Sick and away 

Being sick is never fun. Being sick while in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language is even more taxing and can be quite scary. 

I’ve traveled quite a bit and I have been pretty lucky to survive most of my trips in one piece. There were, however, three different occasions where nature got the better of me and I had to seek medical help.

The first time I got pretty sick was in China while on a business trip. We were in Hong Kong, a place that is not only intriguing and vibrant, but also humid and hot. So much so in fact that they keep the inside of their building so cold you have to wear a coat. Didn’t read that anywhere before going. 😏

As you can imagine, going back between sweating while being outside and freezing once inside, I got a massive sinus infection that became unbearable once we flew to Shanghai.

Having to explain my symptoms to our contact, whose English was limited, was a challenge. Having him try to explain to the pharmacist what’s wrong with me was even more so. Nevertheless, I got some over the counter meds and drank a lot of tea till I got home and could see my doctor.

Second time was during our vacation in Greece last summer. The days were hot and the ceiling fan in our room was so inviting. After one night of it spinning above my head I started feeling that dreadfully familiar ache of sinus in my face. As we were leaving Mykonos the next morning, I suffered with my pain through a very long ferry ride to Santorini, hoping it would go away. Alas, I ended up in a pharmacy where a very nice older gentleman helped to assess my symptoms and prescribed some antibiotics.

I was very surprised that I was able to get them right there in the pharmacy. I don’t know what it was, but those were the best sinus I have ever had. They started working almost immediately and I felt almost 100% in few days. I still thank that man every time I remember my trip to Greece. Those were some meds 🙂

The third and most recent time was just few weeks ago. I was in Brazil for work and everything was going great. I had almost every over-the-counter medication you can think of and then it happened. Those dreadful air conditioners, set to freezer-like temperatures finally got to me. It started with an achy back. Then my throat was on fire. It was official – I got sick.

Having spent the whole day in bed with a fever I couldn’t kick resulted in a visit to a local hospital. As far as hospitals go, this one was just like any other one I’ve ever been to. Interestingly enough, the first thing people asked me when I came home was how the hospital there was. It was fine. At one point they thought I might have pneumonia which resulted in additional tests. Luckily, it was not pneumonia and I ended up with a prescription for medication to aid my throat ache.

I was lucky that I had people with me that took me to see the doctor and acted as translators. It made me feel better to know that I wasn’t alone.  For me, the worst part about being sick in a foreign country was the inability to convey my symptoms to the doctor. I felt terrible and all I wanted to do was crawl into my own bed. The medications they prescribed not only got rid of the fever, but also eased my pain.

What this trip made me realize is that having health insurance is crucial. It is also important to have some way of communicating with the medical professionals to explain what your symptoms are. Most travel guides and conversational dictionaries have robust sections on the variety of symptoms and ailments that an befall you. It really is a good idea to familiarize yourself with parts that might come really handy, especially when Internet access is not available.

Two weeks later I still have a bit of a cough, but I am finally starting to get better. Probably just in time for my next trip. 🙂

Although I’ve gotten sick and had to seek medical assistance, I’ve been lucky not to have anything more serious befall me. Have you ever been sick while travelling?

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