Travelling has become an extremely accessible pastime because of the advent of high-speed travel. Airplanes, trains, cars and fast sea-faring vessels allow us to get to parts of the world that would have been inaccessible otherwise. What took Dr Livingstone seven years and cost him his life can now be achieved in a matter of days with a lot more safety. The subject of travel from a medical point of view is enormous, but few books have been written about it. The basics are as follows.
Preparation for travel
When booking the tickets and organising your foreign currency, it is worth looking at general and basic health preparation and precautions. When travelling we are exposing ourselves to different temperatures, sun exposure, pollution, foods and hygiene standards and our ability to adapt is extremely important. Adaptability is very much geared towards our basic level of health and the more extreme the travel or adventure, the healthier we should be. Those lacking in health should not risk travel to countries that are very different from their own.
– Avoid travelling when your health is below par.
– Travel to tropical areas when there is lower risk of infections, such as avoiding the monsoon season in malaria-endemic areas.
– A basic check-up with a complementary medical practitioner is a useful starting point and follow their suggestions to achieve and maintain a good level of health.
– Take suitable medical supplies as described below.
– Supplies that should be taken include homeopathic remedies,
– Acidophilus tablets, Arnica- and Calendula-based creams, and vitamin and mineral supplements. It may also be advisable to obtain prescription painkillers and antibiotics.
Medical supplies for travel
I recommend that the following homeopathic and supplemental remedies are taken and used as described, as well as certain supplements and topical creams. All remedies should be bought at potency 6 and taken up to every 15 minutes if acute symptoms arise. As the problem resolves, reduce the dose to every 2 hours and stop 24 hours after the condition has settled. Always contact a physician if symptoms worsen or do not resolve within a few doses of a homeopathic remedy.
– Aconite – for any condition that comes on suddenly and any problem that is associated with fear or agitation.
– Apis – for any sting, bite, red or hot area on the skin or in any joint. Bites from unidentified snakes or spiders must be dealt with by a doctor, although Apis may be used prior to consultation.
– Arnica – for any shock, psychological or physical. It can be used for any bruise or sprain until a better choice of remedy is available.
– Carbo vegetabilis – for diarrhoea associated with pain and flatulence. Any upper abdominal symptoms such as heartburn or reflux may benefit from this and Carbo vegetabilis is a good remedy for a stomach upset that is associated with a chest infection. Use this remedy if bowel habit changes because of the type of food eaten rather than for food poisoning.
– Hepar sulphuris calcarium – this remedy is useful for any topical infections, such as an abscess or earache, and infections that are associated with glandular swelling, including tonsillitis. It is always wise to use a specific remedy but Hepar sulphuris calcarium is an excellent first-aid choice.
– Nux vomica – this is useful in dysentery or diarrhoea following food poisoning. Frequent visits to the toilet or diarrhoea alternating with constipation suggest Nux vomica.
– Acidophilus – High-potency yoghurt bacteria tablets should be taken with any sort of abdominal upset. Acidophilus needs to be refrigerated and therefore may survive only a few hours in the heat. Aircraft holds are below freezing temperature so Acidophilus exposed to non-refrigeration on the way to the airport and on arrival, until the mini-bar or a kitchen can be accessed, should be fine. Adults should take two tablets three times a day preferably just before eating something, and children should take one tablet at the same frequency.
An Arnica-based cream should be taken up to four times a day for any penetrating injury or bruises, sprains and ligament or bone injuries.
A Calendula-based cream should be used up to four times a day on any cut, scrape, bite, burn or superficial injury.
A multivitamin/multimineral supplement should be taken at twice the daily recommended dose because travel usually exposes one to processed foods and is unlikely to provide the recommended daily five portions of fresh fruit or vegetable. A change in diet often alters absorptive capacity until the bowel readjusts and a natural food-state multivitamin should compensate. Once the normal diet has been resumed, drop the supplements to just the recommended doses.
