Travelling Sick

Howdy all on this Thursday. Here in Melbourne the weather is as crazy as it’s ever been, making it’s way into the high-30s only to fall rapidly into the low twenties and the skies open up. Last week we had 44 degrees, today the forecast maximum is 21 but by Sunday it will be back up to 38. That’s over 100 in Fahrenheit. Sorry, I’m writing as the thunder claps and I couldn’t help but mention it!

Today’s topic is something I’ve been wanting to write about recently, sparked by a post I read elsewhere. For anyone who travels for any length of time, it’s probably inevitable that you are going to find yourself with some sort of ailment. You might be lucky enough to have a really strong immune system, but I’m not. I’ve been sick many many times whilst travelling. Not to say that I am overly prone to catching a cold, usually I have maybe two a year, but unless you are the sort that rarely catches stuff, it’s a useful thing to prepare for getting sick.

For me it’s either gut problems or colds principally, although I have hurt my knee and had malaria, and a couple of other things too (one involving meat not cooked properly!) My gut is not an ‘iron-gut’, not at all. I’ve even been hospitalised for that once in India. The thing is – I KNOW that I am really susceptible to getting tummy bugs and worse, and so I talk to my doctor and I get an anti-biotic. I have found Cephalexin to be effective, and in some countries you can buy this over the counter. But on the flip-side, you don’t want to take it unless you have to.

This means getting to know your body when you get sick – because the reverse of the flip-side (I know, it’s getting ridiculous!) is that the sooner you start a course, the more effective they will and the quicker they will work. I know if I start quick enough, within 24 hours I can be up and about and doing things again. Within three eating normally again.

But if you’re going to try and get through it unaided by medicine, you want to flush your system with water, drink hydrolytes to replace the minerals and salts you lose and try for 24 hours food free. Some advocate drinking flat soft drink (coke, Sprite etc), which I do because I feel I need something. Others say don’t! When you get back on food, dry biscuits, toast, things without sauces and oils and obviously dairy. IF it’s two days and you can’t tolerate that, well maybe you do need to look at seeing a doctor or starting anti-biotics. Especially when travelling! Because you are losing days of your trip to misery, and you want to minimise that!

The cold is one that tends to strike when your body isn’t ready for it. After a long flight you can often catch something. If you’re tired, your immune system is down. I had a cold in Nuwara Eliya last year – after experiencing a drop in temperature from India and the coastal part of Sri Lanka. Generally anti-biotics are no use because you are probably experiencing a virus.

You are then faced with this choice – rest or push on with your plans. If you take a couple of days to rest and sleep, which is really what the body needs, well, you probably miss out, like I missed out on going to Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka. I also missed climbing Mt Cameroon back in 2011. Do I deliberately get sick to avoid serious physical exercise? I swear I do not!

If you push on, the cold is going to last longer. And so you’ll get your experiences, but they won’t be as enjoyable as they could have been. In fact – they may end up being miserable! But when you get home and you look at your photos, it might not matter as much.

A worse outcome could be that you make your illness much worse. At the far end of the spectrum – you could end up with pneumonia. So you need to know your body, and know how it fights viruses and how long it needs to recover. Even then – each time you get sick it might be different.

The important thing though is be prepared, and don’t let fear of getting sick restrict you in your plans and choices! (Although altitude sickness is one you should know how you handle – if you get it bad maybe don’t plan that climb up K2!) For colds bring nasal decongestants. There are some good sprays these days which are basically just saline but clears the sinuses and reduces the risk of sinusitis.

Thanks for reading today’s post. Have you ever had to push through a cold or something else whilst travelling? How did that affect your experiences? Please comment – and May the Journey Never End!

2 Comments

  1. A really great post and topic to cover. A friend of mine travelled all the way to her homeland with her 3 kids and they spent the full 2 weeks sick in bed. Gah! She was lucky she was visiting her family and not in a completely foreign land. That would be horrendous. I don’t remember ever being very sick while travelling, thankfully no hospital trips that I can recall, but I have had queasy tums. Really great advice to get some medication in advance of travelling.

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