Traveller’s Rx

Don't let health problems spoil your fun. Here's how to tackle common travel ailments

food plateDuring travel, we are exposed to different conditions, different temperatures and different cuisines. Some people may not be able to adjust to the changes, and end up experiencing health problems. The common health problems travellers face are gastro-intestinal ailments.


When we leave home, we are gripped with a sense of adventure, which sometimes leads us to try food at not-so-hygienic places. If the food doesn’t agree with us, we develop mild diarrhoea or even full-blown gastro-enteritis.

Mild diarrhoea can be treated with probiotics and anti-motility drugs like loperamide. It’s important to prevent dehydration. Add Oral Rehydration Salts or ORS powder to a glass of boiled and cooled water and drink it 5 –6 times a day [so don’t forget to pack it in your medical kit].

If the vomiting and diarrhoea is severe, take anti-emetics like Domperidone along with an antibiotic. At the same time, ensure that your fluid intake is liberal. Coconut water or locally available fruit juices are particularly helpful in such cases. Add a pinch of salt to the fluid being taken.

If the infection is still not under control or if the symptoms of dehydration are setting in, immediately see a doctor and start a course of intra-venous fluids.

Bloating and stomach pain

In case of mild abdominal distention [bloating], taking some anti-flatulent usually solves the problem. If you are experiencing severe acidity or heartburn, take some omeprazole or pantoprazole to find relief.

Occasionally, people get abdominal pain due to intestinal spasms. Anti-spasmodics help in this case.

Common cold

Change of climate for instance can cause a running or stuffy nose, upper respiratory tract infection or sore throat. This is usually self-limiting and can be cured by paracetamol, anti-allergics and warm gargles.

Motion sickness

A lot of people experience nausea during long-distance road travel especially in mountainous regions. Taking domperidone or promethazine an hour before you travel. Continue taking one every six hours if you are still on the road.


Paracetamol is the safest drug for headaches, which are common at high altitudes or regions with lower levels of oxygen. The best remedy while going to high altitude places is to get ‘acclimatised’.

Rest for 48 hours on arrival, drink plenty of fluids [water, 3 litres/day] and start moving out gradually. Increase physical activity over time and if you feel breathless go to the nearest hospital for oxygen. The headaches at high altitudes are also treated with acetazolamide.

Try this

Most of the travel-related ailments can be prevented.

  • Avoid eating roadside and uncooked food.
  • Ensure that any seafood you eat is fresh and cleaned thoroughly.
  • Drink clean water. If you are unsure about the source of water, drink bottled water.
  • Microwave packaged food.
  • When exposed to cold weather/snow, cover yourself properly with warm clothing.
  • Cover your ears and scalp to prevent catching a cold in chilly areas or when travelling.
  • Avoid direct cold drafts of air.
  • Keep yourself hydrated all the time.
  • Carry a first aid kit with basic drugs. Anticipate medicines you would need as per the climate and pack them as well. So if you know extreme cold weather makes you asthmatic, carry your spray or tablet.
Dr Anil G Ballani, MD, is a consultant physician at the Lilavati Hospital and Research Centre.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here