It hits my friend Amber first on a ferry ride from Laem Ngop to Koh Chang.
“I don’t feel so good,” she says as we sit at the back of the boat.
I brush it off as a bit of motion sickness and feel for her after seeing the state of the toilets on this boat. But I can’t ignore my own queasiness for too much longer.
“I don’t really either,” I say to her about ten minutes later.
We both spend the rest of our cruise and a bumpy ute drive to our accommodation holding back everything that wants to come up until we reach our accommodation and retreat to our own huts.
Only problem with mine is that I’m sharing it with a guy I really like, but have only been seeing for six months. I’m really not prepared to show him me at the worst of times, but my body doesn’t care about that, only purging out absolutely everything that’s contaminating it.
I spend the next eight days in the concrete slab bathroom attached to my hut on a hot and sticky Thai island thinking back on what could have possibly made me sick. I settle on two hard boiled eggs that I actually knew I shouldn’t have eaten while I was eating them.
No beaches, pad thai or buckets of booze for me and I could care less about the lunar cycle. The best things about my trip to SE Asia at this very moment is that I have access to my own private non-squat toilet with paper.
Charcoal. Lots of water. Vitamin C. Time. This will pass.
It’s impossible to control and sometimes more likely that you will get sick on a trip. During my travel I’ve had just about every sort of sickness and ailment: sun-poisoning, dehydration, food poisoning, poison oak and bed bugs to name a few, and though the experience hasn’t been pleasant, I made it through without seeing a doctor once.
Getting sick on a trip, shouldn’t haunt you, but you should take preventive actions and be prepared if in case you do get sick. Most problems that arise on the road are treatable without the help of a doctor or completely unavoidable. Before heading out, check for dangers and annoyances surrounding your destination. Be aware of these basic sicknesses common to travelers and steps to avoiding or curing them.
Warts, burns, rashes
Plantar warts, allergic reactions, sun burns and more. This ailment isn’t pretty, but usually won’t have you bedridden.
Where you’ll catch it: A rash or break out could merely be due to a change in products or foods, plantar warts can be caught from the floors of hostel showers and sun burns are usually self-inflicted.
Prevention: Be aware of your allergies and read ingredients of new products if you do have any severe allergies. Product regulations are different from country to country, so it’s really important to pay attention to what’s in the products you’re using. Be sure to always wear footwear in bathroom facilities and know when you’ve had enough sun.
Treatment: Most of these are treated with the use of over the counter ointments and creams. Ask the pharmacist to recommend one for your problem. As a rule of thumb, moisturizer will help with itching, unless that particular lotion is the problem, and Aloe Vera will help with sun burns.
Animal bites and reactions
From heavy bleeding to poisonous snake bites to rabies, this is never a problem to be taken lightly.
Where you’ll catch it: Jungles, forests or animal-related travels are more hazardous, but any time you come in contact with an animal there’s a possibility of it biting or hurting you.
Prevention: If you know you’ll be working with animals you should contact a doctor as well as a travel specialist or government office to find out what prescriptions or vaccines are recommended and required. As a rule of thumb, be extremely careful when dealing with wild animals and never put any animals in a position when they feel threatened.
Treatment: Usually you’ll know the source of your bite, so it won’t be a guessing game. Depending on what bit you and how severe, follow a plan of action according to that. If the a minor bite that starts to swell or turn yellow, it might be infected, in which case you’ll need anti-septic and possibly antibiotics. At any point you feel extremely ill and know you’ve been bit, seek a doctor’s advice.
Stomach pain, dehydration and sun stroke
A number of things could cause queasiness or stomach problems, whether it be motion sickness, a bug bite, food poisoning, dehydration or sun stroke.
Where you’ll catch it: Absolutely anywhere, but especially in areas known to have contaminated waters and hot climates.
Preventative: Make sure you’re fully hydrated and avoid drinking contaminated water completely. If you’re in a country where they recommend visitors not drink the tap water, don’t test it and ask for no ice with your drinks. Don’t eat anything you’re uncomfortable with and stay away from restaurants that don’t look right to you. You never really know, but go with your gut. Don’t overdue it in the sun.
Treatment: Stomach aches, diarrhea and vomiting are usually just your body’s way of passing something, so you really just need to let the sickness run it’s course. On top of that, make sure you drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Try charcoal tablets to calm your stomach and vitamin c to restore your body’s natural health. If the problem persists for more than a week without getting better or you start to vomit or poop blood, it’s time to see someone.
After a day of hiking you can’t stop itching one spot on your leg, or you start to feel quesy and begin to wonder what those berries were you tried earlier. Plant reactions are annoying but usually completely treatable and even preventable.
Where you’ll catch it: Usually you’ll have these problems in forests or jungles.
Preventative: Don’t touch or eat any plants you see in the jungle or forest. That said, while you can completely avoid eating or deliberately picking up something that could harm you, you can’t help brushing against things.
Treatment: Things like poison oak and ivy will go away with time, but it’s important to stop them from spreading. Always shower and wash your clothes when returning from a hike in areas known to have plants like these. The itching is due to dry skin, so use lotion for comfort. Unless you’re Bear Grylls you probably shouldn’t eat anything at all from the wild. If you have and start to feel sick, see someone. While you could research what the plant was and whether or not it will kill you, it might not be safe to take that chance.
Insect bites and bed bugs
While uncomfortable itching is the most normal annoyance from these two pests, it could get a lot worse.
Where you’ll catch it: This is another, it can happen anywhere problem, but in regards to mosquito bites, be especially cautious in areas with malaria warnings. It’s impossible to predict what accommodation has bed bugs, it’s a serious problem that grimy hostels and five-star hotel alike struggle with.
Preventative: Use insect repellent and bed nets to stop mosquito bites. If you’re traveling to an area with a malaria warning, see a specialist before for recommended prescriptions. Check your mattress before jumping into bed at a hotel or hostel for red dots and never put your suitcase on a bed to avoid serious bed bug problems. Further bug bites are hard to avoid other than to say don’t antagonize an insect.
Treatment: If you begin to feel seriously ill and are in an area prone to malaria, it’s probably not a good idea to put off fixing that and get tested straight away. Malaria treatment is dependent on the particulars of your case, so it’s important to seek medical attention.
Bed bugs are almost impossible to prevent, so don’t feel bad if you do get them and don’t go crazy on your hotel receptionist either. They’re a nuisance for everyone. Luckily, they don’t fly or jump, so most likely will only move from the bed onto your skin and any clothes you’ve worn or had on your bed. As soon as you notice common bed bug bites, change hotel rooms. Shower and if you can, get rid of whatever clothes you used in bed, otherwise wash and freeze them. It’s really important to stop them from spreading or to carry them with you from the hotel to your home.
For other bug bites, if you see the insect and know it’s poisonous, obviously see someone. If you don’t know what bit you and the bite begins to swell puss, turn yellow or open up more and more with time, it’s time to see a doctor for antibiotics and ointments.
Note: This list does not include STIs or STDs nor breaks and fractures due to high risk activities. It is not to be replaced with the advice of a doctor and if you feel you do have to see someone about your travel sickness then do it. This is merely a list of common problems I’ve noticed might be more prevalent while traveling and how to treat mild cases, so you can stop Googling and go to sleep without worrying that you’re going to die.
This is a very basic list of sicknesses people might encounter when traveling. What has happened to you and how have you dealt with it?
Rice cooker vomiting image by esSos.de.