Travelling Sick

In Travel by David15 Comments

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
Throat Lozenges
EmergenC, or some kind of electrolites (forgot mine this time!)
Glucose tablets (I’m diabetic)
Topical cream for skin/fungal infections
Bug spray/cream

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!


  1. Glad you’re starting to feel better David! I can’t tell you what a wonderful time I had experiencing Kathmandu with you, I feel as if I learned so much from you and Jeff during our adventure and I cannot wait to have the pleasure of photographing with you again!

  2. Sorry to hear you’ve been so ill David. I hope you will have a speedy recovery and be well enough to continue your extraordinary adventures and keep inspiring us to visit new places and see the world through our own lens.
    Your medical kit is great. I, too, like the Mountain Equipment lightweight kit. I’ve lived in Asia and have travelled to Africa twice in the last year. My preferred insect repellents are Jaico, (made in Belgium,) and Ben’s 30 Wilderness Formula. Both are effective and don’t smell too bad. I also carry Afterbite, (The Itch Eraser.) I lent it to a couple of people when on a photo safari in the Masai Mara and they were surprised at how quickly it worked to reduce swelling and itch. Another product I keep in my bag is Betadine. It’s a non-staining povidone-iodine 10% solution to prevent infections in wounds. I learned the value of this when I cut my hand getting off a rusty old boat in the Gulf of Thailand. I poured some on the cut and thankfully kept infection at bay. The sharps kit is really important. I always carry at least a couple of sterile syringes, alcohol wipes, etc. in case I need an injection or sutures. I also take a small Swiss Army Knife that includes scissors, tweezers, a nail file, and knife.
    The importance of travel insurance cannot be understated.
    Be well and take care.

  3. Can so relate to all the pain and distress that comes with international travel sickness. Certainly no fun. Glad to read that you are on the mend.
    I was very excited to read all about the Medjet program and was all ready to sign up only to read that it is only available to US, Canada and Mexico. Bummer (says the Aussie). Pity there is not something similar that is a world wide offer. Great idea and good to think that there are some travel care companies that are thinking outside the ‘normal’ travel insurance box.
    Safe travels and hope this is the only nasty bug you pick up for this journey.

    1. Augustine, i was looking at Medjet insurance programe and was disappointed too it’s for US/Canada/Mexico only.
      But… i don’t know where you’re from… i’m almost sure there are some domestic insurance comanies that are able to provide smth similar or even more 🙂
      BTW…Guys, never go anywhere without good insurance 🙂

  4. David, So sorry you were ill while traveling. I had a severe bout of food poisoning a little over 2 years ago called “Campylobacter” which is supposed to be like Salmonella poisoning on steroids. It was horrific to be violently ill for multiple days and I was lucky enough to be at home with all my comforts and access to advanced medical care. I can only imagine being so ill while traveling. I do really appreciate you reaching out to share your experience & tips on what to supplies to carry and also about getting medical evac insuarance. These are things I’ve not even thought of because I don’t do much global travel yet. But I certainly dream of a time in the not so distant future when “As Seen by Janine: Eyes of the World Images” truly will take me on worldly travels. Your advice is super helpful in planning ahead for that. Thanks and feel better soon! Janine

  5. Hi David, sorry to hear ’bout that… i know how you feel… wonder how is it called in Nepal 🙂 ’cause in Turkey i encounter smth like Sultan’s Revenge and in Egypt kind of Pharaoh’s Revenge 🙂
    Hope you’re all right now. Travel safe! Take care! 🙂

  6. Pingback: Travelling Sick | Steve Troletti Photography and Environmental News

  7. So sorry to hear of your present situation. Hope you are better sooner than later.

    Thanks for sharing your travel med. kit. It lists of few things I haven’t thought of, so really helpful. Kind of you to do so when feeling so under the weather.

    Get well, and have a great Antarctica adventure….maybe you should have a “food taster“ on your journeys. 😉

  8. HI David – sending you lots of healing thoughts. Add charcoal tabs to your med kit – I swear by it. As soon as it starts to come on – throw down a couple of these babies and it will pass sooner. Safari Njema! Mama Rungu

  9. David, blessings on you, dear friend. If you were close, I’d volunteer my couch. Patches/cat and I do a fine job of hovering and trying to help! Glad you’re feeling better.

    1. Author

      Hey, I’d do almost anything to hang out with you and Tiffany again, but I’m not a masochist. Let’s do it sometime when all of us are unbroken. Safe travels, James.

  10. Hello David,

    Get well soon! Hope the remaining 30 hours for heading home will go by quickly and without delay.

    Take care,

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