What to Do When You’re Sick Overseas

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In some ways, this has been the week from hell. I’ve been severely under the weather and rugged up in bed trying to shake a horrible flu. On a scale of 1-10, the feeling of being sick overseas (especially when you’re travelling solo) is a flat zero.

But that kinda attitude won’t get you anywhere. So here’s some helpful hints of what to do when you’re sick overseas…

What to Do When You’re Sick Overseas

Mind over Matter

No matter how sick you are, you are only going to feel as horrible as you let yourself feel. I fell ill in California and carried the flu with me to the other side of the country, to the point where I was bed ridden for a couple of days in New York City. It should go without saying that this is the last place on earth you want to be cramped up indoors and not outside exploring. But a negative attitude got me nowhere. So I embraced it. I signed up to Netflix ($8 a month, bingo!) and binge-watched Gilmore Girls in bed whilst ordering room service and sipping on hot tea whilst I munched macarons (I’m not sure how they helped in my recovery efforts but I’m voting that they did).

Take a Rest

No matter how much I wanted to go outside and explore NYC, I knew the only way I would get better would be to take a couple days off just to completely rest. Now I don’t mean just taking it easy, I mean complete and utter bed rest.

Seek Medical Help

This kinda comes in two forms: pharmacy and doctor. I knew that I was so sick that I needed to see a doctor, but being that I was in America I was completely turned off by the $450 doctors fee + price of medication. Luckily I have travel insurance so I was able to rely on that. I cannot stress enough how handy it is to have travel insurance – this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve put it to use!

Natural Remedies

Taking care of your body through natural remedies can be surprisingly effective. During my week of sickness I drank a tonne of natural orange juice, ate lots of fruit and veg, limited my intake of dairy (okay, I still at frozen yogurt), drank plenty of water and plenty of green tea with lemon, honey and ginger. That last one is a lifesaver!

Be Preventative

While this wouldn’t be the first time I have fallen ill overseas, it would be one of very few. I’m always as preventative as I can be to stop myself from falling ill – which stems from the little things like always washing your hands with soap and warm water to prevent spreading germs, eating healthy whilst on the road, and drinking plenty of water. Of course sometimes you just can’t help it and you’re gonna get sick. But in the last 16 months of travelling full time, I’ve only fallen in twice. Multi-vitamins are great if you can remember to take them daily, and vitamin C tablets also come in handy. My mum won’t let me go anywhere without Echinacea tablets which are a LIFESAVER when you get the first signs of a cold or flu coming.

Over to you! What are your tips and tricks for staying healthy on the road?

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    March 14, 2016 at 8:47 am

    Just in case if you get sick and god forbid you have to visit a physician or a hospital, you can have your medical profile with you at all times to help the physician have a better diagnosis on you.. the best way to carry this information with you is through internet… 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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    Clipping Path
    July 28, 2015 at 3:53 am

    Wow! I really appreciate the subject matter and its treatment. From my point of view, it’s very urgent to have real friend who can be either parents or girl friend or anyone else who understand us well, should be by our side when we are sick. Hope all will have great recovery from the sickness.

    Joey @ TravelWits
    June 19, 2015 at 12:38 am

    Most of your immune system is actually in your digestive tract, so if your belly isn’t happy thats a sign that you need to be more careful! Eating things that are high in fiber, probiotics like natural yogurt, and fermented foods can make sure your feel good and stay healthy.

    May 15, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    A lot of countries have English-speaking health hotlines that can help you. A google search for “english health help (insert country here)” usually works. They can tell you where to go to get certain medicine, what brands to look for, or tell you what to ask for specifically at pharmacies. Unfortunately, I know this from too many bouts of food poisoning overseas! Every country has their version of Gatorade though, you just need to know what to look for 😉

    Ava H
    May 14, 2015 at 5:32 am

    Yep, agreed. The best thing really is to rest it up and allow yourself to be sick for as long as it takes till you get better. Drinking a lot of fluids (water, orange juice, emergenC, hot water with honey and lemon and fresh mint) are the best. I also try to find sweet lemons whenever possible because they seem to do wonders. Netflix was a brilliant idea by the way Brooke! haha Love Gilmore Girls!

    Diva In Me
    April 28, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Prevention is definitely better than cure. I always feed myself with Multi vits and Vitamin C. Drink loads of water along the way.

    April 26, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    It has happened to me a few times while overseas and it’s the time I miss my parents the most! Being solo on travels, there is no one to bring you soup or make a big fuss about you. I will always remember to carry some of the tablets/pills I use for regular troubles such as terrible migraines which I get once every 2 months or so. Once I was in Luxembourg for only 2 days when the migraine hit. With debilitating nausea I headed down to the local pharmacy only to be told they cannot sell me the pill I use (Cataflam) over the counter. Back home (South Africa, Cape Town) you can buy it without a prescription! It was terrible to visit the city with a migraine, but like you said it’s mind over matter, so I still had fun and enjoyed myself, knowing that I was leaving Europe very soon so needed to make the most of it.

    April 26, 2015 at 10:35 am

    I’ve got sick a few times overseas (though thankfully not in the last couple of years) but I think a low point was when I was sick in Peru and travelling by myself. I’d decided to go white water rafting during winter (not smart) and got a terrible cold as a result. And not only was I stuck in a hotel room alone, but I couldn’t speak the language, so ordering food was a drama and a half!

    Stephanie Rogers
    April 26, 2015 at 5:44 am

    Loooove this post! Falling ill whilst travelling is one of my worst nightmares. But those rest days are so vital, if I feel like I’m getting sick at any point I make sure I take it easy and have those extra couple of hours in bed! Amazing post.

