Last updated on April 4th, 2019 at 05:55 am
You are on vacation, in a foreign country, enjoying a walking tour of a new city. You grabbed a quick and tasty lunch from a sidewalk vendor. But, as the afternoon progresses, you feel the onset of an upset stomach and you just know that you will soon be dealing with a bad case of diarrhea! Your dream vacation is quickly turning into the vacation from you-know-where.
If you were at home, you might just call your doctor; but more-than-likely, you would just go to the medicine cabinet or run down to the local pharmacy and buy an over-the-counter remedy such as Pepto-Bismol to deal with the problem. Even if you were traveling in the US, you would still feel comfortable dealing with the problem. Of course, if the symptoms persisted, you would surely call your doctor.
But, you are not in the US. You are in Mexico or Germany or France, etc… You cannot read or speak the language other than to say, “¿Dónde está el baño, por favor?” or “Wo ist die Toilette, bitte?” or “Où est la toilette, s’il vous plaît?”.
Did you bring your trusted over-the-counter meds with you on this trip? If not, do you know how to find something locally to take care of your problem? Does your travel first aid kit contain something besides bandaids, Neosporin or Bactine and your favorite sun block to keep from getting a sun burn?
For our discussion today, I will only be discussing how you might be better prepared to deal with common problems that you have always treated with available over-the-counter meds. I am not a doctor and I am not giving medical advice; just sharing some common sense thoughts with you. I am just reminding you that in addition to the prescription drugs that you are sure to bring on your trip, in the original containers with the prescription info label still intact, have you thought about how you will deal with life’s daily problems of cuts, bruises, insect bites, sunburn, headaches, sleepless nights, or nausea, because it may be very difficult to find what you need in Timbucktu.
Before I get completely into this discussion, please keep a few very important things in mind.
- Have you used these meds at home? Being on vacation in a foreign country is not the time or place to be trying out something new. I am sure you have seen the commercials on TV about this new drug or that new drug. You know what I mean. The one that says it will cure your depression, but the side effects are thoughts of suicide, etc… Over-the-counter drugs can have side effects too. Many of the anti-itch preparations can cause contact dermatitis which can be worse that the itching you started with. If you have not tried it at home, don’t take it on the trip. An allergic reaction could be much worse than your original problem.
- Have you read the labels of your commonly used over-the-counter drugs? It is too easy to overdose on something if you take more than one medication for what may appear to be two different symptoms.
For example, let’s say that it is the end of a very long day of viewing the tulips and all the other beautiful flowers at Keukenhof Gardens in Amsterdam. You are developing a slight rash on your arm where you brushed up against some prickly plants earlier in the day, you have a splitting head ache, maybe from the wine at dinner, compounded by your allergies to all the pollen at the Gardens.
You rub on some generic anti-itch cream to stop the itching. Now, all you really want to do is to take a Benadryl for your allergy symptoms and get some sleep so you will quit scratching your arm. You take a couple of Generic Tylenol PM and go off to bed.
Guess what, you just took three doses of the same medication. You took a 25mg capsule of Benadryl for the allergy symptoms. You also rubbed the same thing on the hives on your arm with the anti-itch cream. Your anti-itch cream contains as it’s active ingredient, Diphenhydramine Hydrocloride. That is Benadryl, too. And, if that is not enough, you should know that the sleep aid in the Tylenol PM is another 25mg of Benadryl in each caplet. If you had read the package for any of the three products, they all say that they contain Diphenhydramine Hydrocloride and that you should not use it if you are taking any other product that contains the same ingredient, topically or orally.
Now that you know that generic Tylenol PM contains Benadryl, maybe you don’t even need to bring the generic Tylenol PM along on the trip. If you are already packing Benadryl and generic Tylenol, you are all set.
Before I leave the topic of Benadryl, keep in mind that in Amsterdam it may still be considered a controlled substance. Many countries have different rules on drugs than we do in the USA. Check with your doctor to be sure you can take it with you.
So, rather than to tell you what you should bring along, I will talk about what I bring along when I travel.
As you might have guessed, I always travel with Pepto-Bismol. I take the caplets rather than the liquid or chewables. Of course, I always have Excedrin and Tylenol or generic replacements.
Catching a cold or dealing with allergies when you are on vacation is a real pain in the back side, so I always bring along the meds I am used to using.
