Medical charades: Sickness on the road

It turns warm outside and of course I get sick. It seems like illness always strikes at an inopportune time although let’s admit it . . . there is NEVER a good time to be sick. All the tissues and blankets got me thinking about all of the times I’ve faced illness while traveling and how I’ve never let it keep me from enjoying (or at least seeing) a destination. Being sick while traveling can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be the end of a good time and sometimes it adds a little memorable moment to a vacation that you can joke about. Of course, you should wait until enough time has passed for all involved parties!

The first time I faced something more serious than a gurgly tummy while far from home was a trip to Spain during college. On our way there I started feeling a little congest, but shrugged it off as altitude issues. By the time we landed I couldn’t hear out of my right ear and thought maybe something a little stronger than chewing gum was needed. So after a fun game of charades the lovely pharmacist was able to give me an over the counter remedy. I still have no idea what I took, but whatever it was it worked.
Looking back I probably should have taken note of what I was taking. But here are a few tips and things I have done correctly as we have faced flu, full body poison ivy, diaper rash, and a slew of other ailments while on the road. So if you ever find yourself feeling under the weather and facing language barriers and more here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Ask at the hotel concierge. Most front desk staff are fluent enough in English, your broken attempt at their language, or the fall back game of charades to point you to a good source for help.
2. Go to a reputable pharmacy if you can find one. This is especially important in a place where you are unfamiliar with the language. Symbols for medical professionals are pretty universal.

Italian pharmacy sign

Italian pharmacy sign

Chinese pharmacy sign

Chinese pharmacy sign

(They look VERY similar!)

3. Make sure you understand the dosage. I had the pharmacists write down exact times I should take my medicine so there was no confusion.

4. Make your traveling companions aware of what you are taking and where to find the medicine in case you have an adverse reaction. If something happens medical personnel need to be able to look at the medicine you are taking.

5. Travel with a mini kit of basics – pain reliever, antibiotic, rash cream, antibacterial – for minor issues.

6. Keep your doctor’s number with you. If you think it is something you need medicine for you can start with a call to your doctor for some advice on what you can take and what to look for. I have done this on domestic trips with great success, but a little less success on international excursions.
Most ailments you face at home or on the road are minor and soon pass so don’t let a little sniffle keep you from enjoying what could be your only visit to someplace.

 

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