Illness on Vacation and How to Prevent It

The worst-case scenario: getting sick while overseas.

“If I stay at home, I still might get hit by a bus tomorrow!” That’s how I always try to calm my mother down (to no avail, of course) before I yet again fly off to a destination far, far away. And:

“They have doctors and medicine there, too.”

This is true, even if a medical diagnosis given in Indian pidgin English is about as informative as an episode of Teletubbies, as I unfortunately learned in a hospital on Mauritius a few years ago (the male nurse’s suspicion that I had HIV didn’t quite agree with the doctor’s diagnosis of lung cancer, which ultimately turned out to be pneumonia).



Let’s put it this way: Medicines can be found wherever you go, but in different forms. That is why, before our family vacation in the USA, my kids’ doctor presented me with a Santa’s sack full of suppositories – because “they’re not so common in the States.”

When packing my suitcase as ergonomically as possible, however, I naturally left half of them at home.

After all, who needs half a kilo of fever meds in two months?

We do. Within a single week.

We hadn’t gotten over the worst of the jet lag yet when my daughter’s molar decided it was the ideal time to emerge from her gums. After an unnatural dose of homeopathic pills, the most the package instructions allowed, we resorted to suppositories, but it did virtually nothing to help her. Our little girl started to glow with fever. And so on the weekend (when else?), we ended up at the Urgent Care Center in Los Angeles, where a bored emergency doctor additionally diagnosed her with a sore throat.

At least we have matching outfits!
At least we match!

Two days later, our little girl was back to her happy old self. I couldn’t wait for sightseeing and the Santa Monica Pier and Malibu and Baywatch lifeguards with six-packs…

…until Any Working Dad crawled out of bed, then straight back in. He had the flu. The hardcore version.

My only view of the lifeguards was from a kiddie slide, as my kids and I spent the next three days on the playground with the Spanish-speaking nannies.

My children learned some Spanish. And what did I learn?

• Always take our ENTIRE supply of medicines and first aid items and never think I know better. We ended up with just three doses of pain and fever medicine left for the next ten weeks*.

This is roughly how our supply of medicines and first aid items looks, depending on the destination, of course. I make no promises that this collection will cure all your ills or represents true medical expertise (I just have a lot of of practical experience). And of course, you can select your own preferred brands:

Medicines and First Aid Items for Your Famiily Vacation

  1. Dressing material, Band-Aids, steri-strips and spray plaster or bandages
  2. Thermometer
  3. Nail clippers
  4. Disinfectant spray
  5. Bepanthen wound cream
  6. Bioflorin probiotics
  7. Itinerol B6 to combat queasiness / sickness in kids
  8. Normolytoral rehydration solution (to prevent or treat dehydration in the case of diarrhea/sickness)
  9. Dafalgan pain relief suppositories
  10. Algifor painkiller (can be alternated with Dafalgan)
  11. Eye drops
  12. Feniallergtropfen drops to prevent allergic reactions or possibly for use when flying
  13. Fenistil to treat skin irritations
  14. Betnesol to treat allergic disorders (be sure to consult your doctor first!)
  15. Nasal spray for children/adults
  16. Mosquito repellent (order it with your diapers
  17. Mebucaine or a similar product to treat a sore throat
  18. Buscopan (to relieve stomach cramps)
  19. Charcoal tablets / Lactoferment
  20. Panadol (pain relief that also reduces fever)
  21. Pyralvex for mouth ulcers and sores (for adults only)
  22. Pretuval (to treat cold symptoms)
  23. A shot of Fraxiparine to prevent thrombosis in pregnant women when flying
  24. For babies: homeopathic teething pills / gel / teether
  25. Sunscreen
  26. A tip from a reader: take some bouillon with you for use as first aid in case of diarrhea


  • Don’t only take out additional travel insurance, but be sure to read all the fine print carefully to find out precisely what it covers and if it offers a medical hotline. Taking out cancellation insurance is also absolutely worth the money in case your child falls sick and can’t fly.
  • If possible, contact a local family before your trip so you can find out where to get help in your destination in case of emergency. If you’re in L.A., for example, you can head here. This spares panicked Googling in the middle of the night.
  • Be sure to get your immune system in tip-top shape before you travel – eat healthily, sleep properly and take your vitamins. This last one? Epic fail on our part, we can now admit.

And you can see where that got us.


This article was first published on 10. October 2015 as part of my Hawaii travel blog at It has been extensively revised for use in this blog.

*As you would expect (and as mentioned in the friendly and helpful reminders in the Blick comments written by Heinz, Fritz and Annegret), getting medicine from a pharmacy in a city like L.A. isn’t a problem, even at three in the morning. That said, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to put your trust in a bored high-school student stuck doing the night shift at a CVS pharmacy…. zu den Kommentaren


Abonniere jetzt unsere persönlichen Newsletter und erhalte als Dankeschön einen Gutschein im Wert von 5 CHF für unseren Concept Store!

Wir bewahren deine Daten sicher auf und teilen sie nur mit Drittanbietern, die diesen Service ermöglichen. Mehr Infos in unserer Datenschutzerklärung.


Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

Deine E-Mail-Adresse wird nicht veröffentlicht. Erforderliche Felder sind mit * markiert