There’s nothing worse than being sick, except being sick away from home. And this past week I’ve been sidelined with a nasty bug.
I had just returned to The Westin Playa Bonita Hotel from touring the Panama Canal when it hit me. It began with chills, quickly turned into a high fever (peak was 103.1) that lasted for five days and an upper respiratory infection that I’m still fighting today with Amoxicillin.
Fortunately, my wife was there and she unselfishly took care of me even though I tried to tell her to save herself. She didn’t listen and now she’s laid up. The good news to come out of this mess is I learned some valuable tips which I can pass onto you to help minimize your risk.
- Get a flu shot: Every frequent traveler should get a flu shot and I was kicking myself for not getting one. I usually do but didn’t make time this year. You can bet I will be getting one next week when I’m fully recovered. Being sick sucks. RELATED: Get your flu shots on the go.
- Use Antibacterial wipes: When I travel I’m almost borderline Howard Hughes insane about germs. I constantly wash my hands, use hand sanitizer, make a conscious effort not to stick my fingers in my mouth/eyes/nose, and I wipe down the plane seats and hotel rooms. But I’ve been lazy and I paid the price. Don’t make the same mistake.
- Pack a first aid kit: I always carry a mini first aid kit (a little plastic bag) in my carry-on and the Tylenol that I had found me some instant relief. Here’s what I carry in mine: thermometer, Band-Aids, Tylenol, nose drops, anti-diarrhea pills, decongestants, antacid tablets, allergy pills, antibiotics and an inhaler (I used to have asthma). You can get most of this while on the road but why wait? And trust me when you get sick you are going to wish you packed this stuff before you left.
- See a doctor: The one thing I forgot to reload on was my Amoxicillin and that hurt because I got an upper respiratory infection within minutes. As a former asthmatic I know my chest and I shouldn’t have been so stubborn on not seeing a doctor right away while in Panama. All hotels can arrange for one so call the front desk and inquire. I emailed my doctor from the road and saw a doctor when I arrived in the U.S.
- Travel Insurance: Check to see if your health insurance covers you for your travels (especially international). If not, buy trip insurance. It’s not expensive and is great piece of mind. I use InsureMyTrip.com since you can call or book the best plan for a particular trip online using one of their 24 travel insurance brokers.
- Rest: I’m pretty sure one of the reasons I got sick was because I wasn’t getting my normal eight hours of sleep. I could feel my body wearing down. When I did get sick I was smart and canceled everything on my agenda.
- Don’t spread your germs: If you are sick don’t go out. No one wants to be around a sick person. If the person who I think I got it from didn’t go to work that day like she should have, countless people would be … not miserable. Not only did I get sick but then I got Natalie sick and my sister who got her kids and husband sick. It’s a domino effect. STAY HOME! If you have to go to work or catch a flight then wash your hands more than usual, use hand sanitizer, and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
- Wear a surgical mask: In Japan everyone wears a surgical mask when they are sick. Why can’t we bring that tradition to America or, better yet, the rest of the world? Who cares if people think you look like a freak?
- Use Antibacterial wipes AGAIN: Yes, I’m repeating this for a reason. Everyone thinks to use them to clean the surfaces before they touch them but they don’t think about using them to clean the surfaces after they’ve touched them. So if you fly sick, when you land give a quick wipe to everything you touched (overhead compartment latch, seatbelt, inflight entertainment, tray table…) and the same goes for your hotel room. Let’s stop the madness of passing germs on.
- Drink lots of liquid: When you are sick you should be drinking a lot of liquid and I’m not talking about alcohol or caffeine. And when you travel you should drink even more. I drink gallons of water and Gatorade when I’m sick. I also carry those tiny packets of Emergen-C that you pour into a bottle and shake or mix in a glass of water. You can also use AirBorne.
- Change your plane ticket: Unless you buy a refundable ticket (most people don’t, including me) it’s difficult to change without getting slapped with a fee (except Southwest Airlines). I do think airlines should make an exception for people who are sick because the metal tube just makes them sicker and spreads their germs to others. But they don’t so we have to deal with it or figure out ways around it. Calling the airline won’t help (usually). The best way to change your ticket without a fee is to go to the airport and speak to an agent or their supervisor. I know it’s a pain but it works. Just tell the agent you aren’t feeling well and would like to see if you can fly another time. More often than not they will do it. That’s what happened to me the other day… Natalie and I were flying from Panama to Miami to Toronto. I told Natalie since I wasn’t feeling well I was going to get off in Miami and rest at my sister’s house for a few days. After clearing customs I went to the ticket counter and asked. The first agent said sorry she couldn’t help, so I went to another agent 100 yards away. I was nice, visibly sick and he changed my ticket for free. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. BTW: My sister’s husband didn’t want me polluting their house (can’t blame him) so I stayed at Holiday Inn Highland Beach (Awesome place for $149 a night)
I hope you find these tips/tricks to be helpful. Let me know what works for you or if I missed anything.
To happy, healthy, and safe travels!