Dealing With Sickness Abroad

Nobody enjoys getting ill, usually we have home comforts to help us power through sickness, you have your favorite blanky in front of the TV watching your favorite shows whilst eating that famous chicken soup your mom has dropped over to you to make you feel better. Now imagine that situation minus all of those nice things, you are in a foreign country where nobody speaks your language and nobody is bringing you chicken soup. Being sick abroad sucks, so here is some advice to help avoid or at least cope with sickness abroad.

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Be prepared

Something that I do whenever I go abroad is to become like one of these people who are preparing for the end of the world. I stock up on over the counter medication that I know and trust: paracetemol, dispersible aspirin, diarrhea pills, rehydration sachets, plasters and the list goes on. I can’t stress just how handy these standard travel items have been. I mean think about it, you are bent over double with chronic diarrhea and there is no chance you can leave the apartment to get to the doctors in time to be checked out without being attacked by another dreaded episode. But hey, what’s this? You just remembered how smart you are and you pull out your loperamide (diarrhea) pills that keeps the nasty at bay so you can get to a doctor and get checked out.

Insurance

This is the oldest trick in the book, but also the smartest. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get yourself some insurance. Even if you don’t use it, this was not a waste of money. Use your noggins and think about it, you come off a scooter, fall down some steps, get attacked by a rabid hamster that’s hell bent on anarchy (hopefully not all at the same time) and you get taken to hospital. ‘Ahem, sir do you have any insurance?’ says the doctor, ‘Oh, er, you mean that thing everybody encouraged me to buy before I came?’ you reply, at this point you see the faint glimmer of dollar signs flicker in the doctors eyes. Goodbye savings, goodbye all of the fun things you had planned, goodbye showing your parents how responsible a traveler you are, those ships have most certainly sailed. Don’t be in that idiotic 20% of people who think they save a few pennies by travelling without insurance. Make sure that your insurance covers:

  • Medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad
  • 24 hour emergency service and assistance
  • Cover for lost and stolen possessions
  • Holiday cancellation cover
  • Extra cover for activities you may partake in such as skiing, jet skiing, paragliding, bungee jumping and scuba diving

Do Your Research

Let’s talk best case scenario: you did all of your research and you have gone to a new country and only bought bottled water or have used your water purifying tablets when thirsty, you got bitten by a mosquito carrying a potentially life threatening illness but hey, you got those vaccinations before you left so you’re cruising through the mosquito swarms like a boss, and the medication you brought with you has all of the documentation to support it so that everybody knows it is legal.

Worst case scenario: you did absolutely no research and the first thing you do in your new country is head straight for the water tap in your new home where you drink a huge cold glass of infected water, you spend the next week on the toilet. To try to counteract this illness you take some of the undocumented medicine you brought with you, whilst doing so the authorities question what drugs you are taking and you can’t show them any evidence this is legal in their country, hello jail cell. Whilst in jail wondering where it all went wrong our little malaria filled friend comes buzzing in between the bars on your window and sticks you with a dose of malaria.

Things went downhill pretty fast right? Don’t be a travel tool, research the country you are going to and minimize any mishaps.

Minor illness or dental problems

For the smaller illnesses or if you are suffering dental issues you should know what to do, or at least prepare yourself. When you arrive in your new country and you start to get settled in, its a good idea to search for your nearest dentist and doctor’s surgery so that you know where to go should anything arise. If you are staying long term then you should register with these surgeries to save time. When you wake up in the middle of the night with toothache that feels like you have just been fly-kicked in the face by an elephant, you are not going to want to hang around filling out paper work.

I think the bottom line is that getting sick whilst teaching abroad really sucks. But it doesn’t have to be so bad. Taking the necessary steps to reduce the impact this can have on your time abroad will really benefit you in the long run.

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