Whoever said laughter is the best medicine doesn’t know what it feels like be in a country far away from home, alone and sick as a dog without the proper medication. Depending on the country you are going to and what activities you plan to engage in, there is definitely a list of medicines that are important to take with you or, if you don’t, forget the laughter as you might be in tears.  I’ve been there.  I know. The purpose of this article is to teach you what I’ve learned about what medicines you should have with you before you leave for a foreign country….I call it my “Justin Case”.

I’ve managed to get your basic cold and flu sure.  In fact, I remember being miserable for a week in Cuba because of that flu and heartbroken when I didn’t get to go salsa dancing (which I love) two nights in a row because of it. I remember how ill I was after staying in a mold ridden room in Laos the night before I went on the Gibbon Tour which required hiking in the jungle all day under the blazing sun, dehydrated as all get out and staying in a 40 meter high tree house in the jungle storm of all storms with a few cockroaches and tree rats to keep me company. While it was one of my favorite experiences in all my travels, I’m guessing it would have been better had I not been so sick. I also remember Boracay, Philippines. Let’s just say don’t drink out of a bottle. Use a straw. And the most recent and seemingly everlasting beating I’ve ever taken on the road was the giardia I picked up in Africa – Tanzania to be exact. I made it from Tanzania to Rwanda before spending a week in Kigali next to a toilet.  While my body never looked so good than it did after that illness, it is not the way I would recommend losing weight!

And I’m not the only one folks.  I’ve met travelers around the world who have gotten malaria because they didn’t have the proper anti-malaria meds.  Friends who struggled climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with me because they didn’t have anti-climitazation meds. Friends who struggled with ferry and boat rides because they didn’t have scopolamine.

So talk to your doctor and get these tailored made meds prescribed to you before leaving home or pick up these recommended over the counter meds because while some say “AMEX – Don’t leave home without it”, I say “Don’t leave home without your JUSTIN CASE”:

