The last couple days have been rough. I went to bed two nights ago and was violently ill all night, in ways I’ve not been violently ill before. I remember apologizing to Jeffrey, with whom I was sharing a room, much to his misfortune, every time another noisy bout of sickness came on me, but the rest is a bit of a blur. I woke still sick, but thanks to a decent pharmacopia, and the help of friends, made it through OK. Pretty sure it was food poisoning. Not the first time Nepal has disagreed with my stomach. As I write this I’m a little fragile and frayed around the edges in Bahrain, after a 6 hour flight from Kathmandu, and I’ve got another 30+ hours of travel before my girl meets me at the airport and takes me home. Traveling sick is no fun, but I guess it’s the price we sometimes pay for these adventures; a little preparation can make it a little less horrific.
I travel on trips like this with both a medicine kit and a first-aid kit, adding more or less depending on my destination and the amount of support I can find there. For a first-aid kit I take a simple one, like the one pictured at the top of this post, bought at Mountain Equipment Co-op for $30. I also squeeze in a sterile sharps kit purchased at my local travel clinic, in case I need an IV, sutures, or other “puncture the skin” kind of help in places where sterilization is suspect. In the Jeep, for Overland travel I’ve a much more complete kit but it’s really big; I’d hate to fly with it. For medicine, in a similar soft-bag, I carry the following:
Tylenol 3 + Codeine
Gravol / Anti-nauseant (also knocks me out)
Immodium (not keen on this, but helpful when things get rough)
ExLax or similar laxative for when things slow down.
Cyproflaxin or Coazithromicin for, uh, faster, nastier stomach/bowel problems.
Tylenol Flu +Cold Extra Strength
EmergenC, or some kind of electrolites (forgot mine this time!)
Glucose tablets (I’m diabetic)
Topical cream for skin/fungal infections
It’s not a large kit and it’s not glamorous kit. It’ll take the same space as a couple lenses, but when you need this stuff you need it. Add to this any specific meds you need, and take twice what you expect to use. Of course the best thing you can do is your best to follow the advice out there on not getting sick in the first place, but with air travel and the stress it all puts on your immune system, it’s usually not a question of if, but when.
Before I leave on trips I make sure my vaccinations are up to date, including my oral cholera vaccine, Dukoral. And I double check my travel medical insurance and my medical evacuation insurance, even though, along with my passport renewals, these are marked on my calendar for renewal with reminders set for a couple months prior.
Speaking of medical evacuation, I want to give my strongest possible recommendation to MedJet Assist. When I took my fall in Italy they went above and beyond, were models of kindness and professionalism, and I will never travel anywhere again without a current MedJet Assist membership. If you think you don’t need it because you think your medical insurance, or credit card, covers it, double and triple check that fine print. Many a story’s been told of people that had to pay close to $100,000 for evacuation when they were “pretty sure they were covered.”
I’m already feeling a bit better and will soon be home. Hope to post more from Kathmandu this week, but with Antarctica looming, it might take longer. Safe travels!