Based upon the second scenario above, you could also guess that I bring along Benadryl or a generic copy of it and the anti itch Benadryl cream.
I usually carry two types of anti-itch cream. One is the Benadryl cream above and the other will be the Hydrocortizone cream such as Cortizone 10 in the photo below. In Europe, I found that you can only get a 0.5% cortisone cream over-the-counter, but here in the US, it is a 1% cream. Below you will see what we picked up in Germany and France as well as the US brand that we usually bring.
If you don’t use Cortizone or Benadryl creams, maybe you use the aloe vera products. Here is what I bring along, especially if I am going to be enjoying time in the sun. I find that I want to have some aloe gel after a long day in the sun or wind.
With that background in mind, what do you look for when you are in a foreign country and you didn’t bring along your personal over-the-counter first aid kit? Well, first of all, if you are still in Amsterdam suffering from allergies, forget about finding Benadryl in the local pharmacy as an over-the-counter medication. I read recently that you cannot get it without a doctor’s prescription. You can buy pot over-the-counter in Amsterdam, but not Benadryl. You will need to ask for a generic antihistamine for your allergy problem.
Fortunately for you, most pharmacies have someone working there who can speak a little English so you can still go in and ask for an antihistamine, or a cold medicine or an allergy medicine. I have no idea about what you will get, but it won’t be what you are used to taking. The best plan here would be to have brought some along on the trip. I have read that in parts of Europe you might ask for or look for Benocten or Nautamine as a substitute, but I suggest that you ask your personal physician about these products to make sure.
The best solution is to have planned ahead. I would always recommend that before you travel you set up an appointment with your doctor. Tell your doctor what you take in the way of over-the-counter meds and ask for recommendations for similar products in the countries where you will be traveling. As noted above, make sure you know the active ingredients on the products you use and I would suggest that you even write them down so that you can share that info with a pharmacy if it is necessary. There is also a website that you can use, http://www.drugs.com/international/ that will allow you to type in the name of the medicine you are looking for and will provide info about what to look for in another country.
When you meet with your personal doctor to make sure that you are up-to-date with any needed shots; he may refer you to the Travel Clinic in the hospital. You can download a list of required shots from the Department of State website for the countries you will be visiting.
I would also make sure to get my doctor’s phone number and email address so that I could make contact if necessary. It is amazing how easy it is to take a photo, of the hives for example, and email it directly to your doctor so that he or she can see what you are dealing with when you make contact from your smart phone while on vacation in Germany or France or wherever you are visiting.
The bottom line here is to plan ahead. Do your homework so that you really know what over-the-counter meds you are currently taking so that you can determine if there are generic equivalents available and exactly what is in each of them. Yes, I know that the names of the drugs are long, complicated and difficult to say, but they are easy enough to write out so that you can see if you are accidentally putting yourself into an overdose situation by taking what you thought were safe over-the-counter meds. They may have been safe when taken individually, but in combination, there could be issues.
One final comment about medical issues while traveling abroad. If you are on a cruise, and you have a medical issue that causes you to break out in hives or some other malady so that you look like you may be contagious and you could infect the rest of the passengers, don’t be surprised if they confine you and your family to your cabin and ultimately put you off the boat in the next port and refuse to let you back on.
Did you check to see if your medical insurance covered you while in a foreign country? Probably not. Most of us don’t think to do that. Can you just imagine being in that situation?
Here you are, stranded in a foreign country, you don’t speak the language, you are ill, don’t know how to find a doctor or hospital. You don’t have any extra money to cover your hospital or medical expenses or a hotel room and meals for the rest of the family. Hopefully, you did buy trip insurance that will cover your medical issues in a foreign country as well as get you back home when you have recovered. Think about that the next time your travel agent asks you if you want to buy trip insurance. If you don’t have an extra few thousand dollars in the bank, you could be up the creek without the paddle.
Turning Dreams into Memories,
One Vacation at a Time.
As you might guess, this document is a compilation of information from our travels as well as from other travelers. I hope it has been of value to you. Check out the important links below.
- Packing Checklist
- Parent Authorization Letter For Unaccompanied Minors
- Medical Treatment Authorization Letter
- Travel With Minors – Permission Letter
Don’t hesitate to email us when you return from your trip with any suggestions that will make this document better for you and your fellow travelers!
You may also want to visit our Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/TeamEdwardsTravel