Getting Sick When You Travel | What To Do + Preventative Tips
Getting sick when you travel has got to be one of the worst parts of a trip.
Has it ever happened to you?
Sometimes when I travel for such extended periods of time, I will get sick when I’m on the road. People share mostly the pretty parts of trips but I wanted to talk about getting sick because it has happened to me many times.
Just recently, I had a serious bout of stomach issues in Africa. I have also been to the hospital in Madrid, so I am not immune. In those particular situations, I am not sure if I could have prevented them. But now that I have had those experiences I can share tips on how to avoid getting sick and what to do if it happens to you.
Make sure you are covered when you travel! It’s a must for me!
The last time I was very sick was when I was travelling was in Morocco (September 2016).
It. Was. Horrible.
I got sick from eating shellfish in Essaouira, which is on the coast of Morocco. For lunch, I decided to order some shellfish. My travel companions (my brother and sister-in-law) didn’t have any problems at all. My downfall was that I love sea urchin and I ordered some.
Normally I only eat sea urchin at very reputable Japanese restaurants. But for some reason, I was very YOLO in Morocco and I paid the price for it. I am not suggesting to NOT eat at the seafood stalls by the port or not go to Morocco. If I could, I would go back in a heartbeat. My only suggestion is to eat well-cooked things and being mindful of everything you eat to avoid getting sick.
Quietly dying in the back seat of our car rental on the way to the Sahara
Within a few hours, my stomach was gurgling at the highest possible decibel. My stomach and lower body were not happy. To make matters worse, I had an appointment for a hammam (Turkish bath). What a nightmare!!
Luckily I am neurotic and carry a bag of drugs when I travel. I ran back to our riad to my bag of medicine, went to the toilet, and took an Immodium. Somehow I survived the hammam session but my stomach was gurgling loudly and I did not feel well at all.
My brother and sister in law ate dinner but I skipped any and all food and stayed in. I popped another Immodium according to instructions and hoped for the best.
The next day we were leaving for the Sahara desert and pit-stopped at a big Carre Four (grocery store) to pick up supplies. I bought a huge pack of toilet paper (I didn’t know what roadside stops in Morocco would be like), baby wipes (because I know my butt would be super sore), some plain bread, crackers, water, and 7-Up. Even after taking a few Immodium, nothing was helping me.
I blew up every bathroom from Essaouira to the Sahara Desert. Ha!
Round The World Girl left her mark in Morocco hahaha. I laugh now but there were very little laughs at the time. In the end, I took some antibiotics that I brought with me that I got from a travel clinic and that was what cured me in the end.
SAVE THIS TO PINTEREST
Sitting in a Madrid emergency waiting room
Another time I was gravely ill was during my round the world trip in 2011. I had a stopover in New York and was perfectly healthy. I stayed with my friend Leonard in New York. He had just returned from Africa and had a cold.
A few days after arriving in Madrid, my breath was so laboured my friend Jay who I was staying with said he was scared He thought I should go to the hospital. To the hospital, we went.
A few hours later in a Spanish hospital emergency room, I was told I had a lung infection. I am not sure if I could have avoided getting sick but having travel insurance and going to the hospital definitely was a lifesaver. The doctor said had I not come when I did, I would have gotten pneumonia.
I know a lot of people try and see if they can get away without travel insurance but as someone who travels a lot, I can’t recommend it enough.
A Spanish hospital selfie
Tips to avoid getting sick when you travel + tips for when you do get sick
- Like everywhere including at home, always wash your hands! If you are not able to wash your hands, do carry some antibacterial hand cream or spray.
- Drink bottled water in places you are worried about tap water. If you want to avoid buying bottled water, use a travel purification system like this.
- Drink tons of water to stay hydrated especially if you are taking medication.
- Be careful of food contamination. Make sure your food is properly cooked. This is where I failed – sad horns.
- Try not to eat uncooked vegetables or fruit. It may not be washed properly. If you do, clean it yourself or eat fruit that you can remove the peel, etc.
- I do carry helpful medicine when I travel. Some meds included are: Advil, Band-Aids, Neosporin, Pepto Bismal Chews (rather than liquid), Immodium and antibiotics for dire situations (see a doctor and get proper advice from a healthcare professional).
- I have taken activated charcoal pills which are great for many things like alleviating gas and bloating, curing hangovers, emergency toxin removal, in the past but did not have any with me this past trip. A trip to the health food store is a must for my next jaunt.
- I visited a travel clinic in Vancouver, Canada to get my needed shots for travel as well as some prescriptions for emergency situations. It was actually cheaper even with the flight than in the United States.
- Whenever I take any kind of antibiotic I always eat a lot of yogurts and take probiotic supplements to get my gut health back in order. After Morocco, I found a health food store (herbolario) in Madrid and bought some.
- Pharmacies in other countries are great. I’ve gotten amazing cough syrup called Bisolvon in Spain. I found Immodium in Morocco and Hong Kong. I picked up some acne cream in Thailand when my skin was breaking out. Don’t be afraid of going in there and asking for help even if you can’t speak the language. Sign language and facial expressions are helpful!
- I take a lot of vitamins and supplements before I fly to up my immune system.
- When I’m at the airport or on planes, I am also very mindful of my seat and touching things. I am that person that uses a Clorox wipe to wipe down my seat and area around me.
- I don’t eat a lot of dairy but I do still eat yogurt regularly and take probiotics to make sure my stomach is healthy!