I regularly get sick while travelling, and almost always after a long haul flight. There are tales of tonsilitis in Vietnam’s Da Nang, raging fevers that had me pulled off a flight in Austria’s Salzburg, tick-bite fever, and that time my lungs got infected by a vicious hard to shake lurgy while exploring the lower region’s of India’s Himalayan mountains from the back of a motorbike.
I won’t bore you with the details but will say in summary that getting sick while travelling is the absolute worst, as it can cut your trip short or has you tied up at the doctors or emergency room when you’d much rather be out and about exploring. Looking after health and well-being is a way of life and is best kept constant where you are home or away. These points may help you be better prepared to handle getting sick while travelling.
Always Get Travel Insurance
A lot of people feel they don’t need travel insurance, especially when doing a short trip, imagining the worst that can happen is a cold or flu, but what if this escalates to something a lot more serious? Travel insurance will help take care of all of your medical bills and the medicines you might need should you fall sick, as well as offer essential support.
This might not be a medical intervention, but your body will thank you for rehydrating constantly. Rehydrating will help with flushing out any toxins lingering in whatever you may have eaten or be drinking, that is likely to be different from home. It is always a good idea to buy a reputable brand of bottled water to reduce the chances of succumbing to water-borne illnesses, or better still carry your own reusable bottle and fill it with filtered water at hotels and in restaurants as you go (always think carbon footprint).
Read The Best Things You Can Do For Your Health in 2020 because you are worth it.
Visit a Hospital
It may seem obvious, but some people would rather take a day of rest than go to a foreign hospital. Remember that your health is important, so get to a hospital, see a practitioner, get checked out and get the right meds to help you out. Another important practice is to think in advance and get your inoculations – yellow fever, typhoid, meningitis, polio, hepatitis etc. They are valid for years at a time and minimise the risk of contagion.
Take Care of Yourself
Taking care of yourself is half the battle. Try and avoid anything going wrong by boosting your immune system with vitamins B, D, A and C, as well as adding electrolytes to your water, eating healthy and not overdoing the late nights or alcohol consumption. All things that can knock you back. Should you need them, after getting the right medications, take a day or two to rest and recover. When your body is already struggling, it needs rejuvenation, not to be put under added stress. Get clean, good food, plenty of liquids and lots of good sleep. If you see no improvement in your overall condition, you should see the doctor again.
Know What Medications You Have Taken in the Past and for What
Most people know the names of the drugs they take but do not keep an eye on the ingredients of these medications. When travelling abroad, a medication with the same ingredients might have a different brand name. To get the drug you need, you should know what ingredients are in the drugs you usually take. This will make it easier to ask to get more should you run out. Also, knowing the ingredients of the different drugs that help you deal with different issues will help you know if you have been given the right medications at a foreign hospital. I always take photos of front and back and keep them in my iCloud folder for just in case.
Plan for Anything
Even if you have a relatively strong immune system, it is always a good idea to pack a small bag of medications. Common inclusions are painkillers, anti-nausea and diarrhoea, antibacterial gels and creams for small rashes and skin irritations as well as plasters. Remember that hotel pools and other common areas are a habitat for germs that cause skin infections and may not be avoidable but take a fresh shower before and afterwards and be sure to take creams and anti-irritant medications that can help skin infections. Bug repellent, sunblock and malaria prophylactics if in a high-risk area, are a must too.
Try to Avoid (some) Air Travel
It is well established that aeroplanes form a very potent habitat for different bacteria and viruses to thrive. If you are travelling locally and feel a bit sick, the pressurized, recycled air can make you feel even worse. Try as much as possible to be around fresh air and open spaces. This tip is particularly useful for those who have any infections that cause nasal congestion or that can be infectious to others. You do not want to get everybody else sick, especially those who may be travelling with you. Think train before plane, road trip when time allows and carbon footprint when booking those air tickets.
Getting sick while travelling can potentially ruin your whole trip. That said, knowing what to do in the inevitable case of any untimely illnesses can save your whole experience. Know when to see a doctor, when to take some rest and what medications to bring are just some of the ways of dealing with any illnesses while travelling. Now go and be well.
The top pic is of a friend and I while Island Hopping off Madagascar’s Nosy Be, about as healthy a holiday as you can imagine.