I am one week away from leaving my beautiful homeland and heading on my first big OE to South East Asia. I will be venturing Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. I cannot contain my excitement and am amped to broaden my knowledge of new cultures, food and people. However being my first time away I am slightly anxious about how to best look after myself when I am away. I have heard some hideous stories of people getting sick and I want to do my best to avoid using my health insurance.
I decided to seek some advice from someone who has not only travelled herself but is also a naturopath. Willis Street Physiotherapy’s Felicity Leahy is an expert in wellbeing and natural remedies and has given me some fantastic guidance and simple tips on how to stay healthy while travelling.
My main concerns
- Mosquito bites
- Upset tummy/nausea/travel bugs
I am extremely allergic of mosquito bites and am concerned, particularly traveling through areas like the Mekong Delta (river areas) that I am going to end up with big welts. I have also been warned of malaria and typhoid around these areas.
I have a pretty strong cast iron constitution like my dad (thanks dad) so I am hoping that my tummy will withstand any bugs that come my way, however my GP has prescribed me some antibiotics to be on the safe side. I have been told to only eat cooked food, drink bottled water (and check the seal has not been opened) and do not drink anything with ice in it. My predicament will be between my eagerness to try new food and being sensible about what food is ok to eat.
After a consultation with Felicity, here is what she had to say..
You should be able to pick up most of these from your local health shop.
- Covering up
- Natural mosquito repellents can be effective and safe on the skin – usually based on blend of essential oils such as Eucalyptus, Manuka, Tea Tree that are naturally repellent to bugs. Also great for soothing bugs. Goodbye Sandfly is a great one.
- If heading to Malaria prone region or the risk of mosquito carried disease is high, might want to use some heavy-duty stuff instead. (Areas such as the Mekong Delta where I am going may require deet).
Nausea / travel sickness:
- Ginger capsules, ginger chews, crystallised ginger – great treatment for nausea and upset tummies whilst travelling. If you’re prone to motion sickness and know you’ll be on a boat or bus where you’ll need it, start with ginger 2 hours prior and continue throughout the trip.
- Homeopathic Nux Vomica 30c – for nausea, also great for hangovers. Easy one to remember cause the name “vomica” is very close to “vomit” which is usually when you’ll be reaching for this remedy! J
Tummy bugs, food poisoning and general ills/chills
If it’s a serious bout of food poisoning, these can lurk around for months so utilise some of these strategies to reduce your risk of long-term problems.
Herbal antibiotics / immune boosters:
- Goldenseal, Echinacea, Wormwood – available in liquid or tablet form. There are some ready-made formulations specifically for tummy bugs etc so ask at your local health store.
- Oregano oil: With antibacterial and antiviral actions, oregano oil is another great option for tummy bug recovery.
- Activated charcoal: can often lessen or stop diarrhoea in acute situations. It works by adsorbing the organisms causing the infection and, since charcoal itself is not absorbed; it carries the bugs out of the body. Really important to drink water with this one.
- Probiotics: really important to replenish your gut bacteria following any type of antibiotic – herbal or conventional. Get a broad spectrum one with a number of strains that doesn’t require refrigeration – Lifestream Advanced Probiotic, for example. Sacchromyces boulardii is a specific type of bacteria that can support the immune system and reduce diarrhoea. Often marketed as the ‘travel probiotic’. This is the one to get if you’re in an area where gastro issues are likely.
- Remember if you’re sick to keep hydrated – this is so important! Pack some electrolyte rehydration solution for replenishing electrolytes.
- Vitamin C: the traditional immune stimulant. Take up to 3 grams per day in divided doses if you’re trying to shake a cold or flu. Less is required if you’re taking as a preventative.
Cuts & scrapes:
- Betadine solution for cleaning wounds
- Essential oils of Manuka, Eucalyptus and Tea Tree can be great disinfectants, reducing the risk of infection post-injury
Bruises and minor injuries/swelling
- Arnica cream, or Arnica tablets in dose of 30c – the most widely known and used homeopathic remedy, great for bruising, swelling, shock, injury and speeding up recovery.
- Don’t use Arnica cream on an open wound though – take in liquid or tablet instead.
Burns and sunburn
- Aloe Vera gel – a great treatment for any kind of burn, especially sunburn. Relieves discomfort, speeds healing, reduces inflammation and dryness. Make sure you choose one free of alcohol or else it will sting.
Vaccinations: contact your travel nurse/doctor for advice. Make sure you get them a suitable time in advance. Some people can develop a bit of a sniffle after a vaccination so if you’ve had this experience before, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to recover in advance of your trip.
Although it is unlikely things will go hideously wrong, it is always great to over prepare, especially for a newbie traveller like me. I feel far more equipped in terms of preventative action while I am away and informed as to how best treat any unfortunate health incidents should they arise (touch wood they don’t). Hopefully you find this useful and can apply some of this information not only to your travels but to your everyday lives.