Staying healthy and being safe on the road is 20% preparation and 80% common sense. We’re here to help you be prepared, you’ll have to supply the rest. Know what the risks are, what diseases are common and how to prevent them, where it’s safe to go, how to deal with corruption and avoid petty crime. Pack a first aid kit that can handle common health problems and have insurance for yourself and your stuff in case of emergency. Be ready to deal with the unexpected and have enough information to let your common sense do the rest.
This is part two of our mini-series on traveler’s diarrhea (TD). If you want more information about what TD is, and how to prevent it, check out part one.
Unfortunately, TD is not completely avoidable. We covered prevention in the last article, but what do you do once you have it? Here are a few tips...
As many as 50% of all international travelers get diarrhea. Dysentery. The runs. The skids. The squirts. The squiggles. The mung. Flux. Smooth moves. Loose bowels. Loose stools. Code brown. Backdoor trots. Poo sweats. Aztec two-step. And let’s not forget: Montezuma’s revenge.
It doesn’t matter what you call it. Life sucks when you’ve got the shits.
And you’ve got a 50% chance of getting them, so hold on tight. This topic is split into two sections. This article is about the prevention of traveler’s diarrhea. Part two will be about treatment.
Pop quiz. What is the deadliest animal in the world? Give you a hint, jelly fish are number three. Snakes are number two. The number one deadliest animal in the world? The female malaria carrying mosquito.
Malaria is a parasite, carried by mosquitoes. It has no vaccine, but if treated quickly can be cured. The parasite has evolved and exists in several strains. Certain strains have built up resistance to preventative drugs.
One million people die every year from Malaria. Most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of them children. Adults build up a resistance to the disease throughout their lives and are much less likely to die from the parasite. Children however, are very susceptible.
As the illness progresses the chance of survival decreases. Families living in rural areas, who may be several days from a clinic, don’t have much time to obtain the drugs needed to cure the disease.
The great Center for Disease Control (CDC), has much more knowledge than I could amass in a lifetime on the topic of international first aid. Here’s why they say you need a first aid kit:
“The purpose of packing a travel health kit is to ensure travelers have supplies they need to—
- manage pre-existing medical conditions and treat any exacerbations of these conditions,
- prevent illness related to traveling, and
- take care of minor health problems as they occur. 1”
Travel insurance comes in many different varieties. It’s like a box of chocolates, only the consequence of picking the wrong policy is much worse than getting caught putting half eaten candy back in the box. This article reviews the types of insurance that are commonly associated with “travel insurance”.
Keep in mind that most travel insurance isn’t really for travelers. It’d be better to call it vacation insurance. It’s designed for cruises or other package vacations where a lot of money is spent up front. Most of travel insurance policies aren’t going to help a backpacker who doesn’t have an itinerary or a digital nomad who doesn’t have a permanent address.
Vaccines fall into three categories:
Disclaimer: I’m not a licensed medical expert, nor do I want to be. This is travel advice from a traveler and should be double checked for accuracy. A resource list is at the bottom of this article.