10 things to do when you’re sick … and traveling.

Posted on
Jan 26, 2010
Posted in: Advice, Top Ten

I’m still kicking the last of my cold, and while I’m completely exhausted, I’ve discovered that even 2 nights of taking NyQuil is enough to create dependency. As such, I couldn’t sleep last night, trying to figure out if one could become a meth-addict just by taking too much Sudafed. While I have no definitive proof of it, I’m pretty sure the answer is “yes.”

Still, I’m grateful that this cold hit me now, while we’re at home, rather than sometime in the next few weeks, when Rand and I will visit London, Glasgow, New Orleans, San Diego, and a few places in between. Because while being sick sucks, it’s far better to have it happen at home than one the road. When Pinguina and I last went to Italy, we both got crazy sick  (Pinguina was actually on antibiotics for whatever decided to take up residence in her throat) and lugging our huge suitcases across the country was not fun (p.s. to Italian men: if you are going to be sexist assholes, at least have the decency to be chivalrous, and help us with our bags).

Dont let the adorability of this photo fool you: Pinguina and I almost passed out on this trail roughly 20 minutes later.

Don't let the adorability of this photo fool you: Pinguina and I almost passed out on this trail roughly 20 minutes later.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about what, exactly, one should do when they’re on vacation and sick. While none of these ideas are as good as being healthy, they just might help the medicine go down a little easier …

  1. Don’t stress out. Yes, being sick while on a trip sucks. But getting angry or upset about it won’t fix anything – in fact, stress can actually make you sicker. So calm down, take a break, and be grateful you actually do have some free time to relax.
  2. See if you can call in sick. Yeah, it’s a long shot, but if you work in a particularly cool environment, they might be okay with counting some of your vacation days as sick days, especially if you are, well, sick. Give them a ring and see.
  3. Take a guided tour. If you’re too sick to explore a city on foot, hop on a bus or boat tour – you’ll be able to lie back and enjoy the scenery, hopefully without expending too much energy. Just be sure to cover your mouth when you cough.
  4. Hydrate. If you’re battling any illness, nothing is worse that spending hours in a cold, dry plane. Be sure to drink lots of water and warm beverages (remember  – caffeine dehydrates, so opt for decaf teas).
  5. Take a hot shower. Take advantage of your hotel’s seemingly endless supply of scalding hot water. It will help clear out your sinuses and soothe sore muscles.
  6. Be prepared. Negotiating pharmacies in foreign lands is never that much fun – having to figure out dosage is hard enough when the labels aren’t in German. Even traveling domestically, locating a pharmacy can be tough – and you might find yourself hindered by state laws (in Oregon, for example, Sudafed is only available with a prescription. Thanks, meth-heads!). Since they don’t take up that much room, I always bring decongestant, Ibuprofen, NyQuil gel caps, and Band-Aids with me. For those times when I’ve got a runny nose, a headache, and a skinned knee.
  7. Take preventative measures. Even at the hint of a cold, start getting more rest, drinking more fluids, washing your hands often, and avoid touching your eyes. And loading up on a multivitamin and some Vitamin C and D won’t hurt you, either. Already got a cold? These methods still work  – you’ll get over it faster and will be less likely to spread your illness to your travel buddies.
  8. Stay warm. Okay, fine – so running around without a sweater won’t actually give you a cold. But feeling cold can suppress your immune system, and increase your chances of getting sick. So if you didn’t pack a sweater, feel free to splurge on that “I HEART Leningrad” sweatshirt at the gift store.
  9. See a show. Whether it’s an IMAX show or live theater, you’ll still be able to tell yourself you’re getting out and enjoying all that a town has to offer, while still relaxing in a comfy chair. And if you’re really feeling ill, then just convince yourself that watching The Simpsons dubbed into Spanish is culturally enriching. Which, believe me, it is.
  10. Enjoy your hotel’s amenities. If you’re stuck in bed, you might as well make the most of it. Turn on the t.v., ask housekeeping for some extra pillows and blankets, and order room service. Because if you’re going to be sick, what better place than somewhere you can actually get waited on?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to spend the rest of the day on the couch in my pyjamas watching reality television. It’s, I’m fairly sure, the most socially responsible thing I could do right now.



Leave a Comment

  • The only upside to being sick? Being able to lounge on the couch in your pyjamas watching reality television and NOT feel guilty about it. Hope you’re feeling better soon, though!

  • Not recommended? Getting on a plane from Tokyo to Seattle before you’re over the food poisoning.

    Fun for all.

    By which I mean “not fun for anyone.”

  • Love the last one, so true. I’m prone to stomach bugs when I’m abroad. Really tests the strength of some of my friendships.

    • Ryan

      I get sick eveey trip. Makes me not want to travel. Ruins other people’s trips too.

  • Kristi

    To go along with #6, I’d suggest also finding an ally who speaks the local language. I got really sick when I studied abroad one summer in Austria because the maid who changed the bed linens in our dorm couldn’t understand me.

    I had to find someone who could write me a note in German asking them not to keep putting a down comforter in my room because I was highly allergic.

  • Ben Bitten

    The one tip I have for avoiding getting sick while traveling is to drink a coke after every sketchy meal and it has worked every time! haha. http://www.beenbitten.com/international-travel-tip-6-reasons-to-use-a-coke-chaser-when-eating-abroad/

  • My Solace

    one more thing you can do… Become a mysolace.com member… it allows you to create your medical profile and choose a pass phrase to access it. You can set up your medical profile with all your medical history and print your medical card… carry the card with you at all times.. and if you get sick, show it to medical professionals and they can access your medical history by using your pass phrase…

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