So, you're happily pregnant and you're about to fly off to some wonderful holiday destination that was booked months ago. But what should you include in your holiday first-aid kit and what should you avoid and why?
While you are pregnant, you should avoid taking any unnecessary medications as certain drugs can harm your unborn baby. It is very important that you only to take drugs which have been prescribed for you by a doctor who knows that you are pregnant.
And, even if drugs were prescribed for you before you were pregnant, check with your doctor that they are still safe to use – you doctor may want to prescribe an alternative drug or modify the dose of your usual medication. Never take drugs that were prescribed for anyone else.
Talk to your doctor, too, about your holiday destination. Some areas of the world are not deemed to be safe for pregnant women to travel to and should be avoided while you are pregnant – do check with your doctor that it is safe.
If your doctor says it is healthy and safe for you to travel, here are some must-haves for your travelling first-aid kit.
1. Vomiting and diarrhoea
If you have vomiting and/or diarrhoea, the main priority is to ensure that you replace lost fluids and prevent yourself getting dehydrated. Drink only clean bottled water, or water you have purified with water purification tablets. Pack some rehydration powders which can be made up with clean water. Rehydration powders contain glucose and electrolytes and are designed to replace those lost as a result of vomiting and diarrhoea.
Rehydration powders are available from pharmacies. If diarrhoea is not a problem, you can take diluted apple or grape juice to provide fluid and sugars. Sip fluids often to ensure you do not become dehydrated which can be dangerous for both you and your baby.
Protect your skin by using plenty of sun protection cream with high SPF. Apply and reapply often, especially if you will be in and out of water. Without adequate sun protection, you risk burning which is obviously painful in the short-term, and can be dangerous in the long-term – the risk of malignant melanoma skyrockets in people who expose skin, especially fair skin, to sunlight so strong that it burns it. Too much sun can also lead to sunstroke and increases the risk of fainting and dehydration.
3. Water purification tablets
Unless you are absolutely sure that the water at the destination that you are travelling to is safe, take a supply of water purification tablets. And if you are not sure about the quality of the water, use water purified with these tablets to clean water and use it to wash vegetables and fruits that you intend to eat uncooked. And, if you order bottled water, make sure you open the bottle yourself to make sure it has not been tampered with. You can buy water purification tablets from pharmacies.
Unfamiliar foods combined with the natural slowing down of the gut during pregnancy can cause and aggravate constipation. Keep your intake of fluids high and opt for high fibre foods when you can. There are a number of gentle laxatives that you can take while pregnant and if you prefer, suppositories, which can be used short-term. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to recommend one that is safe for use in pregnancy.
And, although not strictly a medicine, you may want to keep with you snack packs of high fibre breakfast cereal and dried fruits like prunes and dried apricots but always maintain your fluid intake or you could make constipation worse.
If you plan to do a lot of walking or if you are prone to sores and blisters, you may want to take appropriate treatments with you. Ask your pharmacist for a small bottle of chlorhexidine solution, which can be used to disinfect skin and clean sores and blisters as well as cuts and grazes. Pack some cotton wool, too with a supply of assorted plasters and bandages.
6. Folic acid tablets
All women should take a daily dose of 0.4mg (400 micrograms) folic acid daily, ideally pre-conceptually and for the first three months of pregnancy. Women on certain medications should take a higher dose of the vitamin, which will be prescribed by their doctor.
A small digital thermometer is useful to check and or diagnose a high temperature, which indicates fever. If you do get feverish, try to bring down the fever by taking cool baths or showers. Use light bedclothes and nightwear. If your fever reaches 102 degrees, call for medical help immediately.
Pack a small pair of scissors for cutting plasters and bandages etc.
Useful for removing any splinters and stings.
Heartburn can be a problem in pregnancy but may be aggravated by fatty spicy or unusual foods. A number of antacids can be used in pregnancy, so speak with your doctor or pharmacist to recommend one. Tablets are probably more useful when travelling than glass or even plastic bottles.
You may need to take a painkiller to treat anything from headache or toothache that could strike while you are on holiday. Some analgesics are not recommended in pregnancy, so do check with your doctor if your normal painkiller is alright to use while you are pregnant.
Paracetamol is thought to be generally safe for use in pregnancy but it should only be taken short-term and you must never exceed the stated dose – eight 500mg tablets over 24 hours. If you feel you need more pain relief than this or over a longer period than a day or two, speak with your doctor so that you can tackle the underlying problem.
12. Stings and bites
To help soothe stings and bite, pack a small tube of hydrocortisone cream available from pharmacies. Again, it should only be used short-term and can be applied to soothe irritation and inflammation caused by insect bites and stings.
13. Check your kit
You don't need to take the same medications on every holiday – obviously, the kit you need for a holiday in Europe will be different to one for travels farther afield. And, although you may just be adding to your usual holiday kit, make sure that all the items you choose are in date. As an added ‘insurance policy', you may want to ask your local pharmacist to take a look at the items to check everything is in date and in good working order.