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Phylis Stoller

Travel Smart: Be Prepared for Illnesses, Injuries and Variable Weather


By Phylis Stoller

I recently came across an article about the differences between the travel health issues that men and women experience. The article was based on a study that found that women were more likely to come down with bouts of diarrhea or other gastrointestinal problems, colds, urinary tract infections and adverse reactions to medications, such as those taken to prevent malaria. Lucky us, right?

The findings note that women are 13 percent to 39 percent more likely than men to seek treatment for diarrhea or symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, which include diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain. This may be at least partly because women tend to use medical services more than men. But, it’s still no fun to be sick on a trip.

So what should we be aware of as we enter the fall travel season? Here are some travel health issues and solutions.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Problem: Women tend to have more stomach upsets when traveling. Some women are adventurous in trying new foods overseas. Some might be vegetarians in places like Argentina where vegetables are hard to find in winter. Others may depend on yogurt or fresh fruit for body regulation in countries where these foods are not pasteurized or may be washed in contaminated water. Some women regularly drink diet sodas or consume artificial sweeteners or other things that are not found in remote places, which can upset their systems.

Solution: Bring dried fruits and healthy snacks with you, and avoid fresh salads and fruits, no matter how much you think your body needs them. Drink more bottled water than you think you need, even if it is only at night in your hotel room. Bring antidiarrheal medicines in gel form, which dissolves faster than pills. Buy travel insurance and use medical services immediately if you feel sick.


Problem: Autumn will bring more colds, and, if you’re traveling by plane, you raise your risk of catching one. Airplane air is recirculated, so some of what goes around comes around.

Solution: There may be no way to avoid a cold when you travel, but it helps to make sure you leave home rested and fit. For several days before you leave, make sure you eat well and get enough quality sleep. If you’re well rested and healthy when you head out, your resistance will be better.


Problem: Allergies can turn a great trip into a miserable one. Even if allergy season is over where you live, bring your medicines on the trip. Seasons may be different where you’re traveling, or you may be exposed to different allergens.

Solution: Pack any necessary prescription medications in your carry-on bag. In addition, take adequate supplies of any commonly used over-the-counter medicines, such as antihistamines. You may not be able to find the brands you know and prefer at your destination.

Other Ailments

Problem: Common ailments like diarrhea, constipation, stomach upsets, headaches, muscle aches, sprained ankles and blisters can strike while traveling. You may not find the treatments you’re accustomed to, particularly if you’re traveling to a foreign country. For example, acetaminophen is known as paracetamol in many countries. Some developing nations may not have medications readily available; you could have to wait a day or more to get what you need.

Solution: If you regularly use or think that you may need over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, lozenges, antiseptic salves, antibiotic ointments, antacids, antidiarrheal medications or laxatives, make sure you take an adequate supply with you. Throw in a few bandages and ace bandages, too, for blisters or ankle strains.

Traveling With Medications

If you’re taking medications on an airplane, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) permits you to carry on tablets and other solid medications and allows medically required liquids, even when they exceed the normal 3.4-ounce restriction. However, you must tell the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening process that you have the larger amount of liquid medication, and it’s best to have it in its original container and clearly labeled. They will inspect it separately. TSA does not require you to have prescription medicines in their original bottles. Some states and foreign countries, however, may require it, so check the regulations of your destination.


It’s a good idea to make sure you can handle your luggage before you leave. In addition to meeting airline requirements, carry-on bags should be of a weight and shape you can manage. Remember that you may have to carry your own luggage up stairs in the airport, onto the airplane or at your hotel. Practice carrying your luggage up stairs at your home or in your neighborhood and take it for a stroll down the block. If it’s too heavy, consider getting lighter-weight luggage or leaving some things at home.

Remember that it’s more important to stay warm and dry than to look great, and you may be happier if you pack comfortable walking shoes instead of fancy heels.

Check the Weather

Autumn can be a tricky season for travel, because the weather can be extremely variable. In the United States, many areas can have rapidly changing weather throughout the fall. Similarly, Europe can vary from uncomfortably hot around the Mediterranean to quite chilly in other areas.

Check an online weather site, but you’ll still need to be a clever packer. Depending on where you’re heading, you may want to include some layered clothing, such as lightweight T-shirts and a pair of tights to wear under slacks or skirts; a versatile sweater or jacket; extra socks; a down-quilted jacket or multipurpose raincoat; waterproof rain hat; and at least one scarf.

In addition, pack a foldable easy-to-carry bag so after you set out in London on a chilly 50-degree morning, you can easily remove and store some layers when it hits 70 later in the day.

Phylis Stoller is the founder of The Women's Travel Group at, an award-winning tour operator for women. She is a recognized expert in travel needs for women, whether for pleasure or business. Many tips are published on the company blog:

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