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Travel and Illness

Travel and Illness

Last year I covered 174,500 miles and went around the globe not once but twice. I hate to say this but gut disruption will always be part of the game of travel. Different foods, different times of eating all contribute to these sensitive issues.

Some common advice – do not eat anything that has not been cooked and always drink a lot of water. This is not always possible and drinking lots of ‘clean’ water may not be possible. You often have to eat what you are served – period. Other than for religious or very serious diet restrictions that MUST be communicated in advance, if not you are stuck with what is served. As for water, look for bottled water. If you can’t find any then drink hot water (boiled), hot tea, canned beverages or glass bottled beverages with carbonation – not plastic bottled beverages. Too much mischief goes on with regards to filling water bottles with untreated water. The acid from dissolved carbon dioxide is also a good germ killer.

For me personally I should stay away from gluten or starches – so think twice the next time you go for fast food at an airport. What do they have? Sandwiches, cakes, bread and – more and more starches. Ah well, I find carrying nut bars in case of an emergency the best thing to do. My last trip I packed 12 nut bars and they were gone by day 10 – ug.

Getting sick, it is only a matter of time before that happens. Prepare all that you can before you leave. Have a consultation with your doctor, check for shots and those prescriptions you may need when traveling, antihistamine (yes), antidiarrheal, (yes) antibiotic (yes). Get what you need, and keep it at the ready if you should need them. They should always be in a checked bag. One of the most effective antihistamines is diphenhydramine – brand name “Benedryl”. It is not available in some places other than by prescription and in some countries it is banned because of the sedative side effects. Zambia and Qatar are two that come to mind. I am not advising to break laws, but you to be prepared.

The medicines I have mostly used have been the antihistamines for internal and topical problems, as well as antibiotics. The worst cases were scombroid poisoning, nasty bug bites, and contact dermatitis that evolved within two days into some very painful cellulitis on both legs from my thigh to my ankles. I required two local professional medical visits. Things like this are fairly common when travelling, and it could happen at home or near home, but it is always worse when you are away and apart from normal and familiar channels of support. I also have had the norwalk virus and salmonella poisoning. I remember those famous words from Maryanne, “I think the turkey is still good.” This was uttered after all three of us had just finished the turkey sandwiches! I recommend both the norwalk virus and salmonella for violent and quick weight loss.

So – prepare you travel kit in advance and add to the kit a World Health Organization Yellow Card that will carry your list of vaccinations, prescriptions, and general health information. After that, relax and go explore.

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