I was in Manali, India, in a cheap motel, lying on the floor of the bathroom. The projectile vomiting, cramps, headache, and diarrhea were horrible, but that wasn’t the worst of it. When I looked in the toilet, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was excreting giant, fat worms. WORMS. There were worms in me that were coming out of me. It was like starring in my own personal horror movie. Utterly, completely revolting.
I knew immediately why I had worms. There is a standard checklist for travelers going anywhere foreign, which vaccinations to get, which foods to avoid, what to put in your medical kit. And I had made a transgression: U.S. travelers were not supposed to eat uncooked vegetables when traveling in India. And I had. All I can say is that it had been a very long couple days of flying and traveling, that the hotel restaurant had seemed like a place that catered to foreigners, and that I had expected my vegetable panini would be cooked. But when they set the uncooked vegetable sandwich in front of me, I was too hungry to send it back. Little did I know that would be the last time I would be hungry for about a month.
Luckily, I had the ideal travel partner for the trip. She spoke Hindi. She threw me in a cab, took me to a doctor, and translated. The doctor asked me to draw the worms, parasites, amoebas, or whatever you call them, on a piece of paper. Then he smiled and communicated that I’d be all right, in a few days. That I’d be even better than I was before. Apparently those were “good” worms. It was not very comforting, but he was right. I was.
It turns out that hosting this particular variety of parasite was something like a colon cleanse. Those creatures probably relieved my intestines of years’ worth of crayons and coins eaten as a child, of late night college pizzas and poor food choices. I was almost too weak to go on our trek in the Himalaya, but I made it. And I lost 10 pounds of undesirable who-knows-what that I’ve never really gained back. Now that I’m not eating crayons, coins, or too much junk food.
How To Stay Healthy When Traveling
Happy endings aside, you don’t ever want to get worms, parasites, Delhi belly, Montezuma’s Revenge, or more serious infirmities like Malaria, Dengue, or Ebola. Even if your worms end up being the good kind, or your Malaria dreams are the most incredible trip you’ve ever experienced. So check this handy list of recommended vaccinations from the CDC, and talk to a health professional about your trip before you go—a while before you go, because some vaccinations need to be administered more than once over a period of time. And make sure you have some necessities in your emergency medical travel kit:
—strong doses of Ibuprofen/Acetaminophen
—over-the-counter anti-diarrheal meds like Pepto Bismol or something stronger such as Cipro
—an Epi-Pen for an emergency allergic reaction
—some sort of Dipenhydramine (Benadryl) or an antihistamine for a milder allergic reaction
—a mild laxative
—oral rehydration salts
And for wounds and the like, you always want to have a first aid kit with:
—adhesive bandages (multiple sizes and a “butterfly” shaped bandage)
—an elastic bandage wrap for sprains and strains
—a triangular bandage to wrap injuries and to make an arm or shoulder sling
—antifungal and antibacterial spray or creams
—1% hydrocortisone cream
—moleskin for blisters
What do you pack in your first aid or travel meds kit?