9 Hacks for Traveler 1st Aid

In Stories
Things that suck:

  • Getting stuck in traffic on a hot day with a grocery bag full of ice cream.
  • Waiting patiently for a parking spot, only to have someone cut in and swipe it.
  • Losing electricity seconds before the biggest game of the season starts.

Things that suck more:

  • Getting sick or injured on holiday.

And the kicker is, it’s far more common to suffer sun stroke while on vacation than it is to have a car-load of melted dairy product. Foreign food, suspect water, excitement and even time changes, mean holiday makers fall unwell more frequently than expected. And what do you do with a broken tibia in Tanzania or if you’re suffering motion sickness in Morocco? Here is a lifesaver list when you’re struck with the most common ailments experienced while traveling.

9.  Montezuma’s Revenge

The name itself is off-putting, but the symptoms are worse. Akin to Traveler’s diarrhea (TD), it is an ailment that earns the spot at the top of the podium because approximately 10 million unfortunate people (roughly 30% of all international travelers!) develop it annually. Let’s just say that, while under its spell, you had better stay within close  proximity of a toilet. But perhaps even worse than the symptom itself is the way TD is contracted: through fecally-contaminated food or water. To skirt this nightmare, we recommend enlisting the services of a tour guide who will take you to the tastiest (and contamination-free) spots for food and drink. (Consider Patricia Leopoldino, for example, who will take you to delicious Brazilian lunch venues on her tour 1 Day in Rio.) Alternatively, follow these rules of thumb: stick to bottled drinks – even use bottled water for teeth-brushing (apologies, environmentalists) – or drinks made with boiled water, eat fruits that have to be peeled, and avoid salads (apologies, nutritionists) because, well, you just don’t know what kind of water the lettuce was washed with. If the Revenge does find you, however, consume lots of water supplemented with electrolytes (Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator is a good choice), will help flush your system quickly (no pun intended).

8.  Bruises & Broken Bones

If you’re the least bit injury prone, your best bet is to travel to New Zealand for your next vacation because for travelers in this wonderful part of the world, health care is free! Al Macdonald, a guide who offers adventure tours in New Zealand, reports that this luxury was much appreciated by a guest of his who fell and chipped a tooth: he got temporary dental work without losing a dime. Macdonald also stresses the importance of deep-breathing should a more stressful injury arise: On one of his “The Epic” rafting tours, a guest was thrown from the raft and twisted her ankle, which sent her into panic because she thought she had broken it. Al, being cool, calm and collected (like most guides) coached her into slowing her breath, which eased the pain ten-fold and allowed her to recognize no bones had, in fact, been broken. Other wise words from Al include wearing a brace during all activities on places that have previously been injured (insightfully, he points out, “once you twist your ankle, it becomes more susceptible to twisting again”), icing an injury as soon as it occurs to prevent swelling, and, should a sprain occur in the absence of an Ace bandage, a t-shirt secured with tape creates a makeshift support. Clearly, if you’re looking for an adventure, Al’s the man to take along for the ride; he’ll bring you thrills without the dollar bills.

7.  The Common Cold

Believe it or not, colds are often picked up on ventures to hot countries. Why? Two words: air conditioning. In Hawaii, for example, buildings are cooled significantly, and travelers, unused to the exterior heat, dress minimally, leaving them exposed indoors. The solutions: turn down the air conditioner at bedtime, and, despite how odd it may seem at the time, carry a sweater in your beach bag. The best solution, however, is to skip the indoors entirely by simply venturing out with guides such as yoga-and-chocolate-loving Ali on one of her revitalizing stand-up paddle or kayak excursions. (Organic snacks included!)

