Travel TopOfBlogs Past and future wanderings of a travel bug . . .: Feeling Under the Weather When You're on the Road

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Feeling Under the Weather When You're on the Road

For most of the last week or so I've been sick.  Sore throat, chills, fever and feeling achy all over.  Bottom line, it sucks.  I've been dosing myself with Vitamin C, echinacea, chicken soup and the occasional Neocitran.  There's not much worse than when you are are ill.

Except when you are away from home.

Even if you love to travel and were to make up a list of the pros and cons of globetrotting, being sick or getting injured while on the road definitely makes the top of the cons list.  Think about it--you plan an amazing trip, pay for it and then hit the road.  Part way thorough you suddenly aren't feeling so well.  It doesn't matter what it is, but the last thing you want to happen is to be so miserable that all you want to do is go home to your own bed.  And what if you can't?  If you are living and working overseas like I did for a while going home may not be the easiest option or not one at all.  Nearly every traveler I have met has some sort of story relating to being sick on the road--it's more common than not but the most important thing is to keep your story from becoming a horror story.

So what's a savvy traveler to do?

Well there are many things that you can do to stay healthy during your trip.  First things first--start before your trip.

Before your trip:

  • Eat well, drink lots of water, and get plenty of sleep.  
  • Do some research.  Certain ailments are more common in some parts of the world.  Is the water safe to drink?  It may not be wise to eat uncooked food in some cases as well.  Keep in mind that the locals may have no problem with the water where you are traveling but bottled water may hold the key to keeping your insides happy.
  • See a travel health professional well in advance of leaving.  They can provide you with emergency or preventative medicines that you can take with you.
  • Get vaccinated.  Depending on where you are headed this may be especially important.  Some countries require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry,  Yellow fever vaccination is an example of this.  Your travel health professional can help you with this too.
  • Get travel medical insurance!  If you don't need it this trip count yourself lucky--but if you do need you could likely save yourself a lot in costly foreign medical bills.
  • Prepare for the possibility of motion sickness (if you have never traveled by water you could get seasick and just not be aware of it--I was once on a cruise with a woman who didn't realize she suffered from seasickness until she was on her trip--the only time she seemed comfortable over the course of that four days was when we were on land.
  • The same goes for altitude sickness---give yourself some time to acclimatize before taking on serious changes in altitude.  You will have a better chance of reaching the top! 
During your trip:

  • Drink lots of water.   If it has been recommended to drink bottled water do so.  Be wary of ice added to drinks and any beverages that may be made with local water.
  • Know your limits when enjoying the local bevys.  (And that goes for any other substances you may be enjoying as well.)
  • It will probably be hard but try to get enough sleep.
  • Wash your hands, same as you do at home.  Carry hand sanitizer to use when soap and water aren't available.
  • Enjoy the local food but try to eat a variety of foods.
  • Pack some protection!  Sure you are on vacation but an STI (or an unwanted pregnancy) is a souvenir to avoid bringing home
  •  If you do have an injury or find yourself ill seek medical attention.
  • If you have the opportunity to rest when you are feeling under the weather--do so.
Although I've done my best over the years to stay well as I have traveled I certainly have not been immune to the various traveler's maladies.  Minimizing the impact if you do fall ill is key to making sure that the memories from your trip are fantastic.  Hopefully these tips will help to keep you well on the road.

Until next time happy traveling!

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