    The Student Traveller

    April 26, 2015 at 12:21 am

    Reminds me of when I was in Afghanistan. There was a stomach bug going around and we all called it the ‘Afghan Weightless Diet’. It just wasn’t fun and no one could work for days. The remedy was going to our medic buddies and getting an IV and taking it easy since we didn’t have a clinic to go to. Worked like a charm. 🙂

    Malena Permentier
    April 25, 2015 at 5:29 am

    Being alone abroad and sick might as well be the worst feeling in the world! Love these tips.

    X Malena

    April 25, 2015 at 1:37 am

    Gosh, I remember that horrible time when I just moved to Germany, didn’t know anybody, and caught the most horrible flu of my life. I had a terrible migraine, 39 C, and I felt soooo bad that I couldn’t even get up from the bed! Which means I couldn’t go and buy medicine…
    Still don’t know how I survived this.

    April 24, 2015 at 4:31 am

    Oh man that’s never fun! Sorry to hear you were sick 🙁 I agree with what you said…definitely rest and drink lots of fluids (so cliche but I swear it helps!). Also, if it goes on for a while get medical help. Once, I thought I just had a common cold and it would go away in a few days, but it turned out to be a sinus infection that I had for two months! One trip to the doctor and it cleared up within a week!

    Claire @ TallGirlBigWorld
    April 24, 2015 at 3:44 am

    Whenever I have a sore throat, hot tea with honey or just hot water with lemon juice and ginger is a life saver. And I agree with you on needing to rest up; whether you’re traveling or are a busy college student, knowing when to say “when” is so important. Also, getting as much sleep as you can while traveling is so important, even though you want to stay out late in big cities and experience the nightlife. But after a whole year of that you’d probably shut down, so… Thanks for the tips, and I’m glad you’re feeling better!

    April 23, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    Gilmore Girls makes everything better

    April 23, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    being sick on the road is the worst. i was once sick as a dog but i had to drive(!!) halfway across the country anyway. it was the worst road trip of my life and just ugh.

    xo, allie

    April 23, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    So sorry to hear you were sick in the big apple! Gilmore girls is always a good idea though 🙂 I carry Emergen-C packets with me everywhere. It’s a little flavored mix that you add to water, and contains 1000mg of Vitamin C, plus a lot of other great vitamins. I always drink some right before boarding a plane, or at the first sign of feeling icky. So far, it has worked like a charm for me! Hope you’re feeling better!


    April 23, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    Being sick on the road is never fun. I try to exercise, eat healthy, and always incorporate multi vitamins or vitamin C into my diet.

    Clipping Path Outsource
    April 23, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    Oh no! I don’t like to be sick in travelling , but your tips may be helped any more.

    April 23, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    I think it definitely depends on the type of sickness! Stomach flu is horrible and I’d suggest the BRAT (bread, rice, applesauce, toast) diet. Also, Gatorade can be a huge life savor if you’re always in the bathroom throwing up or having diarrhea. It really helps refuel your electrolytes! It’s thought for colds and coughs because antibiotics just really help there (and natural green/ginger tea)! But what type of echinacea tablets do you use? Here we have Airborne but I’m always in search for ones that could have higher content! 🙂 awesome post.

    Michelle | Lights Camera Travel
    April 23, 2015 at 10:12 am

    If you know it’s just a common cold the best thing to do is rest, and drink plenty of water and eat healthy. I was sick in Sagada, Philippines but luckily, it was after I had done all the fun stuff and explored the town. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break when you need it – it’s just awful to be out and about when you don’t feel well!

    Haylie @ Wholesome Hayles
    April 23, 2015 at 9:43 am

    When you’re sick overseas, it’s SO important to take that opportunity to rest, even though it’s not what you want to do. Succumbing to the excitement of wanting to go out and explore is so easy to do, however I’ve found through my own travels that you often get WORSE than you were if you just took a few days to rest. In the long run, taking that rest in the beginning will help you recover quicker and in the end, you’ll have more days to enjoy and explore later!

    April 23, 2015 at 8:03 am

    amen to that! i have to wipe down the plane to have peace of mind!!

    April 23, 2015 at 7:29 am

    I went to New York a couple of weeks ago (just missed you!) and the minute I got off the plane I started with a cold. I managed to keep going because it was my first visit to NYC and the States so I was desperate to see all the sights. But it does certainly make things difficult.

    April 23, 2015 at 7:23 am

    It’s not the Macarons. Gilmore Girls when being ill is the key to get better 😉

    April 23, 2015 at 7:20 am

    You’ve been on a bunch of flights lately which is an easy place to get sick. I like to bring wet wipes and hand sanitizer with me just to keep clean on the plane. When I worked at a pharmacy, I learned to take Zinc and Vitamin C daily as a preventative. Drinking lemon water each morning is good too. Hope you feel better soon!

    April 23, 2015 at 7:18 am

    Yes, it has happened to me a few times while out of the country. One of the times I’ve relied on the help of the hotel reception to help me out, they’ve helped me call the pharmacy (as I couldn’t speak german) and ordered a taxi to get my medicines and delivered into my room. I can’t thank them enough! Then once, also because of flying with a cold, I got so clogged that couldn’t ear a thing. Somehow I managed to explain myself to the doctor. Last time, couldn’t stop throwing up for some reason, but I knew I could call the guys at the reception to help me out. Stayed in hotel in bed until I recovered my energy. So yes, rest when you need to and always have travel insurance on you especially when going outside europe.

    April 23, 2015 at 6:57 am

    I can relate I haven’t been sick in over a year and the day before my flight I got sick and had been overdosing on vitamins and rest since. Echinacea tablets sound like a great idea! Thanks

    In Case Of Need
    April 23, 2015 at 6:48 am

    I had the flu as well last week as well… was not too bad i could work from home and kind of liked that. 🙂
    If it happens during your 2 weeks of holidays a flu totally sucks and is about the last thing u need.