I’m a little late on posting this blog today because the flu has reared its ugly head in my house. So far, I’m hunkered down in the fort with my weapons of Lysol and Purell. There have been casualties, though. Chris has been hit hard, and for the past five days, so you could just call me Florence Nightingale. Yep, he’s got the man flu.
Him being under the weather got me to thinking, though. Remember that time you had that magnificent honeymoon where you two laid on a private beach in Florida for five days? Oh no? More like, do you remember that time you got married and went to the gorgeous inn with the private beach, but you stayed in bed for 3 ½ days because you had strep throat? Oh yea, I remember that one.
We had made plans for a trip to Europe for our honeymoon, but when they fell through only three months before our big day, we did a little research for last minute trips and found another option. We decided to stay at the adult-only, beachfront Henderson Park Inn in Destin Florida for a few days because it boasted privacy, romance, and a Nantucket style charm that is perfect for newlyweds. Not that any of that matters when your throat feels like Satan shoved his pitchfork down your esophagus, but I digress. So what do you do, when you’re slowly dying from some God forsaken illness, but you’re on the trip of your dreams? How can you prevent this to start with? Take care of yourself and do your research.
Insurance: I felt fine the morning of my wedding, and by the end of the day I was dying. Luckily, we were in the states, and we had our insurance cards. A quick phone call to the insurance company told us I could be seen at a clinic in Destin and that’s what I did. Now if you’re traveling far from home, especially abroad, make sure you call your insurance before you go to find out about coverage. Seeing a provider overseas can be extremely costly even with your medical insurance, so another great option is travel insurance. This is something I recommend anyways because it covers so much more than just medical expenses.
Medications and Vaccines: I always take the usual precaution medicines when traveling such as acetaminophen, loperamide, and meclizine, etc. It’s great to have the basics for a headache, upset stomach, and so on. Always take your prescriptions in their original container, in case you need refills and as a way to show a provider what you are taking. In addition to those medications, make sure you are up to date with all the vaccines needed for your trip. You can check the CDC, and World Health Organization for information about the proper vaccines for certain countries.
Identification: It’s a good idea to have a medical ID bracelet and a written letter from your primary physician, describing your medical history, included in your travel documents. This could be very helpful in case of an emergency, and you are unable to explain your history to the physician. Many times, patients are unable to explain their conditions to nurses in their local emergency rooms, and it will be ten times harder for a nurse that may speak little to no English to adequately treat you if she can’t understand the condition you are describing.
Wash Those Hands: Hand hygiene is the number one defense to protect yourself and others from spreading infection. That has been drilled into my head since day one of nursing school. Something as simple as washing your hands can save you from hugging the toilet later. It’s great to keep a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your bag, but whenever possible wash your hands with hot water and soap for at least 30 seconds or the time it takes you to sing the alphabet song. Always wash those hands before eating and after using the toilet.
Rest: The first three days of my honeymoon were spent in bed, and no it wasn’t for all the right reasons. My body was drained. I was sick. I wanted to be on the beach in the sun, but I knew it would take me twice as long to recover if I tried to push through. Chris went to the nearest pharmacy, stocked up on Sprite and Chloraseptic spray, and I slept for three days. I occasionally came out for a meal simply because I was sick of staring at that floral bedspread. Our bodies need 7-8 hours of sleep a night and even more when we are sick.
Stay hydrated: You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t drink the water in Mexico.” Well nothing against Mexico, but don’t drink local water anywhere abroad. I’m not saying it isn’t clean, but our GI tracts may not be able to tolerate whatever bacteria could be in it. It’s a much safer bet to buy bottled water or buy an eco-friendly reusable filtered water bottle. The recommended intake of water is anywhere from 8-10 eight ounce glasses of water a day.
Pack that Bug Spray: Mosquitoes are the national bird of Mississippi. I hate these little pests. They are everywhere, and there is nothing worse than scratching yourself to sleep at night. Now add malaria or Zika to the mix, and you can get really sick, really fast. If you know you are going somewhere with a high risk for malaria, talk to your doctor about taking antimalarial drugs. If your sleeping accommodations does not offer air-conditioning and you are forced to sleep with windows open, bring or ask for mosquito netting to cover the bed. Wear bug spray with DEET in it and light colored loose clothing that covers your arms and legs. Try to avoid being around stagnant water which is where mosquitoes like to breed.
With just a few basic adjustments, you can reduce the risk of getting sick on your travels and also prepare yourself in the off chance you do come down with a nasty virus. A little peace of mind can go a long way when it comes to preparing for your adventures. As The Most Interesting Man in the World would say, “Stay healthy, my friends.”
Disclaimer: Now this is just a few basic tips to protect yourself, but nothing replaces visiting your doctor first. While I am a nurse, this is a general guide on health while traveling and should not be taken as a consultation or direct orders. Please contact your primary care provider for more detailed information, tailored to your needs.