Sickness Overseas

By Brent Moore (ArtSci ’14)

No one enjoys being sick, but falling ill in a foreign country can be particularly unpleasant. It may be difficult to get certain medicine or communicate with local health workers — situations which cause all sorts of irrational fear. Last week I came down with something and it motivated me to write a short list of tips for any other students thinking about travelling overseas:

Pack all sexual products/medication at home. Obtaining products like condoms or birth control is relatively simple in Canada, but this may not be the case everywhere you go. Premarital sex still carries a lot of stigma in parts of India, and this makes buying contraceptives more awkward than it should be for young people. Sexual health is not something that can be ignored simply because you’re living overseas, so it’s best to plan ahead and stock up before you take off.
Have a health contact back home. Through the Queen’s exchange program I was given contact information and a pre-departure exercise to complete online. Filling it out was dull, but looking back I’m extremely glad it was included as a mandatory part of the exchange process. I know of a fellow Queen’s student who spent a few days in an Indian hospital, and they were able to speak on the phone with a woman who was knowledgeable and experienced in travel health.
Assist other travelers when they get sick. Being sick is bad enough as it is, but going through it alone in a foreign country can break the spirit of even the most veteran traveler. If you know that a fellow foreigner is feeling under the weather, take some time out of your day to comfort them and order in food. They’ll likely want a shoulder to lean on, and I’m sure you will too should you find yourself under the weather.
Don’t worry about being hyper-vigilant. Staying healthy is vital so never worry about going overboard. Don’t hide how sick you are or leave out certain symptoms because you think they are embarrassing. If there are certain medications you can’t go without, bring them from home and pack lots of extras. Most medicine is small and probably wont take up too much space in your backpack. If you think you’re really sick, call home and get yourself checked into a hospital.

Brent will be blogging again with QJBlogs on Nov. 22.

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