Whether you’re swimming with dolphins, hiking volcanoes, and learning the hula, or touring the Louvre, going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and chowing on crepes at a street-side café on the Champs-Élysées, you want to make the most of every precious minute of your vacation. And yet, travel is an event that often leads to sickness, even for the most stalwart of wayfarers. From stomach aches to viruses to twisted ankles, there are plenty of ailments that can affect the traveler out of his element. And if you are unlucky enough to take ill while visiting another country (or even a nearby state), you may not know what resources are available or where to find them. So here are a few simple tips for staying healthy and treating what ails you when you take a trip to parts unknown.
1. Stock up. The easiest way to treat any illnesses is to have the items you need on hand. Pack plenty of multivitamins (make sure there is a good dose of vitamin C) to bolster your immune system, since you’ll probably be missing sleep and eating poorly, along with any pain relievers and antibiotics you have on hand (just be aware that they may not make it through customs without a prescription…or even with one, in some cases). It couldn’t hurt to throw in a few antacids or other forms of digestive relief, as well. And a small store of band-aids, Neosporin, and even an Ace bandage could save you a trip to the drugstore or a healthcare facility down the road.
2. Take a break. Most sickness is the result of too much jet-setting and not enough rest. Account for jetlag and foreign foods by making sure you get plenty of R&R, which is what a vacation is really about anyway. Endeavor to get on a sleep schedule before you go running around town and you may just avoid any ailments. But if you simply can’t wait to go sight-seeing, at least try to work in a nap.
3. Drink plenty of fluids (as long as they’re bottled!). Another major culprit in travel-time illness is dehydration, which can lead to dizziness, fainting, nausea, and headache, none of which are too appealing, especially when you’re on vacation. So make sure that you stay hydrated (and keep in mind that tap water is not safe in some countries).
4. Call your insurance company. Many health insurance providers are reticent to pay hospital bills in foreign countries (and sometimes even in other states) largely due to the fact that most insurance plans operate within a specific network of doctors and facilities. In order to avoid having to pay large fees in the case of an emergency, simply call you insurance company ahead of time to find acceptable services in and around the area you’ll be visiting.
5. Ask a concierge. When you first arrive at your destination, speak to the concierge about what health services are available (just in case) and get a list of emergency numbers so you have them handy if disaster strikes. They can often advise you on which facilities will best serve your needs (and your budget), as well as offering a number of handy phrases (in the local language) to ensure that you get the care you require.