Can you give us some feedback about filling prescriptions and/or beefing up your ship’s medicine chest in various part of the cruising world?
My general experience is that the less developed the country you are visiting, the less that is available as it relates to drugs and medical supplies. I would strongly suggest that you put together your medical kit before you leave the first world.
Some of the larger ports in Mexico, such as Puerto Vallarta, have fairly good availability of drugs and even a modern, well equipped, US-owned clinic, complete with exorbitant US prices. As you drift off to the small towns, availability of many items becomes difficult.
Cruising through the South Pacific, you will find fairly good availability of supplies in some of the larger “villages” such as Papeete (Tahiti), Noumea (New Caledonia), Nuku’alofa (Tonga) and Port Vila (Vanuatu). When you get to the outer islands, the locals will likely be asking you for medical supplies. This is a good time to off your old and surplus items.
That said, some drugs not available in the US are available in certain third world countries. Some examples are Stugeron, which seems to be the seasickness prevention of choice of many cruisers, injectable Valium (for extreme seasickness) and birth control pills. All were sold over the counter in Mexico, or could be gotten on prescription, which costs a few pesos more.
Once you’ve made the “Coconut Milk Run,” replenishment of your medical kit is quite easy and less expensive when you reach Australia or New Zealand. If you are inexperienced at med kits, or can’t be bothered (I’m both), Safety at Sea in Auckland will take on the task of reviewing, replenishing and inventorying your med kit for a reasonable fee.
What do you carry in the way of medical supplies?
My philosophy as it relates to the med kit is to keep it as simple as possible, don’t carry anything that can get us into trouble (legally or medically) and review and replenish the kit before each cruising season.
I have five boxes on board. They are:
- The trauma kit. This is for treating major cuts, burns or injuries, and contains sutures, painkillers, antiseptics, etc.
- The bandage box. This has a wide assortment of bandages and splints.
- The minor medical kit. This has treatments for colds and coughs, bug bites and other minor issues.
- The dental kit. I found this little gem in AAA’s “Viva” magazine. It has treatments for chipped and broken teeth, lost fillings, etc.
- The seasick box. This little box has an assortment of seasick pills, patches, ginger and acupressure bands.
Additionally, we keep a small first aid kit in the go bag. We also carry disposable hypodermic needles in case we need injections in areas where they re-use needles. For travel in malarial areas, we have a malaria test kit in the fridge. Lastly, because we are divers, we also carry an oxygen cylinder.