WHILE ANY SYMPTOMS that involve foaming at the mouth or bleeding from the eyes should be taken extremely seriously, don’t let your guidebook’s talk of exotic parasites and virulent viruses get you panicky at every muscle ache or cough.
The key to travel health maintenance is the acceptance that you likely will get sick, the knowledge that most things are easily treatable and/or preventable, and smart preparation. Following are ten medical items you should consider packing. Of course, they don’t replace a doctor’s visit, but in case that is not possible, you’ll be glad you were prepared.
1. Band-aids/sterile wipes/first aid cream
Never underestimate the power of a band-aid. Anyone who is trekking around the world is bound to get some scraps and scratches, and taking five minutes to clean and protect the cut could save you the mess of an infection later on. Besides, no one wants to see your nasty wound.
This one doesn’t need much explanation. Many travelers’ anxiety dreams star a bout of travel diarrhea and a 15-hour bus ride. Not fun. While Imodium will not cure your woes, it will stop them up long enough for you to get where you are going. Don’t forget to drink plenty of clean water so you don’t become dehydrated.
3. Eye Drops
These over the counter artificial tears will come in handy if you wear contacts, have especially dry eyes, or are just somewhere really dusty. They bring relief by adding moisture and flushing out irritants and bacteria-both of which can cause unpleasant eye infections.
Cipro is a strong antibiotic that travel doctors often advise to bring along. Use it if you have a bad case of the runs, and nothing seems to be helping, as it’ll kill off most bugs. Your doctor will prescribe a few courses depending on the length of your trip, and then give you specific instructions on how to take it.
Remember, Cipro should be used as a last resort for serious bathroom issues, and just because you have some doesn’t mean you can devour all the enticing, questionably hygienic, food and drink in sight!
Basically, probiotics are magical stomach elves that live in your GI tract and help keep everything copasetic. You can get them naturally from yogurt or other fun traditional foods like miso and kefir, or you can take them as supplements.
Probiotics can help fortify your stomach, and thus protect you from getting sick in the first place, or they can help restore your stomach’s natural balance after illness. They are especially important to take during and after a round of antibiotics, especially for women as they can keep yeast infections at bay.
6. Rehydration Salts
Use these during the battle against traveler’s diarrhea. They’ll restore lost body fluids and protect you from the dangers of dehydration since water is not always enough. They come in convenient satchels that are dissolved into clean water and then drunk.
7. Cranberry Supplements
For all the ladies out there, the traveler’s life style is a Urinary Tract Infection time bomb. Plenty of sweaty walks and hikes in less than snuggle-fresh clean clothes mixed with sporadic showering is exactly what your 8th grade health teacher warned you about.
Cranberry supplements are well known for their ability to prevent the dreaded UTI, and some people even claim that they can treat them. Use them as treatment only if absolutely necessary, and see a doctor ASAP, even if those nasty symptoms have dissipated.
8. Anti-nausea Treatment
Necessary especially for those rickety bus trips up and down windy mountain roads, anti-nausea meds can bring a lot of relief. Even if you aren’t the one turning green, the poor soul sitting next to you who is will be eternally grateful.
Aloe is one of those things that some people swear by. From constipation to herpes outbreaks, many people are convinced aloe is a cure all. While it is unclear exactly how miraculous it truly is, it gets a space here for its ability to alleviate sunburn pain, take some of the bite out of insect run-ins, moisturize, and overall refresh tired traveler skin.
10. Tea Tree Oil
Tea Tree is another cure-all that folks in Oz have been using for years. With anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties, tea tree is said to help with wounds, infections, cold sores, nail fungus, athlete’s foot, warts, acne, yeast infections and boils. It can also be used to fight dandruff and lice. An essential oil, it should be diluted and never ingested.
If all of the above just won’t fit, remember there are plenty of DIY solutions you can pick up along the way. Salt plus sugar is all you need to make rehydration salts, while salt itself is handy in relieving eye and throat pain. Ginger is said to naturally help with nausea and cold relief, while tumeric, a common spice found throughout Asia, is used in Ayurvedic medicine for its anti-septic, anti-bacterial and digestion-promoting properties. Finally, if you are somewhere tropical or subtropical, chances are you’ll stumble upon a nice aloe plant, just waiting to help out.
May your travels be full of adventure, just not the medical kind!
Check out more ways to stay healthy and safe during your travels:
How to Pack a First Aid Kit for Travel
Turning Food Into First Aid
11 Herbs That Ease Common Travel Ailments
Top 10 Travel Health Problems and How to Handle Them
Migraine Misery: Alternative Treatments for the Pain in Your Head