1. See your doctor -- If you are planning to be on the road for a long time, see your doctor to clear up any medical condition that might be bothering you and any immunizations you require. Ditto for the dentist check-up. It's a known fact that if you have an abscess, the pressure of air travel will cause additional very painful pressure on your teeth and gums.
2. Create a medical directory -- Young or older, prepare an email and telephone number directory of all your doctors and specialists. In case of emergency list your blood type, allergies and any medications you are taking. Hopefully you'll never need them but it's reassuring to know this information is tucked away in your backpack.
3. Health insurance -- Make sure you have appropriate health insurance
4. Join IAMAT -- Fill in an online membership to IAMAT, the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers. It's free (you can make a donation if you choose) and your membership will allow you, among many other perks, access to a directory of approved doctors around the world.
5. Create a mini medical bag -- You should be able to fit everything into two medium size ZipLock bags. Carry your essential over-the-counter medicines in one along with the hard core antibiotics and special medications your doctor prescribes in the other. What should your over-the-counter bag contain? Just enough to tide you over if any of the medications you need are not easily available where you are when you start to feel unwell. Simply imagine being on a train between two cities in India and waking up in the middle of the night with fever, upset stomach and a sore throat.
- Tylenol or any other analgesic that will reduce both pain and fever.
- Antidiarrheal such as Imodium
- Antinauseant such as Gravol or ginger tea bags
- Pepto Bismol to fight a queasy, upset stomach
- package of cough drops
- very small bottle of cough medicine
- Antihistamine such as Benadryl
- Polysporin or other topical antibiotic cream
6. Delhi Belly -- Should diarrhea strike and you find yourself far from a pharmacy here are two emergency rehydration mixtures:
- Mix one liter of bottled purified water, one-half teaspoon of salt and four teaspoons of honey or sugar.
- If these ingredients are not available, eat bananas (to restore your potassium levels) and dry chips (to give you salt) and drink cola (to provide glucose).
7. Sore throat and respiratory congestion? -- Carry a bit of salt in a tiny baggie or ask the first restaurant you get to for some. Mix with warm water and gargle. According to Dr. Hagen's Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies, Saline solutions can draw extra fluid from enflamed tissues in your throat (which makes it hurt less). Gargling also loosens heavy mucus which can remove irritants like allergens, bacteria and fungi from the throat (NY Times).
8. Food -- A bit hungry but too uncomfortable to get dressed to go out to find food?
- If you're in a hotel, room service has to be your answer. Tell them you're not feeling well and even though toast and tea might not be on the menu they'll be happy to oblige.
- It's always a good idea to carry a few packages of instant oatmeal for when you have the munchies. They come in so handy at times like this when you need something light.