Health on the road – good preparation is importantHow can we as off-road travelers prepare ourselves well for illness or accident-related situations in order to travel in a relaxed manner? This is what we want to look at in this guide on the subject of health when traveling.
What if I get sick on the road? A question I often hear when I tell people about my travels to more distant places. My answer is usually: "The same as at home!". Because who goes well prepared on journeys has nothing to fear in my experience.
Of course, the hints and tips given here are very dependent on the individual and the respective situation and can only be suggestions on how you can prepare yourself. Everyone makes here certainly different experiences. Put emphasis on different points. Especially in this area, much depends on personal feelings and circumstances. Insights into how to help in emergency situations change. Of course I am not allowed to give medical advice and this guide does not replace medical advice and individual preparation. But the most important thing, in my experience, is also to deal with the important ie of health while traveling once in advance, to prepare well and then to enjoy traveling. And this is exactly what we would like to help you with in this guidebook. Let's go!
The basis is a good first aid kit
How to react correctly in case of an accident? What do I do if a travel partner has sprained his ankle or even broken something far away from larger towns and cities?. How to behave correctly in case of insect bites or animal bites? How to bandage a cut correctly? All these are situations that can also occur when traveling, and you have probably wondered how you would deal with them.
Especially when traveling this topic is very important, because it could take longer until professional help is on the spot or a city with appropriate infrastructure can be reached.
What belongs in any case in your off-roader is of course a first-aid kit. It is compulsory to carry it with you in Germany. The contents of a first-aid kit are clearly regulated by DIN 13164.
Please check your first-aid kit regularly and pay particular attention to the fact that the contents of the first-aid kit are subject to an expiry date. If the expiry date has passed, this can be classified as a minor defect during the general inspection. Leading to a warning fine during a traffic stop.
Not only is this unpleasant during such a check, it could also be that a bandage packet is germ-laden and leads to (life-threatening) complications when used. You will find very different opinions about this on the net. While I am relaxed about food and eat anything that still smells and tastes good even when the best-before date has expired, I take the ie of expiration dates very seriously when it comes to medical care, because these things are, after all, intended for when they need to function properly.
At this point a note that there are two different methods of the stable lateral position. An older one, which you probably also learned at a course once and a newer one. With the newer one, in my experience, it is easier to put even heavier people in this position. The old variant has an advantage if the affected person must be transported afterwards. Have a professional explain this to you as part of a first aid course.
Care for burns
Have you burned yourself at the campfire or barbecue? A burn should be cooled with body-warm water to stop its expansion and provide relief. However, the wound should not be cooled for too long. ATTENTION – cool only extremities (arms, legs). Not the “body trunk”! After cooling, it is important to dress the wound in a sterile manner. In case of burns, further treatment by a doctor is advised.
A sunburn is in principle a first-degree burn. It can lead to skin cancer years later due to severe cell damage. If a person suffers from sunburn, he or she must immediately get into the shade. You should cool the affected area with a damp cloth. In the case of larger burned skin areas, the affected person must see a doctor, this especially if fever or chills are added to the symptoms.
Hypoglycemia and dehydration
Especially on off-road trips, people often eat irregularly. Quickly, therefore, the body can go into hypoglycemia. Shivering, cold sweat and headaches are often the result. Against hypoglycemia help best dextrose or sweetened drinks. After that, the patient should eat something proper as soon as possible. Paying attention to this is also part of traveling healthy.
Likewise it can come straight on long transfer stages in desert-like areas fast to the Dehydrierung. Headaches are often a sign of this as well. Depending on the degree of dehydration, low blood prere, poor circulation, dizziness and confusion may be the result. There helps only slowly. Drink in small sips. A combination of the right amount of salts. Sugar increases water absorption. For this purpose, there are also ready-made mixtures in the trade to dissolve in water.
Dangerous is also the sunstroke
Heat can also lead to sunstroke. Sunstroke patients often have a bright red, hot head, they complain of restlessness, headaches and sometimes ringing in the ears. Vomiting can also be a consequence. Disturbances of consciousness may occur. The body temperature is not elevated, but the affected person is cold despite the heat. Neck stiffness is also an indication of sunstroke in this case. The affected person must now immediately be brought out of the sun. Slow drinking and a wet rag on the neck and face are among the immediate measures to take. It is now important not to cool down too much in order not to heat up the body even more. In case of unconsciousness, stable lateral position. Sunstroke can also lead to dangerous complications, such as cerebral edema.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Other thermal emergencies are heat-related exhaustion and heat stroke.
