5 Ways to Manage Illness on the Road

Family Travel on 01.06.12
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Photo: Bradley Gee/Creative Commons

I just finished up a two-day road trip from Iowa to Texas with an illness I affectionately refer to as the Iowa Plague. It may have been the most miserable twenty hours any four people ever spent in a car together; it was certainly the worst car ride I've ever taken. Fortunately for you, I've gathered a few pearls of wisdom from my disastrous journey, in the hopes that you can have a better one should you ever find yourself - or someone in your family - battling a bug on vacation.

1. Don't go.

stay home
Photo: Perfect Insecto/Creative Commons

For the love of all that is holy, stay home if you can. Delaying your trip by a day or two is, I assure you, much better than the alternative. I thought I'd sleep through most of the car ride; I was being super efficient by doubling my sick days with travel days! Except we ended up spending more money and time - every minute of which was miserable -- to reach our destination. Seriously. If you are sick, stay home.

2. Stop

pull over
Photo: Jen SFO-BCN/Creative Commons

Perhaps the smartest thing we did was give up and check into a hotel in Memphis, even though it was only the half-way point of our trip. I spent a day moaning in agony in bed while my husband and kids watched TV and loaded up on complimentary cookies and free continental breakfast. We added an entire day to our trip, but it couldn't be helped. What we spent on the hotel room we probably saved by avoiding many trips to car washes and convenience stores. When someone in your family is sick is not the time to try and set a travel time record.

3. Dramamine

take medicine
Photo: tibchris/Creative Commons

I didn't learn about Dramamine until day three of our ill-fated travel adventure. This over-the-counter medication is used for motion sickness, which I knew, but it also helps ease nausea. If you're not quite 100% but aren't willing to forego a day on the road, take a dose of Dramamine and enjoy a nap free from queasiness.

4. Liquids, liquids, liquids.

drink water
Photo: Jenny Downing/Creative Commons

My mother, who is months away from earning her Master's in nursing, constantly nags me about staying hydrating when I'm sick. Come to find out, getting dehydrated - which is more likely if with vomiting or diarrhea - can make you feel lightheaded, dizzy, fatigued, and even sick to your stomach. In other words, you can still feel like crap even after the bug has moved on if you're not staying hydrated. My mom recommends taking a sip of clear liquids every 10 to 15 minutes and drinking at least 64 ounces in a day. I recommend doing the best you can.

5. Don't eat. Really.

Photo: Robert Donovan/Creative Commons

I woke up somewhere in Tennessee starving. I considered getting a package of Saltines from the next gas station, and then my husband pulled into a McDonalds. I was so hungry, and I felt better than I had earlier in the day, so I tried my luck with a chicken sandwich.

Suffice it to say, I am not a lucky girl.

If you have to travel when sick, remember to stick with the same kind of care and feeding you would at home. That means clear liquids and bland food. Starbucks and Subways often sell chicken noodle soup. Unsalted french fries are probably the safest thing on a fast food menu. And, yes, you can buy Saltines at the next gas station.

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