When travelling overseas – and in 2016 1.2 billion of us did this – we all want a comfortable and pleasurable stay. This involves packing the right clothes for the right conditions and bringing a good book or music playlist. But what medicines should you take?
The medicines you need will depend on what your expected needs are and what is available in the country being visited. Common medicines you may need to take include those for sleep, diarrhoea, malaria, pain and anxiety.
When deciding what to take, it’s also important to remember that even if a medicine is available at home, its supply may be restricted or even prohibited in the country you are visiting. So, you should check beforehand.
Medicines for sleep
Sleeping on an aeroplane, while wedged in a tiny chair listening to a crying baby in the distance, can be very difficult for many people. As such, prescription sleeping medicines may be recommended by a doctor for short-term use.
Alternatively, over-the-counter sleeping medicines, like the sedating antihistamine doxylamine are available from a pharmacy. But sedating antihistamines should not be used for children when flying.
You should also consider whether you actually need to sleep. If the flight is too long, then being asleep or sedated may prevent you from moving around while flying. Leg movement and stretching is recommended when flying to improve blood flow and protect against blood clots.
Medicines for diarrhoea
Diarrhoea poses the highest infectious risk for travellers overseas, depending on where you are going. Diarrhoea is associated with symptoms of stomach cramps, runny poo and nausea.
Hyoscine is a medicine that may help relieve cramps by relaxing the stomach muscles.
Loperamide is useful in helping to stop diarrhoea, altogether. This may be particularly important if you’re stuck on a ten-hour flight, or have just set off on that once-in-a-lifetime jungle safari.
Otherwise, medical advice often recommends not stopping the diarrhoea. Why? Because this stops your body from flushing out the pathogen that is causing the problem, and keeps the runny poo in, neither of which is a good thing.
It’s best to let the diarrhoea pass and remain hydrated, which may include drinking more than just plain water; oral rehydration products may also be needed. These work by replacing all the lost sugars and salts in your body due to diarrhoea. They are available in sachets or effervescent tablets which can be mixed with water, making them easy to carry and use.