My Adventure In Nepal….?

Be prepared for anything!

I recently went on a trip to Nepal, it was not an adventure trip, just four fit and healthy women with a car and a driver. The aim of the trip was to have a good time and learn something new at a Travel Medicine Conference, which was being held in Kathmandu, as well as see the country that we often talk about.

I’ve worked in Travel Medicine for nearly 25 years, so I was pretty well prepared, with my vaccinations up to date and my first aid kit packed.  My travel companions also worked in travel medicine so our combined knowledge and good sense would ensure we had a healthy trip…. well… you’d think it would.

We had a day stop in Kuala Lumpur and by the time we were going back to the airport I was feeling pretty shabby.  Fever, headache and aches and pains.  So, within 24 hours of our trip the first aid kit was cracked and I was into the paracetamol.  I was so disappointed! I did not want to miss a moment of our trip and here I was feeling average.

Day 1, 2 and 3 were a struggle. Paracetamol turned into Ibuprofen because my throat was on fire.  One of my travel companions started to get sick as well, so between the two of us, we depleted our kits. We then raided the kits of our other companions.  Within a couple of days we were at the local pharmacies buying more, hoping they were not counterfeit and stocking up on lozenges that were not much better than out of date lollies. Just I was feeling a bit better the cough began.

I coughed through the day and night.  Visiting the Basmati River- the holly cremation site, I turned myself inside out coughing. The streets of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, the quiet hillside town of Nagarkot and Chitwan National park all had the delightful background noise of my constant cough.  While hearing the wonders of the local singing or healing bowls I asked our man if they would cure my cough and he said no – I had to take a pill.

I bought a healing bowl in case but again we were forced to the pharmacies.  Cough suppressants don’t seem to be big in Nepal (so maybe take your own) but I tried the local ones with no effect.  I’m not sure if my travel companions were concerned or just sick of me, but I was certainly getting a lot of medical advice. Not to mention a lot of medication varying from antihistamines to ventolin until finally they gave me a face mask and told me to sit in a corner.

We had a very serious guide in Chitwan who was not amused by my cough, and he suggested I go to the pharmacy to get a cure.  At one stage, while on foot in Chitwan, we saw a big bull elephant coming our way, so it was obvious that my cough had not frightened all the wild life, because as our guide said “You must run, you must run fast!!” as the elephant was coming our way, so run we did.

My cough went on for the full three weeks.  It was probably due to the residue of a virus that irritated my airway.  At the time I was in Nepal because of the Indian fuel embargo to Nepal the air was full of smoke because of the open fires, air pollution in Nepal cities if often bad because the crazy traffic and vehicles that spew out pollution.

The moral of my story is to be prepared. 

No matter who you are,  how healthy you are or how healthy you have been, always pack a medical kit. The kits cannot prepare you for everything but certainly can provide you time to seek alternatives.  Additionally, if travelling to areas that are highly polluted or have a very dry atmosphere, consider packing saline nasal spray (I know I will never travel again without a nasal allergy spray).   If your are lucky enough to not use your kit, consider leaving it behind to a good cause before you return home.

After all that – Would I go back to Nepal?

The answer is an emphatic yes.

by Cath Pugh RN

Travel Bug Adelaide

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