Danny’s experience in Ethiopia underscores the need to stay healthy on the road. In case you missed it, take a second to read it before you continue. Although we’re pretty well prepared to handle basic first aid and stomach illnesses on our own, we were caught out in Harar and frankly that was our own stupid fault. We carry everything with us that we needed, we just didn’t bring it with us for the short weekend. Mistake #1.
Here are some travel health tips to avoid “the worst day ever”:
Basic First Aid. Both of us are certified in basic and wilderness first aid. We chose to take a wilderness first aid course because of its emphasis on improvised triage and long-term first aid management in difficult situations. I can’t say that we’ve used that knowledge while traveling, but we felt it was good to have just in case.
Prepare, but don’t forget. We were prepared to handle Danny’s stomach problems in Ethiopia, but we “forgot” the first aid and medicine kit in Addis Ababa. What’s the point in carrying it around the world if you don’t have it when you need it? Our “go to” kit includes ibuprofen, oral rehydration salts and ciproflaxin. If you carry medications and first aid equipment, keep it with you. You may not be able to find it in a pharmacy when you need it.
Don’t wait, get help. Fortunately Danny’s fever broke quickly, but that was luck. A few weeks ago we recounted this tale to his Aunt, a registered nurse, over breakfast. Her face and tone said it all, his fever had been dangerously high, and her response reminded us how bad the situation could have been. In hindsight we should have sought help immediately when he began shaking – we aren’t trained medical professionals and violent shivers are a sign that something is very, very wrong. We were lucky this time, but waiting it out isn’t a good idea on the road. Listen to your body, if it doesn’t seem right, get help.
Health is Wealth. Like Mom said, eat your fruits and veggies and get a good night sleep. It’s better to take it easy for a few nights and treat yourself right then end up with a week down and out on the road. If you can’t maintain a balanced diet on the road, consider taking a multi-vitamin. Look for fresh fruit juices at roadside stalls.
Know thy self. Only you know if those aches and pains are normal. Only you know your allergies and tolerances. Ask, ask and ask again. If you’re allergic play charades, draw, or translate your allergy or illness into the local language. Better safe than sorry. In Guatemala a pharmacist tried to sell me a drug to take care of parasites. My Spanish wasn’t great, but I could read enough of the lab report to tell that the bacteria column had a + and the parasite column had a -. I refused the parasite drug and went to another pharmacy. I later learned that the anti-parasite cost 5 times more than the antibiotic which the second pharmacy recommended.