Enter your email address

5 Lifesavers When Sick On The Road

by Meg · 16 comments

Being a big baby about getting blood taken overseas!

Tony recently wrote a how-to article on what to do when you become “travel sick”, which is what happens when you get sick of travelling.

But what to do when you actually get sick while travelling?

Now in all fairness, I am not a doctor. But I have been sick with bronchitis and  E. coli while on our RTW trip, so I do have a few tricks up my sleeves on how to get better and back on your itchy travel feet… fast!

Here are 5 Lifesavers When Sick On The Road:

Bring Medication On The Road For Emergencies

Before starting long-term travel, you should visit a local travel clinic (such as Passport Health) or your primary care doctor and get some medication in advance to pack in your bag for your journey.

Tony and I were able to get a prescription of Cipro (Ciprofloxacin) to bring with us on our trip, which is a broad spectrum antimicrobial agent to help cure a variety of bacterial infections, such as Strep Throat, urinary infections, and E. coli.

Having these precious pills on hand in your backpack can save you the hassle of getting a prescription abroad when you’re sick.

Contact Your Travel Insurance Company Immediately Upon Becoming Sick

In order to master your sickness abroad, you need a game plan!

Depending on what medical or travel insurance you have, your provider may have a list of clinics they work with in the foreign city you are visiting.  As soon as you begin feeling symptoms, contact your insurance company, let them know your condition, and see how they can further instruct you to seek proper medical attention.

When I came down with E. coli in Cusco, Peru, my insurance company, Seven Corners, emailed me a list of reputable clinics in the area that had English speaking doctors and clean facilities.  It was a lifesaver to have this information readily on hand when things started going south and I needed to get to a doctor fast.

Change To Private Accommodations If Necessary

No matter what kind of illness you are dealing with, you do not want to suffer through your sickness in a noisy shared hostel room.

Not only will you find it hard to get the rest you need, but you risk getting others sick as well.

And if you have food poisoning or the stomach flu, then you DEFINITELY do not want to be sharing a bathroom with 10 other backpackers… that’s no way to make friends your hostel roommates!

Trust me, it is worth the extra penny to switch accommodations to a private room in your hostel or even upgrade to a comfy nearby hotel.  This will allow you to recover privately in a much more appropriate environment.

Enlist The Help Of Others

Whether travelling solo or with a companion, let others know you are sick and ask for their help.

Tony and I have both been sick on the road and it was so nice having each other to lean on for support.  What you need is your rest, so let someone else run to the store to pick you up medicine or juice.

My stash of drugs after my bout with E. colli

Even if it’s someone you just met in your hostel, don’t be afraid to ask for help… If there is one thing we learned during our travels, it is that most people are inherently good and are willing (and grateful) to lend a hand!

If You Have A Stomach Bug, Follow The BRAT Diet:

When you are travelling the world, chances are you WILL get some form of stomach-related illness. Consider it an “initiation” into the lifestyle.

When I had E. colli, I couldn’t stomach the thought of eating anything for three days straight.  Luckily, Tony was there to force feed me some bland foods to give my body a little sustenance and energy.

The best foods you can eat when you have the stomach bug?

Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast.

It is also recommended that you follow this diet for several days after you have recovered from your illness.  Your stomach will probably be highly sensitive to rich foods immediately following your sickness, so be gentle and ease back into your normal eating habits.

When I finally got my appetite back after recovering from E. coli, for whatever reason, I was CRAVING fried chicken (something I never eat or want).  I made the deadly mistake of opting for a KFC fried chicken bucket for dinner…

Needless to say, that landed me in bed for another two days.  Lesson learned!

All smiles, but this was a BAD idea!

Your turn: Have you ever been sick during your travels? What tips do you have for recovering from an illness on the road?  Please share in our Comments section below!

About Meg
Exhausted from traveling every week as a Business Management Consultant early in my career, I took a year off in 2012 to travel at my own pace. I am a high-energy girl that loves being active, eating food, drinking wine, and exploring the world with my partner-in-crime (and husband), Tony! I now reside in Portland, Oregon and continue to write about travel, food, wine, and the awesome adventures we have in the Pacific NW!

Noah & Anne July 3, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Thanks for the tips – so sorry you got sick with E. coli. Since we’ll be arriving in Cusco next week, can I ask for details on what happened?

Meg July 4, 2012 at 4:20 am

Hey Noah and Anne! It was really weird actually because I got sick off of some veggie burger of all things. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the restaurant but it was some no-name hole in the wall place – That should have been a warning!

I had aioli sauce on my burger that was made with egg yolk and I think that’s what did it, since that was the only thing I had on my burger that Tony didn’t eat as well. I started feeling immediately sick after leaving the restaurant. After three days of being sick, my insurance company sent me to Clinica Cima, which I would highly recommend if you guys need medical attention while there (hopefully not though!).

Enjoy your trip to Cusco! Apart from getting sick, we loved it!

Cherina July 7, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Oh you poor thing, Meg! Firstly I can’t believe you got sick again off the KFC – although I am not a fan at all, so I kind of CAN believe it 😉

I managed to get through 3 months of South America without getting sick at all and was SO proud of myself, and then…on my second last day I ended up with a serious case of altitude sickness in Cusco after walking the Inca trail (despite having been acclimatised for weeks! So weird.)
I passed out in the hostel bathroom – super classy :)

There is nothing worse than being sick on the road – your tips are all awesome! And, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger…right?

