I first took a stethoscope with me to Asia on my medical school elective, and was pleasantly surprised when I noticed that I quickly passed through security and custom checks once it had been discovered in my luggage.
The stethoscope certainly appears to be an international symbol of a doctor.
It overcomes language barriers to explain to people what I do, which normally results in a positive response.
Of course, taking up valuable packing space, it should have additional uses. It can make a great toy to entertain young children. If you were having a sleepless night due to excessive noise, you could even use your stethoscope as emergency ear plugs, or indeed use it to help communicate to people who are hard of hearing. And of course, you might even find it useful if you needed to examine fellow travellers or locals if unwell.
I take a basic and cheap stethoscope with me, so that I do not have to worry about it getting lost or damaged. In fact, I usually take a stethoscope that I have obtained for little or no cost. Sometimes at the end of my trip, I have left it behind with someone who will benefit from it.
One of my friends used a stethoscope while attending to an unwell passenger during a flight, and now as a result, he tends to be automatically upgraded when he flies on the same airline.
- Dr Shanker Vijayadeva is a GP in Middlesex.