Orthodox drugs for travel If the travel will be taking the individual out of reach of immediate medical care, then the following prescriptions should be obtained from a GP and packed with the luggage.
A paracetamol/codeine mix as a moderate painkiller.
A powerful painkiller such as mefenamic acid.
The antibiotic amoxicillin. A broad-spectrum antibiotic which should only be used if an infection has settled in and naturopathic treatments are not working. Use this for any general infection such as a sore throat, tonsillitis or chest infection.
The antiobiotic metronidazole. This is useful in infections by bacteria that do not require oxygen to breed and therefore is potentially useful in severe bowel infections, dental infections, sinus infections or a deep wound.
Ensure that the doctor or pharmacist labels the maximum allowable dosages of all of these compounds.
I am principally against the use of vaccinations, which I think may be more dangerous than protective in some individuals, unless the traveller is immunocompromised or is unlikely to be able to avoid coming into contact with a condition. Most parts of the world only recommend vaccination, although some require it as a prerequisite for obtaining a visa. See Vaccinations after finding out your requirements through a local pharmacist or a major airlines medical section.
If you choose, having read the information in this and other publications, not to use vaccinations for travelling you may use the following homeopathic remedies, bearing in mind that their efficacy is not scientifically accepted despite government statistics to the contrary. Alternatively you may take these remedies before regular vaccinations because they may prevent unwanted side effects from the orthodox drugs.
It is acceptable to take all of these together but it would be better to space them out. Start all homeopathic prophylaxis one week before departure.
Malaria prophylaxis is not a vaccination and I generally recommend the use of these drugs if exposure to malaria is probable .
If travelling outside of developed countries, drink only bottled water. Even in ‘First World’ countries, water safety can be suspect. Mediterranean countries and others with hot climates may still
Condition Remedy Frequency
Cholera Camphora 200 Weekly
Hepatitis Chelidonium 200 Weekly
Japanese Belladonna 200 Weekly encephalitis
Malaria Natrum muriatium 12 Morning and night whilst away and for one week after returning
Meningitis Belladonna 200 Weekly
Iodoformum 200 Weekly
Polio Lathyrus 200 Weekly
Rabies Hydrophobinum 30 Weekly
Tuberculosis Tuberculinum 200 Every two weeks
Typhoid Baptisia 30 Weekly
Yellow fever Arsenicum album 200 Monthly
The homeopathic remedies that correspond with the infections commonly vaccinated against when travelling. carry risks. Sterilization tablets should only be used in circumstances where bottled water is not available because these compounds kill all bugs, including the normal bowel flora.
Avoid foods that have been washed in tap water, such as salads and fruits with edible skins. Peel these and they should be okay.
Try to eat foods that you have seen being cooked. These should be served fresh and not allowed to sit for any length of time. Restaurants in top-class hotels are also permissible dining venues but even these are not likely to be as safe as the street seller with a boiling vat of lentils.
Consider going vegetarian, as many dangerous infections are transmitted more easily in meat.
Consider the cleanliness of the cook or chef. If you have any doubts do not risk him transmitting disease through the oral-faecal route. > Bottled and carbonated drinks are generally not good but two or three a day in a hot climate will replace sugars and salts that are lost through sweating. These should be taken with water to avoid the dehydrating effect. ‘Chai’ or ‘Chaa’ is a milky, sweet tea with cardamom and other spices, commonly served on the streets in India and other hot countries. This acts as a marvellous antiseptic for the bowel and the high sugar content replenishes energy that is used up by the sweating process. It tastes nice too.
Jet lag is a most disturbing aspect of long-distance travel. It is caused by the alteration of the body’s internal clock which throws the chemical, sleep, hydration and elimination patterns out of synchronization. The nervous system adjusts slowly and the trick in avoiding unpleasant patterns is to readjust to these at a quicker pace.
No alcohol for 24hr prior to departure.
If you are crossing more than four time zones start adjusting a few days before by going to bed earlier or later and getting up at the time the sun rises at your destination.
