Build A Sick-Day Kit To Stay In Tip-Top Shape

Build A Sick-Day Kit To Stay In Tip-Top Shape

You can take all the precautions and immune boosters you want, but it’s almost inevitable: At some point during your school career, you will be laid low by illness. Be prepared with a sick-day kit.

Photo by Tiffany Taylor.

Being sick in a dorm setting, far away from your parents’ well-stocked medicine cabinet and your own bed, can be pretty miserable. However, if you’re willing to put in a few dollars and some forethought into assembling a sick-day kit before you fall ill due to dining-hall shenanigans, a hangover or the flu, it can go a long way towards making your sick days more comfortable.

The Starter First Aid Kit

For starters, you’ll want a basic first-aid kit. If you’re lucky, some department on campus will have mini-kits for free. Ask around alumni relations, admissions and student health services — they’re likely candidates. If you need to buy one, I suggest purchasing a pre-made kit (this one from Target looks good, but stores often sell small kits with the travel toiletries).

If you want to assemble one yourself, you should at the very least include Band-Aids, alcohol pads or antibiotic cream, hydrogen peroxide (also useful to clear clogged drains), cortisone cream (useful for itches and dry skin), tweezers (to remove splinters) and gauze if you expect to scrape up your knees or arms. Electronic thermometers are also useful to have — it’ll help you determine when you need fever reducing drugs and/or a doctor. Speaking of doctors, make sure you have your home doctors’ contact information stored in your first aid kit: If you reach a point where you need that information, it’s best to have it immediately accessible.

The Sick Day Kit

Beyond basic first aid needs, though, you’ll need to assemble a sick day kit. A good place to start is with small containers of the following: Tylenol (aka acetaminophen, for pain relief and fever reduction), Advil (aka ibuprofen, for muscle aches), Dramamine (aka dimenhydrinate, for nausea — useful during both the flu and a hangover), Benadryl (aka diphenhydramine, for allergies, skin rashes and knocking yourself out), cough drops, Imodium (aka loperamide, an anti-diarrhoeal drug) and Sudafed (aka, pseudoephedrine, the best possible decongestant — and, because of meth addicts, hard to buy when you need it). If you have space, include a combination cold/hot pack. If you need to, a cold pack can be improvised out of rubber gloves and ice.

The last category of items are the things you’re really likely to overlook as a dorm-dweller—they’re the things that will make you miss your parents. So before you become sick enough to need them, stock up on a few cans of soup or packages of instant ramen. If you like hot tea, stash a few packs in your first-aid kit before leaving home. And since you likely have their own personal sick-day rituals, ask your parents what they would suggest. Given that they’ve no doubt nursed you through some childhood illnesses, they will remember some completely important thing that has slipped your mind.

If you assemble a sick-day kit before you need it, you should be able to ride out illness in moderate comfort — even in a dorm.

What advice do you have to be comfortably sick away from the comforts of home — or avoid getting sick altogether? Let’s hear it in the comments.


  • Outside of the US acetaminophen is paracetamol, so substitute Panadol for Tylenol. Also my Doc always says that Imodium (which shuts down the bowels completely) is the worst stuff you can take for diarrhoea – if you’ve got the runs it’s because your body is trying to flush something out. A weaker intestinal sedative will slow things down without locking everything in.

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