Health Brief: What to Do When You Get Sick on Vacation

Sick traveler survival guide

After planning a vacation and finally arriving at your destination, getting sick may sound like a nightmare. Still, there is the possibility that you might fall ill during your travels, so you should stay prepared by knowing what to do when you feel the unpleasant symptoms of an oncoming illness.

Seek help from your hotel

Many hotels—especially those catering to international travelers—have first aid services available on site for guests. This may be your first resource for finding immediate care to help you feel better before you can get home. Otherwise, you might locate a nearby urgent care clinic or consult with a doctor online. To streamline the process of finding the healthcare you need, keep your personal information and proof of health insurance in your wallet, purse, or carry-on so that it is easily accessible in an emergency.

Change your travel schedule

Traveling by plane or spending a long day in the car may be the last thing that you want to do when you are sick. If time permits, adjust your schedule so that you can spend an extra night recovering in your hotel before you have to face the stress of traveling. When you are feeling under the weather on a plane ride, notify a flight attendant that you are sick. He or she may be able to relocate you to a more comfortable seat, give you a blanket and pillow, or simply bring you an extra bottle of water once the drink service has ended.

Stay hydrated

Even if you have lost your appetite, you should drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated. Water, juice, decaffeinated tea, and sports drinks are great options to increase your fluid intake while boosting your immunity with extra vitamins and antioxidants. When you are ready to eat, steer clear of unfamiliar fare and ease your stomach with simple options like crackers, toast, fruit-based popsicles, or brothy soup.

Get to a nearby pharmacy

Not only will a pharmacy be able to offer medication that can temporarily relieve your symptoms, but it can also provide quick expert medical advice that will help you recover faster. Don’t hesitate to ask the pharmacist for some tips on treating your illness, as he or she can guide you to over-the-counter (OTC) remedies when you don’t have a prescription from a physician.

Bring along the comforts of home

While most vacation destinations will have drug stores, pharmacies, and medical care within close reach, you might consider packing to stay prepared for the worst. Bringing along your own OTC pain relievers or cough drops can save you the trouble of finding them in unknown territory. Other comforts to bring along might include your favorite pajamas or a lighthearted book or movie. With these items close by, you can feel a bit more relaxed as you try to recuperate in your hotel room.

Once you return home, remember to consult a physician to help you recover fully and get back to your routine. Or if you can’t wait, remember you can always request a secure online medical exam from one of MeMD’s board-certified providers.