The cause of heat-related exhaustion is high water and electrolyte loss due to sweating and, at the same time, too little fluid intake. Often the affected person is cold sweaty, has an increased pulse and lowered blood prere. Nausea, vomiting and restlessness, as well as muscle cramps, are other symptoms. Again, get the patient out of the sun and into a cooler environment immediately. Elevated positioning of the legs and a light fluid intake in mild cases without vomiting and impaired consciousness, are among the immediate measures here.
In heat stroke, the body's own temperature regulation fails. This causes the body temperature to drop continuously. From 42 degrees Celsius death occurs. Heat stroke can be recognized by dry, hot, red skin (later gray skin), a body temperature of more than 40 degrees Celsius, nausea, dizziness, headaches and increased pulse and breathing. The patient can also become unconscious. In case of unconsciousness, stable side position.
Immediate measures include flat positioning in a cool environment with the upper body slightly elevated, cooling and monitoring of vital functions.
Hypothermia and frostbite
If we are on the road in cold weather, hypothermia or even frostbite can occur. In case of long rescue times, rewarming according to Hibler is used. In this case, however, there is also the danger of the so-called “after-drop”, i.e., the inrush of cold blood from the extremities when the patient moves, so do not move the patient if possible! Priority is given to warming the center of the body. For this
– wet clothes removed – a bath with water heated to about 40 degrees Celsius (if necessary. Use a soaked cloth on the chest (not directly on the skin); warming up is also possible through your own body heat – the affected person wrapped in several layers – the vital functions constantly monit.
Insect sprays for preventive use are already available in the basic equipment of many travelers. A mosquito net can also be practical here.
Are you aware of any intolerances or allergic reactions?? Then take precautions so that you can travel in good health! This may include insect bites. Insect venoms can cause anaphylactic shock, which can be recognized by the alarm signs of itching, burning, a feeling of heat and redness in the throat area and in the area of the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. For this there are autoinjectors for acute treatment, which are postponed by the doctor. All cases described here can be life-threatening. Of course, the immediate measures do not replace calling the emergency services.
Often there are changes or new insights in all these types of assistance. For this purpose every situation is different. May require a different approach. Therefore, we can only give suggestions here and recommend that you familiarize yourself with them and keep your knowledge up to date. All these techniques can be learned and refreshed in a first aid course. Because the worst thing is not to do anything! Pay attention with all assistance – as always – to your self-protection. Especially in case of bleeding wounds it is always necessary to put on rubber gloves!
The German Red Cross (DRK) has further useful tips on its pages on first aid. By the way, the DRK also has an app that can accompany you interactively in emergency situations, the DRK First Aid App for on the go. Because
Advice and training is also the most important thing in first aid!
These should be all suggestions, how you can prepare yourselves optimally. Get good advice especially before a trip. If your first-aid course was held some time ago, you can take a refresher course? Then freshen it up or make an offroad- or. Outdoor first aid course. In the latter case, as offered for example by the DRK Heidelberg with the Red Cross course “First Aid in Special Emergency Situations”, you can, in addition to refreshing basic knowledge, learn many useful techniques of first aid for sports and outdoor activities and thus better prepare yourself on the subject of health while traveling.
Of course, you can also do a lot to avoid critical situations and thus simply contribute to good health while traveling. This includes very simple basics, such as the correct seating position in the vehicle, proper seat belt use, safe stowing and lashing of equipment and much more. For many of us the driving school is already a while back and some things are forgotten. For a refresher course, a driving safety training course, for example at the ADAC, is a good idea. As you can see, there are many ways to prepare for healthy travel.
Now we pack our on-board pharmacy
If we talk about health while traveling, medicines are of course also part of it. The packing of the travel pharmacy depends very much on personal health conditions, the travel area and the length of the trip. Therefore, this guide can only be a guide for the personal travel pharmacy. Get qualified advice before the trip, for example from your family doctor or a tropical institute.
The basic equipment may include painkillers and fever remedies, eye drops, fever thermometer, tweezers, tick forceps, disinfectant / wound disinfectant, tablets for sore throats, gel for sports injuries, remedies for diarrhea and constipation, remedies for insect bites / for itching / for the treatment of burns, sunscreen, ointments for wounds, dextrose, medicine for motion sickness, glucose salt preparations and if necessary. Food supplements belong to.
