Selecting appropriate medications for first aid kits

Allergy Medication

Allergies are common and can be especially bothersome when traveling, as you may be exposed to triggers that are out of the ordinary.

Having allergy medications in your kit may mean the difference between an enjoyable day away and one filled with watery eyes and sneezing.

Lotions are also available to treat itching from plants or other skin irritants.


Considered the gold standard of allergy medications, Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is an antihistamine that relieves all types of allergic reactions. It’s also sometimes used after epinephrine (see below) when treating anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction.

The biggest side effect of diphenhydramine is drowsiness. In fact, this side effect is so common that diphenhydramine is also used as a sleep aid.

In addition, some people use the medication off-label to treat nausea. The problem with using diphenhydramine as a nausea medication is the same as using it for allergies: it causes drowsiness.

Diphenhydramine is also available as a cream, often combined with calamine lotion. You can use it on bug bites, poison oak, and poison ivy. This form should not make you drowsy.


Claritin (loratadine) may be a better option, as it doesn’t cause you to feel tired.

However, it is usually more expensive than diphenhydramine.


An EpiPen (epinephrine auto-injector) is used to treat severe allergic reactions.

If you are at risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction, either because you’ve had one in the past or you have an allergy to something that increases your risk of this reaction, your healthcare provider will likely prescribe an EpiPen for emergencies.

While you or your family member likely know where you keep your EpiPen, it’s also a good idea to keep an extra in your first aid kit. That way, there is always one in an obvious, central location where it can be found quickly and easily.

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