Friday, March 6, 2009

A Travelers Worst Enemy

A terrible thing is arriving at your much-anticipated destination only to arrive sick. Whether it’s a fever, an upset stomach, or headache, the idea that you trip is going to start off on the wrong foot is a distressful one. In order to avoid this situation, or make the most of it, there are a few things you can do.

First and foremost, try not to travel if you are already sick. This may seem obvious, but it can be quite hard to do, especially if you have already procured tickets and made arrangements. However, there is nothing more troublesome than beginning a trip while being ill. Traveling via air can be excessively uncomfortable if you are fighting a bout with a fever or upset stomach, not to mention traveling with these symptoms on a bumpy bus ride or a long car ride.

As I said before, postponing traveling until a time where everything is roses and ice cream can be difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, the second thing to do is go prepared. Even if everyone in the group is as healthy as can be, it’s always in your best interest to travel with an arsenal of your favorite and personally effective medicines. When going to other countries, it maybe difficult to apprehend similar aids due to regulations or translations issues, so it is always best to bring what you can. This should include cold medicine, allergy medicine (antihistamines or decongestants), Imodium as well as any other supplies you may personally see yourself needing.

Thirdly, as Sun Tzu famously said, know your enemy. Knowing what your getting into in terms of food issues, water issues, altitude or worse, any outbreaks, is one of your greatest lines of defense. In most areas of South America, it is strongly recommended that you stay as far away from the tap water as possible. By not doing so you may run the risk of diarrhea or severe stomach cramping. A good resource for finding out any outbreaks or disease concern is the Center for Disease Control at, which provides a list of necessary vaccines for individual countries as well as update information on any other health concerns in that particular area.

Knowing your destinations altitude also may save you from some discomfort due to a common ailment of altitude sickness. Usually the onset of altitude sickness is instant with symptom such as lethargy, loss of appetite, and nausea or upset stomach. Since these symptoms can be quite severe, you may end up losing the first day or two to adjusting to the new height. It’s recommended that for the first day to avoid alcohol and to eat lightly. It is also possible to avert some, if not all, the symptoms by using local remedies comprised of ground coca leaves. The most common of these remedies is a tea, but my personal favorite are the cookies that remind me of Nilla Wafers. There are other variations such as toffee or chocolates or even pure ground coca that can be mixed with yogurt or put in juice. All these can be found at local grocery stores when arriving in the area.

So, next time you are planning the next great journey, remember to plan for the worst. Being stuck in a foreign place and being sick can be a daunting task, especially if the language is new and the hostel is shotty. Bring you favorite LEGAL drugs and know what you are getting into. Even if you or anyone in your party gets sick, at least you have piece of mind.
And, if you are wondering, Mel and I have been quite sick a few times thus far from both the water and altitude sickness. You could follow the trail of broken toilets to our hotel room.

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