Getting Sick on a Business Trip

a box of ointmentA few months ago JT from The Points Guy wrote about a scary medical emergency he had during a flight. It sounded terrifying! I took special note because I’ve been sick a few times during flights and it’s terrible. (Also, I know JT IRL so I like to read his stuff 🙂 )

Being sick during a trip is basically awful, especially when you’re flying. On various trips I’ve had food poisoning, a sinus infection, allergies, an ear infection…. Of course if you can avoid traveling when you’re sick that would be great! But that’s not always possible. Here are a few things to help make getting sick on a business trip a tiny bit less terrible.

Check your insurance. For domestic trips make sure you have your insurance card with you. When traveling internationally, make sure you know what your international insurance coverage is before your trip, and have all the necessary documents.

Finding a doctor. If you get sick or injured on the road you won’t always know where to look for care. Your insurance website should have a list of local approved providers, but it can be daunting to comb through. If you’re traveling internationally the US Embassy can be a good resource. JT used Zocdoc to find a doctor once he landed, and had a great experience. Several people on the comments thread also reported good experiences.

Keep some meds on hand. Plenty of minor ailments can be helped with over the counter medicine. I have a little bag with small amounts in my travel purse all the time. If you’ve forgotten something important your hotel will often have travel packages of certain kinds of medicine available (for a premium price), although when you have food poisoning the thought of making it all the way to the lobby can feel….daunting. (Speaking from experience. Ugh.)

Note: Some OTC medications in the US are illegal in other countries. Make sure to check on what’s allowed in your destination.

Medicine and associated items I keep on hand:

Take precautions. When you’re traveling to areas with questionable drinking water be sure to drink and brush your teeth with bottled water. Also only eat raw fruits or vegetables that can be peeled. This goes for the plane too–several friends and I got food poisoning from eating grapes on our return flight home from Cancun. In addition, prior to international travel check with your doctor and get any vaccines they recommend.

In general, if you can avoid getting sick all together that’s ideal! Try to take care of yourself–eat well, get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, wash your hands, and get your flu shot.

Readers, any thoughts about what to do if you get sick on a business trip? Any terrible stories?


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  1. My kit also contains Imodium and Zofran (prescription anti-nausea).
    I’ve had a couple of kidney stones while on international work trips so also carry pain meds!

  2. Always use extra caution and luck carrying OTC pills, keep the original container with you. I used to carry Sudafed with me in a loose bottle. This was decades ago when it could be easily purchased and not abused.
    I was on line to US customs at a Montreal airport when the pills became an issue. Everybody on line behind me switched lines and the inspector called for backup. The supervisor took one look, recognized Sudafed and started laughing.

  3. Keep meds in original packages if possible to avoid confusion at the border, and if an Rx definitely keep in package that has the Rx number on it. I’ve never had trouble with my meds but I can’t even tell you the hassle I’ve had getting a breast pump through Customs and security in other countries. Just imagine trying to explain what it is with hand gestures when there is a language barrier…

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