I guess if you travel enough, you’ll inevitably end up sick or injured during your vacation. Over the years, I’ve been sick or injured or someone in my family has been and I’d like to hope I’ve learned a thing or two about what to do. There are of course some things you can do to prevent getting sick or injured but sometimes things just go wrong and there’s not a single thing you could have done to have prevented it.
One of the most memorable examples was when my husband and I were in Costa Rica many years ago and toward the end of our vacation we decided to take one of the resort’s ocean kayaks out for a paddle. We were having a grand time when suddenly the tide changed and our kayak began to get pushed into the nearby coral reef. After being thrown out of the kayak we were tossed around by the waves and struggled just to hold onto the kayak. Neither of us were wearing water shoes or any shoes at all and both of us got some deep cuts on our feet from the coral.
Suddenly my husband screamed out in agony and let go of the kayak. I held onto the kayak and fought against the churning waves to get back to shore as my husband told me what happened. He felt a sharp pain in the heel of his foot and thought he might have stepped on something other than coral. His foot was gushing with blood and he said he was beginning to see stars. We knew we had to get back to our resort quickly and hoped there was someone that could help us.
Fortunately the resort had an on-site doctor and nurse so we immediately made our way there. Although the doctor spoke no English, the nurse spoke a little English so along with my limited Spanish we were able to communicate. The nurse told me the doctor suspected my husband stepped on the barb of a stingray and she said the poison released is typically very painful. They administered morphine to my husband for the pain and cleaned up both his and my cuts from the coral. The lesson from all of this? Wear water shoes when ocean kayaking where there is coral? Sure, that would have helped. Make sure you know the language of the country where you’re going on vacation? Well, that certainly was helpful but maybe more importantly, make sure your health insurance covers you when you’re away from home. Call your health insurance company before you go out of town, even if it’s just to another state within the United States, to make sure you will have coverage if you’re injured or hurt. Ask what your limitations are as well. Fortunately for us my husband’s health insurance paid for all of the charges for this.
Depending on your personal health insurance plan, or lack thereof, you might want to purchase travel insurance. Travel insurance is more than just health insurance; your airfare, hotel, baggage fees, and other travel-related expenses will also be covered in the event of an emergency, with varying levels of coverage depending on the plan you purchase. I know a lot of people that travel internationally are big fans of Travel Guard, an American travel insurance company. They provide three levels of coverage called Silver, Gold, and Platinum Plans.
Several years ago my husband, daughter, and I were going on vacation to Hawaii with my in-laws who were older and in poor health and I purchased travel insurance in advance of this trip. This was a two-week expensive vacation and I didn’t want to potentially lose all of the money spent on our airfare and other costs if one or both of my husband’s parents fell ill and we had to cancel the vacation. The money I spent on travel insurance gave me peace of mind so I didn’t have to worry about cancellation fees, so it was money well-spent, although fortunately no one had to cancel the vacation.
A good thing to do before you travel internationally is to check online to see if you need any specific vaccinations. The CDC website is a good source for recommendations in each country. Some vaccines require multiple shots spread out over time, so do this in the early stages of planning your vacation. I’ve heard some people say they just asked their doctor what shots they needed before traveling to a specific place, only to be told, “Oh you don’t need anything to go there,” which was incorrect information, so always check online to be sure. Depending on where you’re going you might want to get hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines to protect against contaminated food or water.
If malaria is a risk where you’ll be traveling, you can take a prescription medication before and during your trip. When you arrive at your destination be sure to cover up exposed skin and use insect repellent with DEET to protect against mosquitoes.
Not drinking the tap water is easy enough but there are some additional steps you need to do to avoid getting diarrhea from the local water. Only drink bottled water that you personally open yourself. Don’t worry about seeming rude by refusing water from a bottle that is already opened. Your health is more important. Also don’t eat any uncooked vegetables or fruit that have been freshly washed, including salads. Finally don’t forget to skip the ice cubes in drinks.
In the event you do end up with “Montezuma’s Revenge,” despite all your best intentions there are things you can do to feel better faster. Pack some Immodium in your carry-on so you don’t have to worry about finding a pharmacy when you can barely get off the toilet. Activated charcoal tablets can be taken for gas from GI distress and can be found at most major drug stores as well.
I also like to pack pain reliever such as ibuprofen, allergy pills, band-aids, and even a thermometer is good to have if you’re traveling. Most of these things can easily be purchased at drug stores in the US, but if you’re overseas it might not be so easy to buy them, especially if the language is different and the packaging won’t be in English. Also, it’s much easier to just pull out the needed medication from your carry-on bag than find a pharmacy and buy the medicine then get back to your hotel to take the medicine and rest. When we were in Oregon, our daughter was so sick with a cold she was vomiting phlegm. I had forgotten to pack some tested and true Mucinex so we had to schlep to a drug store to buy some for her. After that she began to feel much better but it would have been so much easier and quicker if we would have already had it with us.
Over the years I’ve also experienced food poisoning, migraines, bizarre rashes, and cuts and blisters but thankfully nothing life-threatening. Sickness and injuries are bound to happen at some point when you’re traveling but there are some things you can do ahead of time to give you peace of mind and you can arm yourself with a few things that will make you feel better quicker.
What about you all- have any tips or stories to share?