Tuesday, March 9, 2010

1 Travel Tip Tuesday: BYO Medicine Cabinet

It's pretty miserable to be sick while you're away from home, but it really starts to feel desperate when you don't speak the language. I caught some kind of flu bug when when we were in Argentina and sent Patrick out to get me medicine. First he had to communicate my symptoms to the pharmacist through charades, and then examine the Spanish-only labels on the suggested remedies looking for buzz words like "hemoraggia" and "muerte" in order to make a final choice. I really wanted something where side effects were "dizziness and dry mouth" not "irregular heartbeat or loss of consciousness". Luckily his selection (whatever it was) did the trick and I was back on my feet after a day without any permanent damage.

But in order to avoid confusing and potentially dangerous situations, it's best to bring your own medicine cabinet with you on your travels.

First stop should always be your doctor or local travel clinic. Aside from generally making sure you are up to date with your boosters, two big concerns are yellow fever and malaria. If you are traveling in the northern half of South America or central Africa, you will likely need to get vaccinated for yellow fever. This is serious business. If we go to say, Kenya, and can't prove upon return home that we were previously vaccinated, they may not let us back in the country. Yikes. And on our first visit to the travel clinic last year, we were notified that there was a world shortage of the vaccine and they had zero available at that time to give us. We were put on a waiting list for over a month before we finally got our shots.

If you are going to any of the places shaded on this map, you will need malaria pills.
There are two options: daily or weekly. The benefit of daily is that it's easier to remember to take them and their side effects are reportedly much more mild. Weekly pills, on the other hand, are known for giving some people very intense nightmares. Since the weekly option obviously made more sense in the case of being on the road for six months (those dailies would have meant another piece of luggage entirely) our doctor gave us the weeklies to try well before our trip. That way we could see if we had any side effects while still in the comfort and familiarity of our own home. Getting six months worth of the weekly pills was still a huge hassle that involved numerous phone calls to our doctor and pharmacy, so leave some cushion time before a long trip to get this taken care of.

Depending on where you're going, the travel doctor may give you other destination-specific prescriptions. And while you are at the pharmacy picking them up, you should add the following to your shopping list for a well-stocked medicine cabinet:

  • Tylenol/Advil/mild painkiller of choice - for general aches and pains, headaches, and the mornings after you've sampled too much vodka/absinthe/local alcoholic specialty.
  • Cold and flu medicine - I learned this the hard way. It's really ideal to have one you know and like with you.
  • Benadryl - for allergic reactions and occasional sleep aid on long transport hauls.
  • Uristat/AZO/over the counter bladder analgesic - if you've ever had a urinary tract infection before, you know you don't want one while traveling.
  • Bandaids 
  • Bug spray - in the smallest bottle possible to pass airport security.
Traveling is always full of surprises--medical or otherwise--but setting aside a small space in your luggage for the basics can make a huge difference in the quality of your trip. If only there was a DIY remedy for kidney stones we really would have had our round the world trip covered.

1 comment:

  1. I think a lot of the African countries affected by Yellow Fever, including Kenya, won't even let you in the country with out proof of vaccination


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