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How to put together an expedition medical kit

How-toJames Hipkiss

From tincture of iodine to a urine pregnancy test recommended for those supporting youth group travel, the contents of an expedition medical kit will depend on skills, experience, environment, preferences, size and purpose of expedition and distance from help. With so many different categories of expedition and destinations, it is impossible to pin down a simple list of must haves. More useful is a list of general medical requirements that an expedition medic might consider when putting together a med kit.

The following list was put together by consolidating advice from some of the most well-known expedition medics in the United Kingdom, including Barry Roberts (Wilderness Medical Training), Dr Sean Hudson (Acadamy of Wilderness Medicine) and Dr Peter Steele, physician to the International Everest Expedition in 1971. 1. Water purification - steritabs/reverse osmosis pump 2. Diagnostic equipment - stethoscope, AED 3. Protection and sterility - gloves sterile wipes 4. Fracture management - splints cervical collar triangular bandages 5. Lotions and potions: a. Antibiotics - may need a friendly doctor to prescribe b. Painkillers - ibuprofen, diclofenac c. Gastrointestinal medication - dioralyte, ibuprofen d. Allergies and asthma - antihistamines, ventalin e. Nose, ear and eye ointment f. Skin balm 6. Dressing materials and wound closure kit - steristrips, FFDs, gauze bandages 7. Environmental: altitude, sun, exposure, frostbite, insects, animal bite treatment kit 8. Dental emergencies 9. IV access and fluids - needles giving sets 10. Paperwork and documentation for team members - i.e. blood type, any allergies etc.

In addition to putting together medical supplies, an expedition medic should also heed the following advice from the experts: Take the minimum necessary to deal with the broadest array of potential problems. Contact the embassy of the country you are travelling to for current inoculation and international certification requirements for travellers into and out of that destination country. If you are not an expert, seek advice from a qualified doctor prior to departure.

Antibiotics should cover as wide a variety of infections as possible. Make sure all team members have the appropriate immunisation and insurance. Acquaint yourself with individual health issues of all team members prior to departure. Individual team members should carry a personal supply of water purification tablets, sun cream, insect repellent, painkillers, blister pads and an adequate supply of personal prescribed medications. It may be appropriate to have a small portable kit(s) in addition to a comprehensive base camp kit.

Split your medical supplies across several team members to minimise risk of loosing it all in one go. Don't advertise your medical kit at borders, customs or police check points. In some countries medical supplies are valuable and transporting them may be restricted. Pack your medical supplies in an unmarked, waterproof case. Dont forget the basics such as paper and pen/pencil, gloves and a mobile or satellite phone. Never use any medical equipment or perform any procedure unless you have been thoroughly trained to do so by an accredited medical practitioner.

Exploration news and features by Sarah M Lawton: www.for-content.com"