When planning a trip, the last thing on your mind is getting sick. Getting sick while traveling is the worst feeling ever. Realistically, anything can happen when you’re on the road. Especially when going to a new environment or a developing country, you could catch a stomach bug, be exposed to different strains of E. coli bacteria; worse, you could catch dengue fever or malaria. Even with careful prevention, anything can happen. But careful prevention is better than taking no precaution at all.
The Time I Traveled Sick
Read about the time I traveled sick in India. It wasn’t the “Delhi belly”, but a nasty strep throat that made it physically and mentally hard to explore a new country.
Things to Pack
If you are visiting developing countries with required vaccines, always check with your doctor or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for medical advice. Read my post on travel vaccines here. Here’s a list of things I always pack in my carry-on drug kit:
Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen
Such as Advil or Tylenol
Motion Sickness Pills
Such as Gravol or Bonine. I also like to eat ginger candies to manage motion sickness
Mega Dose of Vitamin C
Such as Emergen-C or Airborne
Such as Benadryl or Reactine
Something for Upset Stomach
If I haven’t taken a travelers’ diarrhea vaccine such as Dukoral, I would pack Peptol-Bismol or Immodium
There is a ton of stuff on the market including sprays, creams, oils, natural products, products containing DEET, and Permethrin-treated clothing
The gels are great but sometimes the antibacterial wipes come in handy too. After walking around Varanasi, I used the wipes to clean my dirty sandals
This is so necessary for flights where the cabin air is super dry
Bring a lot of tissues since many public toilets in parts of the world don’t provide TP
I also recently got a Shewee female urination device. It’s been great for places that have squat toilets!
Things to Avoid to Stay Healthy
It’s a good idea to AVOID:
Drinking tap water
Always drink bottled water at restaurants. When in doubt, I always order wine or a good ol’ Coke in an unopened can or bottle. Traveling is about the only time I ever drink Coke!
Drinking beverages with ice cubes
Ice cubes can contain E.coli
Brushing your teeth with tap water
In certain parts of the world, use bottled water to brush your teeth
Eating salads and raw veg
Follow the rule “boil it, cook it, peel it or leave it”
Eating foods from local street vendors
This rule is hard to follow especially if you want to sample local foods from hawker stands and participate in local food tours. Just keep in mind that certain foods may not be stored or cooked at the right temperatures and your stomach may not be accustomed to new foods
Eating unpeeled fruits and veg
This rule completely escaped my mind when I ate an Asian Pear in Beijing, skin and all. Even though I had gotten the travelers’ diarrhea vaccine, I had stomach issues for days
Undercooked meat and fish
Also, beware of undercooked eggs. High heat kills the germs that cause travelers’ diarrhea
Unpasteurized or refrigerated dairy
It can carry bacteria that could cause travelers’ diarrhea
Food that’s been sitting around so that it’s no longer hot when it’s served
Bacteria breeds quickly when hot food starts to cool
Did I miss anything? How do you stay healthy when traveling?