Just as we all inevitably get sick at home, getting sick while traveling is just par for the course. The difference lies in the types of sickness you will encounter. I have yet to meet a traveler without some sort of food poisoning tale. I have heard some doozies, the most intense being a friend who had violent diarrhea while on a river boat in Central America. With no bathroom on board my friend literally pooped his pants and then had to sit in it until they finally came to shore in the next town. Getting sick is not on the glamorous side of travel but it is something us travelers accept as being part of the experience.
But then there are the other more dangerous diseases that we are risking by coming to far away parts of the world. Dengue and Malaria are a risk in many traveler destinations. Luckily for us Malaria is not a risk where we are traveling right now and we managed to avoid it when we were in Cambodia and Laos. I have always sort of discounted Dengue as a disease I did not have much control over. There is no way to avoid it except avoiding mosquito bites, which is near on impossible in South East Asia. When our friends came to visit us they asked about Dengue and I calmly answered that it was a risk but not something I particularly worried about.
Unfortunately I had to eat my words a few weeks later when our friend S was hospitalized with Dengue fever. His symptoms started with a fever and soon progressed to body aches, rash, and hallucination. It was a very scary time for all of us and I was racked with guilt for my cavalier attitude at the beginning of their trip. Luckily for S this all went down when we were staying in Phuket where there are several international hospitals. His insurance company sent him to Bangkok Hospital Phuket where he was admitted for the next eight nights. His room was like a nice hotel room and he was very well taken care of there. Even with the high level of care however, it was still an understandably stressful experience for all of us. The stress of the situation took the greatest toll on his wife whom we did our best to console and take care of while her husband was down and out in the hospital.
Our next bout of sickness came when we returned to Chiang Mai after our accommodation woes on Lanta. We found cheap flights back up North and were lured by the very cheap cost of living and the fact that our friends still had many things they wanted to do there that we did not get the chance to do the first time.
Our first few days went well until I was woken up in the middle of the night with the strong urge to vomit. For the next thirty hours I was violently sick with vomiting, diarrhea, body aches, and stomach pain. There was a point at about hour 24 where I considered going to the hospital. I could not keep anything down including water and I was in a lot of pain and worried about dehydration. I decided to push through though and the worst of it was soon over. It took me another three days after that to get my appetite and energy back.
I thought I had been afflicted with some type of severe food poisoning until I was proven wrong when my sons began to have the same symptoms. Luckily their illness was not nearly as severe as my own. The nasty virus then migrated over to our friends and took them out one at a time. Our week in Chiang Mai ended up being a week of barely leaving our guesthouse.
The last month has been a rough one in the health department for our traveling tribe. Our friend’s encounter with Dengue was down right scary and our encounter with the nasty virus was just plain nasty. Still though, we accept that getting sick is just another part of traveling that is pretty hard to avoid.