Try not to travel if you have a cold or ear problems. See a health practitioner if you have.
Avoid the aisle seats. You are invariably going to be disturbed by passengers and staff walking by.
Consider ordering the vegetarian meal – proteins demand more energy to digest.
Ensure that you drink half a litre of water for each 3hr on the plane.
Take healthy snacks with you and eat them at the meal times of your destination.
Homeopathic remedies. People who have trouble taking off on a plane should consider the use of Spongia 6, four pills four times a day prior to the flight and every hour starting 3hr before take-off. Those who have trouble landing should consider the remedy Borax 6 at the same frequency. Other remedies that can be reviewed are Arnica, Aconite, Cocculus indicus, Rhus toxicodendron and Nux vomica.
Calendula cream is the moisturiser of choice.
Broad-spectrum light – BSL – stimulation. BSL stimulates the production of melatonin and, if used at specific times as specified on specialized charts, can maintain the circadian rhythm.
Pituitary – light stimulation – visors. There is now a computerized high-tech visor available that delivers a suitable dose of broad-spectrum light. The flight times and appropriate stimulation are delivered via the computer, which sits comfortably in a sport-like sun-visor on the forehead. This stimulates the pineal and pituitary gland to produce natural melatonin and markedly reduces jet lag. These are invaluable to a frequent traveller and may be bought or hired.
Skin, hair and eye care
Calendula-based creams can be used as a moisturiser.
Euphrasia , one or two drops of a diluted solution, can be dropped into the eye during and after a flight. It may be very helpful for ‘red-eye’.
Hair should be washed and conditioned before and after a flight with a non-medicated shampoo.
Some airlines now have a video or audio channel set aside for passengers who are frightened of flying or who wish to have an audible aid to meditation whilst in their seat. Use this.
A session with a yoga or Tai Chi teacher can give you a personal plan suitable for you to use during and after flights.
Massage. Those lucky enough to fly first class with certain airlines may be offered an in-flight massage. Accept it. For the rest of us, the basic for self-assisted massage using acupressure, stretch techniques and Shiatsu can be taught by a Shiatsu practitioner to help circulation in muscles and lymphatic drainage. Many travellers find that they catch colds and sore throats on long flights. This is partly caused by the air conditioning and the close proximity of infected passengers, but also by the lack of lymphatic flow caused by neck stiffness.
Treatments and remedies
Several homeopathic remedies and supplements can be utilized, depending upon the individual and their anticipated problems. It is best to discuss matters with a homeopath but the following suggestions can be used safely.
RECOMMENDATIONS / currently advise against the use of the new drug melatonin . It is probably safe and works by mimicking the body’s natural melatonin, which puts us to sleep. The trouble is that there has not been enough research to categorically state that it is safe and any drug that takes over from a natural function of the body may, in some way, inhibit normal function. Some people also have side effects such as headaches.
If you are fearful of flying, take Aconite 30 every 4hr starting the day before travel and every half-hour from checking in.
If you suffer from travel sickness, try Cocculus indicus 6 starting half-hour before boarding and taken every half-hour if necessary through the flight.
If you are frightened of landing or nauseous with downward movement try Borax 30. This remedy should be taken 2hr once on the plane and every 15min as soon as the descent is commenced.
If you are frightened by taking off or frightened of heights, use Spongia 30. Start 6hr before the flight and take a dose every 2hr increasing this to every 15min once on the plane. Once cruising altitude has been reached, take Spongia as infrequently as the fear arises.
Lavender oil, two drops on a handkerchief or the collar of a shirt, is essential if any congestion is being suffered in order to avoid ear and sinus pain. One drop in hot water can be used as an inhalation.
A whole amino acid tablet taken with each meal on the day of the flight and the following day supplies the essential amino acids that will help the body to produce its own relaxation and sleep chemicals. This is not a tranquillizer of any sort because one could take the entire bottle and not have any neurological effect. It simply provides the body with the amino acids that it needs to produce its own sleep chemical when it tries to.