Sorry for the long silence in our blog. I got sick on vacation. Actually I got pneumonia so it's taken a bit of time for me to feel up to writing. I think getting sick away from home often means figuring out inventive ways of coping while trying to feel better. We'll get to that part in just a bit.
First allow me to address the elephant in the room. Before my career in travel I was a pediatric nurse. I do have a good working knowledge of proper handwashing and preventive means of staying healthy. I was on a 7 night cruise to the Caribbean and started with a really bad sore throat and cough the last two days at sea. During our week at sea my husband joked about my obsessive handwashing and sanitizing. Of course, he returned home healthy and energized while I returned with chills and fever. Shortly after returning home I found out that both my friend and daughter, who both live close by, were also very sick with upper respiratory infections. So please do not fear and blame the cruise ship for this one. Despite the best prevention, airborne germs can get you no matter where you are. As my ill friend commented, at least I got to enjoy the Caribbean while she was sick at work.
For some people, feeling sick on vacation isn't unusual. European doctors recongnize the existance of "leisure sickness". High stress work environments and striving to "have it all" means higher high levels of adrenaline in our blood. Once away from work, these adrenaline levels start to fall. For some people, this results in fatigue and flu like symptoms.
Naturally any change in environment and routines can break down a body's defense systems and cause illness. You don't have to travel far and wide for this to happen. Every parent knows when the kids head back to school after vacation the runny noses begin. Travel does add the extra stress of being away from your normal support systems. You're far from your doctor, your own stocked medicine cabinet, mom's chicken soup and your own bed.
So how do you cope when you get sick while on vacation? Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind...
Stay calm and carry on - People get sick everywhere on the earth and people feel better everywhere on earth. Relax and don't panic. Know that you are not alone. In most cases, you're own doctor is as far away as your cell phone. Often hearing advise from a trusted advisor will put your mind at ease. Cruise ships, hotels and airports all have doctors available and on call for emergency help if need be.
Seek immediate emergency care for symptoms like Shortness of breath, high fever, severe headaches, neck pain, prolonged vomiting or diarhea, seizures or rashes. Of course, infants, children, elderly, pregnant moms and people with pre-existing conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease etc should seek medical support sooner.
Keep to yourself - Cruise ships and hotels mean a lot of people in a small area and germs love these type of situation. If you're sick, stay in your room and rest. I know you're disappointed and paid hard earned money for this vacation but when you're sick...you're sick! Order room service and keep away from others. Don't go spreading your germs to everyone else. If you're due to fly home, listen to your doctor's advice and consider wearing a mask to help prevent others from getting sick. Above all, maintain a high level of handwashing.
Stay hydrated - Whether your sick with upper respiratory problems or stomach issues, hydration is extremely important. The need can be compounded if you find yourself visiting warm weather climates. if you don't feel like eating then don't...but you must drink clear liquids. Be alert for signs and symptoms of dehydration and get immediate medical help if necessary. Chicken soup is a universal food and can be ordered just about anywhere on the planet.
Take supportive measures - Most ships and hotel sundry shops will sell many supportive health care items....cough & cold remedies, stomach meds, pain and fever medication, etc. Sometimes the names and doses of these remedies may be different than what you're used to seeing at home so seek advice when necessary. This is especially important when treating children. The correct dose is often determined by age and weight so ask a professional if you need help with any metric conversions.
I normally travel with my own supply of supportive meds - Advil, pepto, benadry, neoporin etc. Murphy's law the one time I have a high fever while on the road and my advil had expired. Of course a quick trip to the gift shop and my husband solved that problem. Still be paid three times as much for my lack of planning. Remedy - I bought a new, clear, plastic zip case for my traveling first aid kit and labeled it with the date I packed it. Now with a quick glance it's a reminder to replace and double check for expiration dates.
Yes...it really sucks getting sick on vacation! I couldn't wait to get home, take a hot bath, crawl into my favorite jammies and tuck in under the covers. It's taken me a few weeks to stop coughing and feel better but I cannot wait to hit the road again in a few weeks. I feel like I have to make up for vacation time lost.