In addition, depending on the destination, type and duration of the trip, supplements such as malaria medication, strong painkillers and antiviral agents. It can also be useful to take a broad-spectrum antibiotic with you to treat a severe infection when traveling long distances. Let your dentist advise you on matters of dental health. If necessary, pack a simple dental treatment kit. Included is dental equipment. Filling / fixing material. For example, crowns that have fallen out can be reattached and fillings can be replaced, thus alleviating the unpleasant consequences and bridging the time until a visit to the dentist.
The on-board pharmacy can be a useful place to keep a list of emergency numbers, such as the telephone numbers of poison control centers and poison information centers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Important also here, everything should be safe (also from unauthorized access or unauthorized use). The first aid kit must be stored so that it is not accessible to children, but still easily accessible in case of emergency. This can be similar to the bandage material a suitcase or a medicine box, as it is available for example at Mehari. In any case, it should also be clearly visible where the medication is located.
Advice on first-aid kits, vaccinations and more can be obtained from the tropical institutes or from your family doctor.
Is there anything else I need to consider when taking medicines with me??
There are expiration dates for medications, which you should check regularly, at the latest before starting a trip.
Please inform yourself about the import regulations of the respective travel countries. Especially for painkillers there are strict regulations in some countries. Prohibitions, the disregard of which can lead to refusal of entry or entry into the country. can lead to problems with later re-entry up to the refusal of visa applications. Also at the re-entry into the EU resp. to Germany this can be relevant, for example if the carried medicines fall under the narcotics law.
If necessary, it is advisable to bring a medical certificate for certain medications to avoid problems and waiting time at border controls, or even mandatory. Sometimes this also needs to be certified by the relevant health authority. You can find a corresponding sample here at the ADAC.
Current information on individual travel countries can be found on the pages of the German Foreign Office as well as at the customs authorities or the representations of the travel country in Germany.
Finally, in the spirit of good preparation, we often discuss more extreme cases of illness en route. I am aware that this can also make you afraid of traveling. This does not have to be. My experience from many trips is that there is a good supply in many places – often unfortunately not for many parts of the local population, but for us travelers usually no problem. And fortunately, it's often the minor adversities like diarrhea or the occasional cold that force us to take a break anyway. That's why I deliberately chose “Health on the road” rather than “Illness on the road” as the title of this article. And for the worse cases there is always the possibility of a, ideally by the foreign travel health insurance covered repatriation. Now let's take a closer look.
The foreign travel health insurance as a useful addition
Health on journeys means also to be well insured. With the European Health Insurance Card, people with statutory health insurance can travel to the EU-. Receive (limited) medical benefits in some other European countries. For example, repatriation is not covered. Furthermore, special travel health insurances (short- and long-term) are available. By the way, such additional insurances can also be worthwhile for private health insurances in order to save a deductible.
In the case of repatriation, a distinction is often made between “medically advisable” and “medically necessary”. Look here before conclusion of an insurance exactly in the regulations. With the condition “medically reasonable” the insurance already covers the return transport if it is “only” “reasonable” and justifiable. In my opinion, on the other hand, a clause in which the return transport must be “medically necessary” would be difficult to fulfill in many cases, because this would mean that sufficient treatment in the country of travel is not possible.
Foreign travel health insurance sometimes resemble each other at first, cursory glance, but have a closer examination of the contract conditions crucial differences in the features and benefits! Compare the conditions before conclusion very exactly and consider thereby also if you have chronic illnesses, because here it can be that the insurer pays only with restrictions or not at all. Especially for long-term travelers, it can also be an important requirement that home visits are covered, this is not the case with all insurers. Looks also after it whether deductibles result and extension/shortening possibilities regarding the period of validity exist. Just as important, depending on the destination, can be the conditions in the event of a travel warning.
Please compare not only the premium amounts, but the benefits in detail!
Special travel situations and areas require special, preventive measures
Which off-road traveler does not dream of a trip through the Pamirs or the Andes?? Traveling in these breathtaking mountain environments also requires good health preparation due to the sometimes enormous heights involved .
The so-called altitude sickness often manifests itself in a complex of symptoms (headache, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, sleep disturbances, general weakness, hallucinations, restlessness, shortness of breath, dizziness, drowsiness to apathy and tinnitus). Altitude sickness can be life-threatening.
Triggers are often a too rapid ascent, overexertion, alcohol consumption, lack of fluids, infections and the intake of sleeping pills. However, as with many illnesses, much can be done to prevent dangerous altitude sickness.
The human body is adaptable to many things and so it can in principle adapt to the situation at altitude to a certain extent through the increased production of red blood cells.