Getting sick on the road is one of the things we dread the most as travelers. It can happen in the form of food poisoning, a common flu and in some cases, something a bit more serious.
In my years of travel, I've experienced sickness in many ways and many places, yet I've managed to deal with it effectively no matter where I am. Here I'll share with you a few tips that will help you deal with sickness while on the road. But, before I move forward I want to state that I'm not a doctor. I'm simply speaking out of my experience and common knowledge so please don't take this as the ultimate in medical care advice.
So, here are some of the best ways to overcome sickness while traveling:
- If you take medicines regularly, carry enough of them to last the entire trip and an extra few days of contingency. Should you be doing a long-term trip, write down the names of your prescriptions, any generic equivalent, and the active ingredients in them. Sometimes meds have different names in other countries, and the best way to get a similar one is by either describing the active ingredients or talking to a doctor about your symptoms or sickness. You can also use the RoamRight app to find the equivalents in countries around the world.
- Whether you take meds regularly or not, travel with a small stash of medications like antibiotics, acetaminophen, vitamins, ibuprofen, etc. These can fit in a small first aid kit, and will only be taken when necessary like fighting a cold, a typical headache, a small infection and so on.
- Depending on how open you are to natural remedies, give it a try! You'd be surprised how the coca tea in South America can help you fight altitude sickness and stomachache better than most western medicines. Of course, consult with the locals for the proper way to take these natural remedies.
- If you're starting to feel under the weather, try to boost your immune system by drinking a lot of orange juice (Vitamin C) or taking the artificial alternatives like Emergen-C or Airborne On the Go.
- If you get food poisoning, restrict your diet to simple foods like bread, rice, fruits, and other non-greasy, light and bland foods. Eat yogurt for its probiotic qualities or other probiotic products that will help restore the bacterial flora in your intestines.
- Stay hydrated all the time, especially when sick!
- Give yourself some rest. Don't do anything for the day (or days) you're feeling sick. If you're a budget traveler and are staying in a dorm in a hostel, consider changing to a private room to give yourself a more peaceful environment. Also, if what you have is contagious, it will reduce the chance of infecting others in the dorm room.
Now, what if it is something more serious?
If you've been bitten by an animal (spider, scorpion, snake, raccoon, etc.), contract malaria or other sickness, or simply feel like you're not improving after treating yourself with over the counter medicine; then it is time to visit a doctor. Common sense and your body will tell you when the situation is bad enough to go to a doctor or the emergency room.
Make sure you travel with proper travel insurance to cover you in these unlikely, yet plausible scenarios.
For example, when I was in Italy I got a really bad case of food poisoning, and after days of not improving I felt I needed to go to the hospital. Once I made that decision, I called my travel insurance to let them know I was going to the hospital. After visiting the hospital and getting proper care, my condition improved dramatically in just a matter of hours. Also, my travel insurance covered my hospital visit!
Should this happen to you, contact your travel insurance so they can tell you which clinics and hospitals they work with in your current location, so your visit will be covered.
Finally, let other people know what you're going through, just in case. It's not about getting them worried, but more about getting their support and help. People you care about might be far away, but that psychological support can help in ways you may not realize.
What else do you recommend doing when illness strikes while traveling?
Don't let delays or mishaps ruin your getaway, be sure to get the right travel insurance policy for you!