Nothing puts a damper on a vacation faster than getting sick. And because of the stress that travel puts on your body, sickness is sometimes more likely. Trying to explain your symptoms to a pharmacist that doesn’t speak your language can be rough. Luckily, you can prepare for the most common travel ailments by thinking ahead and traveling with some medications.
When you’re traveling across time zones, it’s not uncommon to experience a desynchronization of your sleep schedule. Jet lag causes you to spend your days exhausted and feel restless and awake at night. Usually this goes away on its own with time. But it’s not a bad idea to help it along.
How to prepare for jet lag
If you’re arriving at your destination in the morning, do everything in your power to sleep on the plane. If you’re arriving at your destination at night, do the reverse, so you’ll be tired and ready for bed when you arrive. If natural methods don’t work, it doesn’t hurt to take a sleeping pill at night to give you a restful night’s sleep and prevent you from feeling tired all day. Drinking coffee during the day also helps force your body back into a normal sleeping schedule.
One of the most common travel ailments is traveler’s diarrhea, especially when visiting certain parts of the world like South America or Africa. Aside from constant exposure to foods that your body is not used to, diarrhea can be brought on by drinking contaminated water. Even where water is relatively clean, exposure to bacteria that your body isn’t used to can really mess with your digestion.
How to prepare for traveler’s diarrhea
The best way to prepare for this is to avoid it in the first place. This means taking extra care not to come into contact with unclean water. You should always be drinking bottled water, even when brushing your teeth.
It doesn’t hurt, though, to carry around some medication in the event of such an ailment, like tablets or pills for digestive symptoms. If you’re really concerned about the potential for a stomach virus, your doctor might be able to prescribe you some antibiotics for the most common types of diarrhea before you travel.
Traveling can also make you constipated. Often our bodies feel totally out of sorts being in a foreign land and using foreign bathrooms, making us a little poop shy. This can lead to uncomfortable bloating and pain, and worst of all, can make you feel so constantly full that you don’t get to enjoy the yummy food on your travels.
How to prepare for constipation
One of the chief reasons for constipation, in general, is dehydration. This is also a common byproduct of flying, which makes constipation a very common travel ailment. So make sure that you’re drinking a ton of water, especially since you’ll likely be walking around a lot and sweating. Eating unhealthier things when you travel can also prevent you from getting the nutrients you need. So a smart thing to pack ahead of time is fiber pills to keep you regular.
I don’t recommend laxatives, because those are unpredictable, and they can turn your constipation into traveler’s diarrhea at the worst possible moment. But in a major constipation emergency, laxatives will do what they need to do.
Urinary Tract Infections
As a woman, getting a UTI is one of the most uncomfortable experiences especially on vacation. A few factors make this a common travel ailment. One is the aforementioned dehydration. A second is that UTIs can be caused by constipation, because a buildup of stool can put pressure on the bladder and prevent you from emptying it completely. And the last factor is that you’re probably having a lot more sex than usual on vacation.
How to prepare for urinary tract infections
A full-blown UTI can only be treated with antibiotics, but there are certain things you can do to prevent them, or temporarily treat them while you’re away. AZO is the most well-known medication for symptom relief, though it does little to actually cure UTIs.
Supplements, like cranberry pills, can also be helpful and can be taken daily as a preventative measure. Better yet, you can pack D-Mannose in pill or powder form, a supplement that contains the key ingredient found in cranberries, which prevents bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract.
Aside from that, the best thing you can do is make sure you’re hydrated and that your bathroom habits are regular. And whatever you do, don’t have sex in the hot tub.
Whether you’re going on a cruise or just taking a boat at some point on your trip, this experience can be quickly ruined by sharp headaches, dizziness, and vomiting. The worst part of seasickness is that you might not know you’re prone to this travel ailment until you’re stuck on a boat in particularly choppy waters.
How to prepare for seasickness
The great thing about seasickness is that it’s super fun to treat, because Dramamine (or the generic equivalent) is a combination of a stimulant and an antihistamine that can be used to treat insomnia. While I don’t advocate for the recreational abuse of over-the-counter medications, if you happen to get seasick and you need Dramamine, you might get inadvertently high, and it will be awesome.
You can also prevent seasickness, especially if you know you’re prone to it, by using the slow-acting patch that goes behind your ear. A good way to avoid or reduce seasickness naturally is to simply go outside and look out at the horizon. This will stabilize your perception and reduce your seasickness naturally.
Altitude sickness is even worse than seasickness, because you can’t escape it by getting off the boat. At altitudes above 8,000 feet, where you have less oxygen, you might feel extremely nauseous, dizzy, and have the worst headache of your life. Vomiting is also a common symptom of altitude sickness.
How to prepare for altitude sickness
The bad thing about altitude sickness is that medications for it are by prescription only. So you’d have to go through the trouble of seeing a doctor before your trip. Depending on whether your insurance covers it or not, this might be worth it, lest you find yourself paying $25 for four pills from some asshole in Cusco who knows you’re desperate.
But the best way to prepare for altitude sickness is to build in some time to acclimate into your travel itinerary. The first day or two in a high altitude should be full of rest, hydration, and light meals. Take a lot of naps, read an entire book, and just relax until your body is used to the altitude.
It might seem unnecessary to travel with cold medication, until you realize that those horse pills you can get at CVS for cold and flu symptoms might be by prescription only at your destination. Colds can be common when you travel, because aside from being trapped in a metal tube with other potentially sick people, your body’s immune system might be affected by the sudden change in weather, activity, or simply the exhaustion.
How to prepare for a cold
Traveling with handy things, like Emergen-C or zinc lozenges like Cold-EEZE, can give your immune system a boost while you travel. They can be taken daily to prevent colds. But in the event that you get one, it’s a good idea to have something with you for cold and sinus symptoms. If you take Nyquil, you can kill two birds with one stone and fix your jet lag while you get over your cold.