First aid tips every traveller must know

first aid

Some simple first aid skills could come in handy when travelling. Picture: Thinkstock Source: Supplied


Pack a first aid kit when travelling in case you need to play doctor. Picture: Thinkstock. Source: Supplied

LP Book of Everything

The Lonely Planet Book of Everything. Picture: Lonely Planet

YOU might not be a doctor, but you can help yourself, and others, in an emergency.

Here are some first aid tips that should help you along, from Lonely Planet’s Book of Everything.

A Little History

There are records from the 11th century showing that religious knights provided care to pilgrims, and trained other knights to treat battlefield injuries.

In 1863, four nations met in Geneva to form what has become the Red Cross.  Initially the organisation’s aim was to treat wounded soldiers on the battlefield.

In the USA, the Civil War (1861-65) prompted Clara Barton to organise the American Red Cross.

The term “first aid” was coined in England in 1878, at the same time that civilians were taught first aid.

Today there are first aid training organisations in many countries including Australia, Canada, Ireland, Singapore and the Netherlands.

Simple Principles

Preserve life

Prevent further harm

Promote recovery

All sounds good to me. Let’s go…


1. Sit; lean forward slowly; keep the mouth open.

2. Pinch the lower part of the nostril; hold for 15 minutes (victim breathes through the mouth).

3. Release slowly. Don’t touch the nose, or blow it; you might start the bleeding again.

4. If bleeding has not stopped after 20 minutes, seek medical attention.


Most of the time, hiccups are not medically significant. Doctors dismiss the many folk remedies. But if your favourite cure works, go with it!

1. The most efficient “cures” concentrate on relaxing or stimulating the diaphragm; many of them feature odd ways of drinking water.

2. So try this one: stand up; take a sip of water; turn your head upside down and swallow slowly.

Minor burns

1. Remove watches, bracelets, rings or constricting clothing before the burned area begins to swell.

2. Hold the burn under cold running water for a few minutes.

3. Apply a cold compress until the pain diminishes.

4. Dress the area with clean (if possible, sterile) non-fluffy material.

Major burns

1. If clothes are on fire, douse the victim with water.

2. Wrap the injured person in a blanket; place him or her on the ground. Do not try to remove clothing that is stuck to wounds.

3. Cover exposed burned areas with clean, dry non-fluffy material to stop infection; secure with a bandage.

4. Do Not:
• Use adhesive dressings
• Apply butter or oil
• Apply lotions or creams
• Prick burn blisters
• Use fluffy materials

Motion sickness

It’s caused by constant movement of the organ of balance in the inner ear, and also by the anxiety produced by previous attacks.

1. Various drugs are available to prevent or control motion sickness. Antihistamines help if taken about an hour before the start of a journey.

2. Tip: tell sufferers to focus on a point on the horizon rather than on nearby objects.


They are best left to heal by themselves.

Do not prick or burst blisters, because the underlying tissue could become infected. (The fluid inside a blister is a serum that has leaked from blood in the skin underneath after a minor injury, such as that caused by a tight-fitting shoe. The serum is sterile, and provides protection to the damaged tissue.)


1. Apply calamine lotion or sunburn cream.

2. Protect burned skin from further exposure.

3. Take analgesics (painkillers) to relieve tenderness.

4. Extreme burning may require a cream containing corticosteroid drugs prescribed by a doctor.

Heat stroke

Heat stroke differs from heat exhaustion (where the victim sweats profusely) in that sweating stops completely, the body becomes dry and flushed, and breathing is shallow.

1. Seek medical help immediately.

2. Move the victim to a cool shady place; remove clothing. Place the victim in a sitting position, leaning back slightly.

3. Cover with a wet sheet and keep it wet.

4. Fan with a magazine (or other suitable object) until their temperature drops to a normal range.

What to Keep in Your First Aid Kit

Just pack necessities – your kit must be portable:
• adhesive tape
• antiseptic cream
• antiseptic wipes
• aspirin
• bandages: absorbent gauze, adhesive, elastic
• calamine lotion
• foil or “space” blanket
• roll of sterile cotton
• rubbing alcohol
• safety pins
• scissors
• torch (check batteries!)
• tweezers

If possible, including a mobile phone in your kit. (Put an old one in there. It still needs a battery to turn it on, but even if your contract has expired, the emergency number the country you are travelling in should still work.)

As a fellow traveller I always travel with a first aid kit, it seems annoying when you don’t need it but when you do need it gee it comes in handy. I also make sure I improve my first aid skills before I leave by attending refresher first aid course in Canberra. Canberra first aid courses are run by local trainers in Canberra who love working with people from all backgrounds and especially those who love traveling. Book in to a first aid course with Canberra First Aid before your next travelling adventure.

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