Meg July 9, 2012 at 5:42 am

It definitely makes you stronger! That sucks to hear about your altitude sickness…. Passing out in a hostel bathroom would not be fun! We traveled to Bolivia before our Inca Trail hike so we had a couple weeks to get acclimated. No issues with us (although Tony had a hard time sleeping). I just remember our guide was trying to force feed us coca leaves to prevent getting sick… The Peruvians sure do love their cure-all plants 😉

And yeah, KFC was a bad idea!

Bethany ~ twoOregonians July 8, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Ugh. Sickie days (and nights) on the road are no fun at all.

We both got a terrible case of traveler’s diarrhea in Cusco, Peru, and we barely made it back to good health in time for the Inca Trail. Having Cipro packed in our first aid kit helped a lot; breaking down and taking it was the hardest part. (I hate, hate antibiotics…but you have to do what you have to do.) Packing rehydration salts really saved the day, too. Yogurt and cultured foods afterward helped begin the process of gut-healing.

Just this past week, we arrived in South Africa, and I’m 99% sure that I got food poisoning from a dreadful sandwich on an unnamed airline… Having private accommodations with a clean porcelain god to worship for the night helped a lot. Then two ladies who run a local cafe offered to send Ted home with specially brewed guava leaf tea; they swear by its healing capabilities, and after several glasses of the pungent stuff, I think they’re on to something.

I didn’t quite learn my lesson, either, Meg. I went straight out for a blue cheese burger and a big, thick on the fourth of July. But it was so, so worth it… : )

Meg July 9, 2012 at 5:49 am

Rehydration tabs have helped us so many times on the road. I totally forgot to add those into our tips. Yogurt is also my go-to snack on the road. So necessary for travelers!

We usually do not take our Cipro unless we have had a fever for a couple days… I agree with you on avoiding antibiotics at all costs. I am still trying to figure out how I am going to get away with not taking Malaria pills in SE Asia.

So sorry to hear about your sickness in Cusco… Thank gosh it cleared up before the Inca trail though. What great timing!

I gotta try out this guava leaf tea… We should start a business back in the states selling guava leaf tea and coca leaves – But maybe there’s some legal issues there!

And I am sure that Bleu Cheese burger was worth every bite. I just mentioned it to Tony and he went weak in the knees! 😉 We also had to indulge on some burgers in Berlin for July 4th!

Safe travels you two! :-)

Bethany ~ twoOregonians July 8, 2012 at 12:58 pm

*milkshake, thick milkshake 😉

Meg July 9, 2012 at 5:42 am

With raw milk from Oregon… I’m in!

Vicky August 21, 2012 at 10:00 am

Great post! While we still have medical insurance from our full time jobs we have gotten tons of prescription meds we’ll be taking along with us. I see you mentioned here that you have Seven Corners travel insurance – that’s a company I’d never heard of before. How has your experience with them been? Would you recommend purchasing their policy? Did you shop around and compare it to other policies? We are in the process or trying to pick an insurance policy but really don’t know which one to go with (currently considering IMG or World Nomads). Any help on this topic would be appreciated!!

Meg August 21, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Glad you liked it Vicky! Researching insurance was a pain in the butt before our trip but it is definitely needed! We shopped around a TON and Seven Corners was the best option for us (we got a policy that covered us both in the states and abroad, which is rare to find but very helpful if you need to be med evacuated back to the states for care).

Tony researched World Nomads and he heard good things about them from other bloggers. We don’t know too much about IMG though.

Seven Corners was recommended through Passport Health back in the states. I have only gotten sick once during my travels, but Seven Corners was really good about responding to my emails, connecting me with good English speaking doctors, and reimbursing me for my medical bills. I highly recommend them!

Vicky September 5, 2012 at 10:48 am

Thanks Meg! That is incredibly helpful and thanks to you guys I think we are also going to go with Seven Corners insurance. If you don’t mind me asking – which plan did you go with? Did you get the hazard activities extra insurance?

Meg September 6, 2012 at 12:32 am

Not sure of the specific plan name but we have the plan that covers you both internationally and in the US as long as you are out of the US for 6 months out of 12 for the year…. And, yes we have the hazard activity insurance!

thepinaysolobackpacker August 21, 2012 at 11:04 pm

cool write up! been sick many times on the road and its hard when you’re alone, so glad you have someone there to support and take care of you. last time, i got that stomach sickness too and it’s really hard since i don’t know what to eat for fear that it will make my sickness worse. your BRAT diet will be of great help. thanks for sharing! :)

Meg August 21, 2012 at 11:16 pm

Thanks! My husband was great support when I was sick… And I definitely don’t think KFC was a good food for my recovery. Tony tried convincing me to steer clear but I was stubborn. Best to always stick with the BRAT diet!

mantenimiento de piscinas January 17, 2016 at 2:20 am

May I simply just say what a comfort to find someone who genuinely understands what they’re discussing on the net.
You certainly know how to bring a problem to light and make it important.
A lot more people really need to check this out and understand this side of the story.

I was surprised you’re not more popular because you surely have the gift.

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 1 trackback }

Older post:

Newer post: