Let me tell you about the time I traveled sick in India. As usual, I had planned a jam-packed travel itinerary that took me to India via Hong Kong. I was so tired adjusting to two different time zones and was running on pure adrenaline. Inevitably, my immune system weakened, so I was susceptible to catching something.
Sick on Day 3
On day 3 of our 14-day trip, we were in Varanasi. On our Ganges River boat ride past the cremation ghat, I could feel myself inhaling dead bodies. Then, walking through the alleyways in Varanasi, an old lady walked passed me and coughed a nasty cough without covering her mouth. I’m not blaming either of those instances (fine, I totally am), but at that moment, I felt myself getting sick.
Alas, when I woke up the next morning, my neck glands were swollen, my throat was SO sore, I had a throbbing headache, and my sinuses felt like they hit a brick wall. I was so disappointed that I would have to see India while sick.
Dealing With Being Sick in India
I took the salt shaker from the hotel restaurant and gargled. My saving grace was my bottle of Advil Liquid Gel Capsules. But I had to ration it carefully as there were only 10 capsules. The Advil worked wonders.
At night, I made a humidifier to relieve my sinuses by sticking my head over a kettle of boiling water steeped with a green tea bag. I trapped the steam with a towel over my head. It helped a bit! I was also thankful to have brought eye drops on the trip.
The days were really hard. As the phlegm in my lungs got worse, I couldn’t go 10 minutes without having to hock phlegm everywhere (into a tissue, of course). We had to sit for hours in a car to travel between cities and I was glad to have been able to doze off in the backseat.
My head throbbed so much that I missed out on seeing the Taj Mahal at sunrise. I wasn’t physically or mentally able to wake up before the crack of dawn. I recalled the chaos when entering the Taj Mahal at sunset the day before, and didn’t want to go through all of that again. Read about my sunset visit to the Taj here. But maybe I should have roughed it. I still kind of regret not seeing the Taj at sunrise. Though it just means that I’ll have to go back to Agra another time!
Going to an Indian Pharmacy
Our itinerary was very tight, so I didn’t want to waste any time waiting at a doctor’s office.
On the last day, I did go to a pharmacy, which was a cool experience. Drugs were kept in plastic tupperware containers on shelves. There were a lot of backpackers getting drugs and I overheard them say that sleeping pills are in high demand. I wondered if oxycontin was readily available!
I described my symptoms to the pharmacist, who then prescribed some meds; but I backed out of filling that prescription. It looked sketchy since the pills weren’t in an original box and I didn’t know if the drugs were FDA approved, etc. Instead, I asked for a saline nasal spray. It cost the equivalent of $0.60.
Still Sick on Day 9
By the time I returned to Hong Kong, I was still deathly sick. I felt like a trooper for still going out! I still didn’t see a doctor but went to get OTC meds from Watson’s, a Hong Kong drug store. Funny side story: the pharmacist there was from Alberta and recognized my Canadian bank card!
When I finally got on my return flight to Canada, I felt so bad for the passenger who had to sit beside me! I finally saw my doc back home, who prescribed me 2-weeks worth of antibiotics.
That was not an easy trip! It was kind of ironic that I didn’t get the infamous “Delhi belly”, but a nasty bacterial infection. Read about How to Stay Healthy While Traveling here.