A travel-clinic director offers tips for the queasy traveler.

Share story

Getting sick can be especially unsettling when it happens in another country. Matthew Klapetzky, travel-clinic director at the University of Rochester School of Nursing, shares tips on what to do if illness hits you while abroad:

• Pack a first-aid kit: “The majority of minor health issues that international travelers contend with can easily be self-treated with a good first-aid kit,” Klapetzky said. It should include anti-diarrhea medication such as Imodium A-D or Pepto-Bismol because diarrhea is the most common ailment among U.S. travelers and hits around half of them.

Other musts in the kit: ibuprofen to reduce fevers, muscle inflammation and joint pain; bandages in assorted sizes along with an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin for cuts and wounds; oral rehydration supplements such as CeraLyte to replenish electrolytes lost through sweating and diarrhea; blister pads; and fiber supplements to ease constipation, also common during travel. Be sure to carry an EpiPen if you have allergies.

• Minor issue? Seek local care: If you twist your ankle or have another not-so-serious situation where you need to see a doctor, use local care. “Remember that the doctors where you are in the world are used to treating ailments specific to the region,” Klapetzky said.

Travelers can find local medical care through the State Department website (travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/go/health.html) but be aware that the department does not take responsibility for the quality of service provided.

• More serious? In dire health situations such as a heart attack, Klapetzky suggested contacting the local U.S. Embassy, which can help arrange airlifts or other assistance (at your expense).