  1. Transderm Scop: if you get motion sickness, get Transderm Scopolamine (“Scop”) patches – 1 for every 3-6 days you will be gone. Prior to learning about Scop, I couldn’t travel EVER. On one ferry ride from Mykonos to Santorini Greece, I had to be pulled back from the railing as I was determined to jump overboard. If you would rather commit suicide then withstand the bumpy waves on a ferry for one more minute, you need scopolamine.  Even if it’s not rough waters, but treacherous roads like those in Guatemala or a little turbulence on the flight to Bolivia that gets you, you need scop.  If you don’t get motion sickness, you are likely to for the first time if you take the Drake Passage to Antarctica as it is the most tumultuous ocean crossing in the world.  Scop eliminates misery when deep sea fishing, paragliding or paramotoring, bus rides, taxi rides, plane rides, ferry rides maybe even haystack rides! Note that scop is expensive.  I recommend you order it from Canada or have a Canadian mail it to you so you don’t have to file for bankruptcy in order to rid yourself of this misery.  Plus, you don’t need a script in Canada, it is an OTC and the cost is $4USD per patch rather than approximately $21/USD in America.
  2. Cipro or Z-Pack: If you get a viral infection, then drink lots of fluids and rest and perhaps take Alka-seltzer Cold and Flu Medicine which is my drug of choice for a common cold and most definitely should be yours, but if you get a bacterial infection then you need a round of Cipro or its equivalent. Don’t ruin a trip by getting sick out there and not fighting it off asap when the symptoms start.  If you start a round of Cipro or a Z-pack as soon as you start feeling symptoms, you will be back to kicking butt and taking names within 36 hours but don’t forget to take the entire round or that bacterial infection will sneak back in.
  3. Acetazolamide– If you are going to high altitude places, especially if you are from sea level like me, you need acetazolamide to assist in acclimatization. This includes Machu Picchu in Peru at 2,430 meters; at Bole International Airport in La Paz, Bolivia at over 4,000 meters; at the top of Kilimanjaro in Africa at almost 5,895 meters and Huayna Potosi which is 6,080 meters just to name a few. 
  4. Pyridium: You just never know when you might get a urinary tract infection and who the heck wants to be uncomfortable sipping cranberry juice (or Capecod’s if you are on vacation) until your antibiotic kicks in.
  5. Valtrex/Valcyclivor (“V”): Fever blisters happen. It’s that simple. Nothing to be embarrassed about unless it covers your entire lips, nose or rest of your face and then let’s face it, you are an idiot for not having the unbelievable fast acting V which will almost always make it disappear in 24 hours if you take it as soon as you feel it coming.  If you have ever been skiing or snowboarding, you know it’s possible to get cold sores/blisters.  If you ever been out on a sailboat all day, you know it’s possible to get cold sores/blisters.  If you ever climbed so high that the wind could knock you over, you know it’s possible to get cold sores/blisters. If you’ve ever had the flu, you know it’s possible to get cold sores/blisters.  If you’ve ever had too much orange juice, you know it’s possible to get cold sores/blisters. Wind, rain, snow or shine  and you can get blisters.  Stop them before they stop you.
  6. Inhaler – Again, high altitudes can cause shortness of breath and an inhaler can come in handy especially if you are a smoker. I needed mine on Huayna Potosi, Kiliminjaro and Huayna Picchu. Heck I needed mine shopping in La Paz, Bolivia.
  7. Imodium – New foods in foreign countries might be delicious but perhaps your tummy isn’t used to the spices like in India or Sri Lanka for example.  Even if that’s not the case, diarrhea can surprise you even if you are eating non-processed foods out there but are climbing to new heights like the Kilimanjaro climb I made.  EVERYONE HAD IT ON THAT MOUNTAIN. EVERYONE. So make sure you are prepared and take your Imodium with you wherever you go.
  8. Ranitidine – Same with acid reflux. If it’s new, it might make you blue.  Any form of ranitidine could stop heart burn in a heart beat.  Make sure to have it. I like the Walgreens brand.
  9. Probiotics – best preventative medicine to take is a daily probiotic so tummies don’t get upset anymore and your trip will go off without a hitch. I like Trubiotics. And I’ve tried a few types.
  10. Doterra’s peppermint beadlets: This natural supplement assists keeping your tummy happy wherever you are and whatever you are eating.
  11. Sunscreen, chap stick, aloe vera: When traveling you are generally going to be outside and a lot! And like me, sometimes on safari in an open jeep in Kenya or cross country skiing in Antarctica or sunbathing on the beach in Zanzibar or sailing in Belize and you would be surprised by the number of lobsters I’ve met around the world who ruined their trip because they didn’t use sunscreen and chap stick. And while you can purchase aloe vera, more times than not, I’ve spoken with the locals and they can point out where you can get it in the wild or get the plant from a local market or from a street vendor. Natural and homeopathic is always better if you can find it.
  12. Insect repellent: Whether in the Amazon in Brazil, gorilla trekking in Uganda or in the jungle in Indonesia, you must always have insect repellent with you. A little secret for you though if you forget it, bugs and mosquitoes are none to fond of french vanilla spray from Walgreens, Target, CVS and other stores so I take this everywhere I go.  And if you don’t have either and you get bit, hand sanitizer will relieve the sting and the itch within seconds.  Apply liberally.
  13. Malaria meds – Malaria prevention is a MUST if you are traveling to countries that have high rates of malaria i.e. Africa!  I take one orally every day in countries I am advised to take them in.  Mosquitoes may be pests in the good ole US of A but deadly elsewhere.
  14. Metronidazole – Giardia is no joke. Trust me. When I was in Africa, I got a nasty parasite. There is no place in the world like Africa.  It is an ABSOLUTE MUST DO but take Metronidazole with you just in case.

No thanks necessary but you will thank me for your Justin Case.

PS I am not a medical doctor and am not giving medical advice. I’m only sharing what my experiences have taught me during my tour around the world over the last three years.  I have been to 90 countries as of the date of this post and have learned a thing or two.  Your best bet is to talk to your doctor when you are getting your vaccinations for your trip and ask him/her to prescribe anything else he/she thinks you might possibly need when traveling to whatever part of the world you are traveling to.

Here’s Travelirvana Bringing the World to You!

If you have any questions or concerns about what medicine you need for a particular country you are traveling to, then please email me in the form provided below and if I know (considering the above caveat i.e. that I’m not a doctor), then I will be happy to provide you with some guidance.


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