Africa. I keep a small water filter for emergency use but rely on buying bottled water in bulk when available and also refilling the vehicle tanks on those days when you are somewhere with reliable water source. I've not yet (30 years) had a bug I could blame on water, but I am extremely careful (many people get careless and contaminate their filtered water) and I boil all cooking water - regardless of origin. I drink mostly beer when it is available - say what you will, it works for me :-)

Interested in the choice of Doxy for anti-malarial as it is not really appropriate in much of Africa due to resistant strains - was this a cost choice as Malarone is so expensive (and precluded from long-term usage?). I am not fond of Doxy myself (or myself is not fond of Doxy :-)

Nick said...

CanAm Steve

Thanks for the info - we used Doxy as we were traveling mainly in the dry season and whilst there is some resistence to Doxy, its not universal.

Cost was an issue too as we took them for approx 140 days....we purchased bulk pills in SA / cape Town from pharmacy for £70 for 2x adult supply for 3/4 of a year.

We also took test kits and a treatment of Malerone if we got "it". We found Coartem treatment readily available in Tropical Africa.

We also covered up at dusk and dawn. We sprayed outside of tents 3x on trip with treatment from camping shop. We took DEET but only sprayed on shoes / lower parts of trousers and back of shirts. Spraying strong DEET on skin is not a good idea.

Mosquitoes love dark places - opening a door to the car at dawn or dusk and you can watch them head straight for the backs of chairs and foot wells. As such we did the odd spray of bug spray when it was bad. Classic place for them to hide is under the rooftent bag, when you open that puppy up in the morning we found you got at least 20-30 flying out on mass (mainly in Ghana, Moz and Bots).

We did get some sun sensitivity and a bit of constipation early on. Doxy also lowers body's ability to fight Thrush and we both got boils too - although I am not sure this was to do with Doxy - more probable some new strains of MRSA our bodies are not used to. To be honest, boils were the only real issue we had....bitch to treat in the heat and humidity!!!



Jack George said...

Malarone is a preferable alternative Malaria Treatment for those not wanting to take Mefloquine (Larium) and will be effective in areas of the world where we are seeing increasing Chloroquine resistance. Malarone is preferable over other anti-malarials because the prevention treatment can started 1-2 days before entering a malaria infected region and for 7 days after leaving.

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