As we mature, more of us worry about health issues that might occur during travel. This may involve a disease you currently have which might flare up, or perhaps a tropical or infectious disease you might encounter, such as malaria. An injury is often possible.
I tell all my traveling clients “Wear your seat belt—if there is one.” Motor vehicle and other accident account for excess mortality if travelers— “you can have your heart attack anywhere, but driving, or simply crossing the street in many countries, can be very dangerous.”
One way to help reduce stress is to carry a medical kit so you can self-treat simple medical problems such as a laceration or gastroenteritis. If you need to seek medical care abroad, you run the risk of seeing a doctor who may not speak the best English, may not have the cleanest needles and syringes, and may prescribe a medication you may not need. Confession: Yes, I have sometimes prescribed (unnecessarily) an antibiotic after suturing a clean laceration, so I know what the tendency is among some docs; and this can be a bigger problem abroad.
If you going to a lesser-developed country and are worried about an injury that requires surgical repair, an option is to bring your own suture set to give to the health care provider. An example would be the Suture/Syringe Kit with Lidocaine that guarantees sterile supplies and provides a local anesthetic as well.
I tell my travelers “don’t get a medical injection abroad” not only because of the sterility issues, but the shot may not be needed, or be actually harmful if you have an allergic reaction. And do you really know what that med is, anyway?
One way to deal with this issue is to become a member of InternationalSOS. Their panel of on-call doctors can evaluate your situation and advise you if the care is appropriate or you need to be evacuated.
I provide all my clients with a standby antibiotic (1-gm single-dose azithromycin), to use in combination with loperamide (Imodium) to treat travelers’ diarrhea and detailed instructions on how to stay hydrated. In addition, I am now prescribing the drug ondansetron (Zofran) because nausea and vomiting can occur with a stomach bug as well as travelers’ diarrhea. I advise travelers to keep these meds in their carry-on bag so that they accessible during a flight, especially Zofran. It’s always advisable to have an antacid handy. I prefer Gaviscon.
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