This is probably something you may not entirely need instructions on. It’s pretty easy to get sick, if you’ve been having early mornings and late evenings packing your days full with adventures. Hey, I’m currently at home and I’ve been sick for the past week with a head cold. But, there are a few things to be aware of about when dealing with sickness overseas …

Preparing in advance

This means making a visit to your local pharmacy while you’re still in your home country. You know, while you can still understand the language, and you’re relatively familiar with the laws governing medications. We’re lucky in Australia in that nausea, diarrhoea (Yup, I said it) and pain medication can be found on the shelf of most chemists. For someone like me who’s more prone to sinus infections, Sudafed tablets and nasal spray are a godsend that’s kept behind the counter. While the boxes do take up a little of that precious packing space, you’ll be thankful down the track that you’ve brought those little tablets.

A visit to your doctor’s always a good idea, too. They’re going to be the best person to talk to about ensuring your immunisation details are up to date. They also have the ability to prescribe bulk medications for you in advance, if you need to take certain drugs with you overseas.

And - do I need to say this? Make sure you have travel insurance that covers you health-wise.

So what does my mini-pharmacy look like when I’m travelling?

Usually I’ll put together a little package for myself before I go anywhere, and it’ll look something like this:

  • Panadol/Nurofen. Or a combination of both.
  • Plain ol’ Sudafed.
  • Diarrhoea medication.
  • Nausea medication.
  • Nasal spray. For real effectiveness, be sure to opt for the proper decongestants, rather than the saline sprays!
  • Bandaids. You only ever need them when you don’t have them.
  • Prescription medication. These likely will need some sort of doctor’s note accompanying them.
  • Tissues.

  I'm no doctor, but I can tell you that eating well  will  make a difference to your health while you're traversing the globe.

I'm no doctor, but I can tell you that eating well will make a difference to your health while you're traversing the globe.

When you’re travelling

Keep in mind that different countries are going to have different expectations around what medications, and dosages, are legal. Some places may also have certain social customs related to being ill - for example, in Japan, it’s expected that if you’re suffering from a cold that you wear a face mask as a courtesy to the people around you.

Worst comes to worst …

If you’ve gotten stuck like I have, you can always chance it and try your luck at a chemist overseas. If you’re in an English-speaking country, you’ve already made it past half the challenge. If you’re not in an English-speaking country, and you don’t speak the local language, you can always approach the pharmacist and cough awkwardly. 

And then have them sigh and ask in English about your symptoms.