6.  Sunburn & Sunstroke

Guided trips in the outdoors, like Andy’s Private Eco-Trip to the Royal in sunny Australia, may be all fun and games (who wouldn’t enjoy picnicking at a spot overlooking white-sand beaches, swimming in the ocean and throwing boomerangs?) until you’re left with a singed back that prevents you from showering, let alone sleeping, comfortably. So, be safe out there, and, like your wise guides, slather yourself with sun cream, wear a sun hat (a protective one, not a beanie…), and, when at all possible, cover up with long sleeves and pants. In the unlucky case that you do suffer sunstroke, apply cold compresses to the body and guzzle water. A dose of Aloe will help, too.

5.  Motion Sickness

This ailment occurs when the motion you see is different from that sensed by your inner ear, making you feel dizzy and nauseous. To prevent your holiday being spoiled by motion sickness, sit in the front seat on long drives, over the wing during flights and choose a central cabin on cruises. If you find the symptoms settling in, close your eyes or focus on the horizon and suck on hard-boiled sweets, especially ones that are ginger-flavored. Benadryl and Dramamine also help, but these medications have less desirable side effects like drowsiness: nobody wants to feel unmotivated on vacation! Those solutions aside, there’s also the option of sticking to land-bound walking tours, like Kévi Donat’s trip Historic Heart of Paris, where a croissant will make you feel dizzy with delight.

4.  Tick-borne Diseases

Travelers on outdoorsy trips and safaris are the most common sufferers of diseases spread by ticks. Since no vaccines prevent tick-borne diseases, travelers must take care to dress appropriately – wear light-colored clothing treated with permethrin, tuck shirts in, cover arms and legs, tuck pants into socks, and wear close-toed shoesuse insect repellent, and walk in the centre of hiking trails (ticks prefer to hang out in tall grass, brush and wooded areas). However, if, for example, you’re enjoying a lovely day of wine tasting and visiting authentic shepherds’ huts with Manos Malaxianakis on his guided trip, Explore the White Mountains of Crete, and you find a tick on your skin, don’t panic. Manos is a champion guide and he’ll be able to take care of it no problem. Secondly, if the tick hasn’t attached itself to you yet, you can simply remove it with a pair of tweezers. However, if it is partially embedded, follow these steps: take the tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, then pull upward with steady, even pressure so as to keep the insect in one piece. Finally, cleanse the affected area with disinfectant.

3.  Car Accidents

You may be thinking about the life-saving vaccines you  need for your next trip abroad but what’s even more important is planning what to do in the event of a automobile accident. (Sadly, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for healthy travelers with over 25,000 fatalities each year.) Here’s the lowdown: be vigilant – in developing countries in particular, roads are often poorly maintained and traffic laws are haphazardly followed – avoid driving at night, always wear a helmet when on a motorcycle, scooter or bicycle), ride in registered taxis with seatbelts, avoid overcrowded buses, and be alert when crossing the street. Another option is to simply let a professional do all the driving for you, such as licensed guide Murtaza Kalender whose Jeep safari in Cappadocia is fun and safe!

2.  Malaria

Malaria is a mosquito-borne illness, and though most travelers are well aware of the importance of taking anti-malarial medications, often they don’t know about the rise of harmful counterfeit medicines being sold in West and Central Africa. In this case, the key is to bring anti-malarial drugs from your home country, and, should an emergency arise, be sure only buy medications in their original packaging from licensed pharmacies. Also, it goes without saying that the use of mosquito repellent helps, as does covering up exposed skin with light-coloured fabric. Or, you could join Cassio Gurião, guide of the Half-Day Sail trip in Rio de Janeiro, because there are no mosquitos around to bother you while watching the sunset with a cocktail in hand on the deck of Captain Gurião’s yacht.

1.  Jet lag

Although not a serious problem, jet lag deserves a mention because it can be a downer, especially for travelers crossing several time zones. To nip jet-lag in the bud, recalibrate your body clock by eating meals at appropriate hours, spending time in the sunhydrating with water, only taking short naps, and signing up for guided trips that keep you on the go; after all, sleep will be the last thing on your mind while diving with sharks off the coast of Southern California with Andy Murch.

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