Travel Health

A-Z Travel Health Guide

A basic reference for when you’re in trouble.

Antibiotics – These drugs have saved millions of lives but should only be used when there’s no other alternative. Allied with the pharmaceutical mafia of the world, doctors push them on people like candy – the result is that they lose their potency as bacteria evolve and also fuck up your immune system. Let your body heal itself when possible but run to the doc when the going gets rough.

Bilharzia – This sneaky worm lives in lakes and rivers in tropical climates. It enters through broken skin or by drinking infected water. It then ends up in your liver and plays hell with your bladder too. Get to a doctor and take their drugs.

Bleeding – Losing blood is a critical threat and must be stopped. If it’s only superficial then cold water and raising the limb is enough. If the bleeding is deep though after a serious accident you must put pressure on the wound, piling cloth on top of it and holding it there until the body closes the wound itself. Get emergency help.

Blisters – Caused by ill-fitting boots or unusual tasks. If too much to bear you can wash the area and pierce the blister with a sterile needle, pressing out the fluid and then dressing it afterwards.

Burns – Put under running cold water for as long as possible. Don’t apply anything soothing until the whole area has cooled down i.e. bringing the burn out of the water doesn’t increase the pain. Later tea bags, cider vinegar or aloe vera can be applied.

Dengue – Also known a breakbone fever, this is a nasty one for which there’s no treatment. It’s caught from mosquitoes, usually black and yellow ones that are more active in the day. Most common in South and Central America, Africa and Asia, getting dengue two or three times can lead to internal hemorrhage and death.

Dehydration – This can occur after diarrhea, exertion or just lack of water. Drinking lots of water is one of the best things you can do for your health anyway but it’s especially important to drink a couple of liters a day in warm climates. Beer doesn’t count. And make sure to get enough salt.

Dysentery – Amoebas are the bane of travel in the tropics. It’s caught from contaminated food and you know you’re in trouble when you find blood and mucus in your shit. You get high temperatures also and it’s important not to dehydrate. Rest and get some herbal medicine/antibiotics.

Ears – earache is often due to the build up of wax. A doctor can remove excessive ear wax in two minutes. Otherwise a few drops of warm oil will help soften the wax and then cover the ear. If an insect gets into the ear it should be removed by flooding with warm water.

Eyes – If something gets in your eye it will normally work its way out if you manipulate the eyelid. Conjunctivitus can result with a build-up of pus. Basically the eye just needs to be cleaned with a wet tea bag. DO NOT apply antiseptics.

Fever – This is a natural response of the body to fight a virus or disease. If it goes on for too long though or the fever gets too high it can be very dangerous. Rest, take warm infusions and aspirin will help lower a fever. If it’s accompanied by other symptoms like pain, diarrhea etc then get medical attention.

Heat – In hot climates excessive sweating can cause dehydration and cramps or exhaustion. Take a pinch of salt with half a pint of water.

Heatstroke – After overexposure to the sun headaches, rise in temperature and pulse and unconsciousness may occur. Lay the person in the shade and cool with tepid water (not cold as this may cause shock) and fan. Sprinkle the water lightly and maintain a good flow of air. When partially recovered, keep them warm and give them lots of fluids.

Hepatitis – Once known in India as ‘hippyitis’, it’s picked up by sex, blood transfusion or, more commonly by infected water or food. Your shit and piss swop colours and the skin turns yellow. It’s located in the liver and the only thing to do is avoid all fatty food, rest and take rosemary tea. It can take a long time to pass.

Hookworm – This one is in water or can crawl through the soles of your feet . See worms.

Malaria – A recurrent fever that can stay with you for life. The pills are almost as bad though – check out the full malaria guide.

Pneumonia – A cold with attitude. Antibiotics are the way to go but failing that keep the patient active and to drink hot water.

Teeth – take care of them. No traveller should be without a toothbrush and dental floss. Getting toothache abroad really sucks. Temporary relief can be found by chewing a clove but you need real treatment fast. Many travellers head to Thailand these days to get cheap, first-quality dental care. Gum infections can be treated by flossing, brushing more thoroughly and with warm, salt water gargles.

Typhus – This one is usually only found in very squalid conditions and is caused by a rat flea. Nausea and headaches are followed by a rash spreading all over the chest, abdomen and thighs. It’s very serious and you need antibiotics before you succumb to delirium, coma or death.

Worms – Some can be cured by dosing on raw garlic a few times a day; Eat raw cloves and a slice of bread or mixed in honey to make them more bearable. Other worms can be far more resistant though and you can either starve them out by fasting or by taking antibiotics.

Yellow Fever – Some countries in south America insist you get vaccinated against this one. The fever is accompanied by headaches, limb pain and maybe blood in the vomit. Later there may be pain in the kidneys and a yellow tinge to the skin. It’s treated only by rest and liquids.