1. Travel with prescription medication (Check with your doctor first!!)
This is what we carry and were prescribed by our doctor’s when we told them what we do:
Norfloxacin - sipro (antibiotic) for treating traveller’s diarrhea, the most common travel illness will likely be from something you ate or drank
Fasigyn (antibiotic) For treating giardia, not as common but way worse
Roxithromaycin (antibiotic) used to treat respiratory tract, urinary and soft tissue infections
Acetazolamide - (diamox) for alleviating high altitude sickness - thins your blood and is a diuretic so make sure you compensate with more water than usual
Diazepam - (valium) but less groggy after waking up, great for getting over jetlag when you have to hit the ground running in a foreign country or sleeping on long flights
Antibiotic cream for bad cuts - Bactroban (mupirocin) or triple antibiotic ointment (polymixin B, neomycin, bacitracin) are topical anti infective ointments for treating cuts, scratches and scraps so they don’t become more serious.
Carry all this in a small first aid kit with some tough bandaids, strapping tape (can be used for a range of purposes) tampons (also used for a range of bleed stopping applications - and someone in the group always forgets !) and a knife/scissors.
2. Have travel insurance
Particularly for the activities you’ll be doing - skiing and motorcycling for example are often left out, needing you to opt those in.
This should cover international medical and extraction insurance, if not you can get this with your SPOT device
Good travel insurance should cover any trip to a foreign hospital. If you’re in a particularly foreign country - you don’t speak the language… major cities often have doctors that speak most major languages or at the least English.
Get your recommendations for hospitals from your home doctor, close friends or trusted locals, to avoid dodgy medical services and never go alone. Most of the time your insurance will cover treatment that stabilises you, preferring to fully treat you at a home medical facilitate.
3. Have an evacuation plan
Your travel insurance should cover this appropriately for the area you’re in…we’ve bought evacuation plans that included horse or donkey as we were so high up helicopters couldn’t fly.
Have plans for all instances, not just the epic situations. How are you going get assistance with a broken finger in the middle of Delhi traffic?
Concerning evacuation - if you really are remote (like backcountry skiing) make sure you’re traveling with a party that knows how to rescue each other and you all carry the same rescue equipment. Do no not put all the shovels in one person’s backpack to alleviate someone’s weight… everyone should be able to carry the bare minimum safety equipment and know how to use it
4. Food Hygiene
Avoid tap & natural water (drink bottled water
Avoid street food
Wash your hands before eating - travel with a pocket hand sanitiser - you simply do not carry the bacteria load locals do.
Don’t touch your shoes - put them in a plastic bag when you put them in your bag with your clothes and wash hands after touching them
We’ve also made a separate video outlining a few foods you can take with you to help with traveler’s diarrhoea - see link here.
[Pictured: Erik wearing his SPOT Tracker device in India, The Crew at 5,600m on Yuzhu Peak in China, & Erik navigating in the Belizean jungle]
Information is the most important preventative for most medical situations and emergencies.
Communicate your plan with a friend or family member at home - let them know a “come get me plan” after a certain amount of time from not hearing from you. For some people this might be 24 hours… for us, we’re often out of comms for several days and also reasonably competent at self rescue so there’s no need to start an expensive rescue plan if we were fine all along… so we have a 3 day buffer… if no comms after 3 days come and get us!
Carrying a Satellite GPS tracking device is a great way to have good communications in remote areas - giving family a log in and they can see where you are. Most devices these days also allow for short messages to be sent. We use SPOT for this and you can track us on our adventures from the link in on our website.
Satellite phone - carry one and spare batteries!
Communicate amongst your group before you go about how everyone is doing, what is going on with them medically and what the group should look out for.
This is your base line.
Who has a medical condition
Who is susceptible to dehydration or who eats all the street food no matter what.
During travel observe each other, notice changes, ask how everyone is doing.
This communication should be honest - we even ask how everyone's defecation is going
If you have this information the group can make adjustments to avoid escalating health problems and save the trip.
If you get sick or injured you must tell your team immediately and describe every detail of what is going on. You can’t seclude yourself in your room and wait for it to do away because you’re embarrassed you are crapping yourself to death!
This is how the team knows how to help you.
Many bad infections occur because you ignore them, where your team would have made you treat them and get assistance. Don’t be stubborn.
(In Ireland Erik put work above his injury against the advice of Viv and a doctor. This resulted in a much more exasperated medical situation!)
Agree before you go that if someone gets very sick, your travel mates must be allowed to make decisions for you. It is common with a lot of travel related illnesses like dehydration or altitude sickness, to become delusional or hallucinate. In some cases people feel they are getting better - a common effect for those suffering hypothermia
In the Himalayas we constantly monitored our O2 levels.
In Alaska Viv was developing stage 2 hypothermia and the crew made the decision for her to send her back to camp.
We’ve also made a few videos about austere medicine as applied by those in the armed forces - click here for those.
Comment below with your travel medical advice and check out our video series “The Crew”, where you will see the all the examples and uses of our medical tips at work!