GETTING SICK ON THE ROAD
Below are some tips for avoiding getting sick on the road and handling it if it happens…and it will happen…
Sometimes nature overtakes you when traveling and interjects an unplanned halt in your journey. This has happened to me on more than one occasion in the three years I have been traveling around the world. It turns out that an apple a day does NOT keep the doctor away especially when you are in another country. It happens to everyone if you have been traveling long enough.
It’s what I not so lovingly call the Asian Flu a/k/a eating street food, not resting enough between adventures, not drinking enough water, drinking too much tap water and failing to use a straw. This “flu” has ripped through me – rather literally – on a few occasions while traveling and no it is not limited to being in Asia. I have been sick in Cuba, Chile, Rwanda, Romania, Laos, Columbia, Peru and plenty of other places and I’ve suffered from both the stomach flu and colds but this particular story is about being sick in the Philippines. Here, in Boracay, I had some of the most peculiar symptoms from swollen and bleeding gums to a cramp in only my right calf and foot (so weird) to violent chills, heartburn, one nostril running and numbness in only some of my fingers along with a bladder infection. Of course, the regular symptoms such as unquenchable dehydration regardless of the amount of water and Gatorade I drank (in fact it seemed like it had the opposite effect) and the other ‘no need to mention’ symptoms we have all suffered from at one time or another.
So what’s a girl (or guy) to do?
I honestly didn’t know. I had no insurance, had no idea what was written on the medicine packages at the pharmacy much less what they cure. And, how do you treat those crazy ass symptoms anyway and how do you even get to a pharmacy when you can’t walk or leave the bathroom? All good questions and it’s not like your doctor is a phone call away or could prescribe something. You are alone in this one.
Here’s what I learned. First, when the initial symptoms show up on the road, you get to a resort with a concierge, room service, a/c and a comfortable bed that is CLEAN and to a place where they speak English and can call a good doctor in an emergency and can help you get medicine and other things you need brought directly to your room. I have been known to wait too long to do this thereby prolonging my suffering and filling my head with all kinds of scary thoughts. Don’t do this folks. Hostels and cheap rat traps in third, fourth, fifth world countries can be great experiences sometimes UNTIL you get sick. They won’t cut it guys…trust me. So, finally, when this happened to me in Boracay Philippines, I checked into Fairways and Blue Waters Resort, It was like escaping hell and entering heaven i.e. it made all the difference in the world. You must rest and give yourself a chance to get over your illness no matter where you are even though you’re little inner voice is going to be telling you that you’re missing all the great stuff to do. Don’t listen to that inner voice….listen to me….get rest…..get better. You’ll be back in action a lot more quickly.
Prevention is worth many pounds of cure
Like good scouts, be prepared. Take a care package with some heavy duty antibiotics, Imodium, anti-nausea medicine, Imodium, heartburn meds, Imodium, pyridium for that bladder, Imodium. Did I say Imodium already? Sorry about that but in far off places you will need it even if you don’t have the flu! Your body may not be accustomed to the food and the water in other countries.
Also, get World Nomads travel insurance and/or check your credit cards as a lot of them have health insurance and other forms of travel protection like AMEX.
And speaking of protection, try some (especially you Tinder junkies)! And while I joke, you seriously need protection from diseases including hand sanitizer, bug repellent, cortisol when you cut yourself out there in the jungle and yes it couldn’t hurt to have the Trojan type either. I have a first aid kit I got from REI not to mention the care package I have from my dad (who is a doctor). In particular, Click here to read my article about all the meds you should have with you in that care package before you leave. Wash, wash and re-wash those hands, injuries, etc. Perhaps our bodies have developed immunity to stuff in our own country but not likely all the crap in other countries.
You are what you eat
As for food consumption, this is a tough one. Street food is the best and the cheapest and the most authentic culinary experience you can get when traveling but watch the vendor to see how it’s prepared and how clean things are. Also, has the meat or fish been cooked all the way. Make sure.
Straws. Yep straws. I know straws are not environmentally conscious but they are “potentially save your life” conscious. You would absolutely say I deserved what I got if you knew how flippant I was in Cebu when I purchased a bottled coke. The girl told me she had no straws. She even said I should go get a coke from somewhere else where they have straws. I said no need as it’s just silly and picked up my shirt, bared my belly, wiped the top of the bottle off and took a big swig. I think the shirt I was wearing was being worn again for its third or fourth time that week. Whoopsy daisy is all I can say as who am I going to apologize to for my arrogance? Myself? What’s left of me now that I’m 7 lbs lighter? (and I didn’t have 7 lbs to lose)!
Remember it’s all fun and games until you get sick. Follow these instructions and you will be better off. But don’t let the fact that you might get sick keep you from exploring this incredible world and trying new things. That is just silly. Remember “IF YOU THINK TRAVEL IS DANGEROUS, TRY ROUTINE, IT’S LETHAL.”
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