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?
I travel for such extended periods of time, I often get sick when I’m on the road. People focus and share mostly the pretty parts of trips but I wanted to talk about getting sick because it has happened to me many times. I’ve been in the hospital in Europe and just recently had a serious bout of stomach issues in Africa, so I am definitely not immune. I am not sure if I could have prevented those situations but now that I have had those experiences I can share some tips with you on how to avoid them or at least what to do if it happens to you.
The last time I was very sick was when I was traveling was in Morocco in September (2016).
It. Was. Horrible.
I got sick from eating shellfish in Essaouira, which is on the coast of Morocco. I decided to order some shellfish with our lunch. I was traveling with my brother and his wife and they didn’t have any problems at all. I love sea urchin and that was my problem. Normally I only eat sea urchin at very reputable restaurants. But for some reason, I was all 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 avoid Morocco. I would go back in a heartbeat if I had the chance. But I would definitely suggest only eating 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 and my stomach and lower body was not happy. To make matters worse, I had an appointment for a hammam (Turkish bath). Nightmare!! Luckily I am neurotic and carry a bag of drugs when I travel, which was back at our riad. I ran back to our riad, went to the toilet, and took an Immodium. I somehow survived the hammam session but my stomach was still 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 (because 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 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 in New York who just returned from Africa and had a cold. A few days after arriving in Madrid, my breath was so labored the friend I was staying with said he was freaked out. He said I should go to the hospital. 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 or 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 meds.
- 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 with me a small case of helpful medicine. I bring Advil, Band-Aids, Neosporin, Pepto Bismal Chews (rather than liquid), Immodium and antibiotics for dire situations (see 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 to get my needed shots for travel as well as some prescriptions for emergency situations.
- And whenever I take any kind of antibiotic I always eat a lot of yogurt and take probiotic supplements to get my gut health back in order. After Morocco, I found a health food store at a mercado near where I was staying.
- 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 vitamins and supplements before I fly to up my immune system. I am also very mindful of my seat and touching things at airports and on airplanes. I am that person that uses a 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!
A TRAVEL MEDS KIT PACKING LIST
- Antibacterial hand cream or spray
- Pain reliever/fever reducer like Advil or Tylenol
- As a lady who gets menstrual cramps, I bring some Aleve
- Band-Aids. I often get blisters when I walk so much so I bring blister cushions
- I bring an antiseptic spray because I am clumsy and get cuts and scrapes
- Pepto Bismal Chews
- Activated charcoal