Sick and Tired: Staying Healthy on the Road

The tickle I tried to ignore turned into a sore throat, quickly followed by congestion and a cough. In the six months I have been on the road in 2019, this is the first time I have been sick.

I tried to prevent it. I was travelling with family and one sister fell sick a few days after arriving. Then the other sister caught it when we were in Western Finland, and my niece fell ill when we were in Saint Petersburg. I thought I’d avoided it, with the preventative routines that had kept me healthy this long, but pride cometh before a fall, I suppose, and two days before my flight back to North America, I was sick.

When you feel that you are on holiday, there is the tendency to eat and drink too much, and food choices can be quite indulgent. Exercise become an incidental byproduct of tourist activities. I fell into this mindset, travelling with my sisters for 3 weeks, and I suspect that made fertile ground for a virus.

Prevention is your best bet. All the advice your mother gave is valid: get enough sleep, drink lots of water, wash your hands often. I think of my travels as my life, not a holiday, so normally I am eating healthy and getting at least 10 thousand steps, every day. I never miss taking my vitamins, including extra C, B and D. I have immune support supplements that I take if I am feeling low. I use meditation and a stretching routine to moderate stress.

So what do you do if it all fails and you are sick on the road?

If a hot sauna and a cold lake doesn’t cure you…

Some subscribe to the “burn it out” theory. They physically push themselves, usually through exercise. The Finns have a version of this that involves a hot sauna and a cold lake, repeated. But if this doesn’t work for you and it settles in, try to hunker down somewhere. Skip the tour and get an extra nap. Lie on the beach instead of going for the bike ride.

Choices from a Finnish apteeki

If medication might help, don’t be afraid to tackle the local pharmacy. Although the initial approach may be intimidating, with rows of foreign-language packages, or in some countries, a bare counter with all medications behind the pharmacist, it can usually be navigated. Many pharmacists around the world speak English. If not, sometimes you will recognize a brand name or label from home, or the name for the active ingredient may be close enough to the English to be understood. If you don’t have data roaming on your phone, take a picture and use the magical Google when you are back in wifi. You may discover, as I did, that paracetamol is just another name for acetaminophen, or that cocillana is an herb that loosens phlegm.

As I head to the plane, I wear a mask so I won’t share my germs with the rest of the passengers, even though I’m sure the bug originated on the flight my sister took. And with my selection of herbal and over the counter medications, a well as being fairly rested and fully hydrated, I don’t feel too bad.

On with the brave travels.

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