Getting SICK in Spain – What You Need to Know

What the heck, Faith. It hasn’t even been a week and you’re doing a post about getting SICK? Now is not the time! You’re supposed to be making friends and learning Spanish and PARTYING or whatever!

Yeah? Well…tell that to my immune system, will ya?

Hi guys. Yes, I was hardly in Spain for three days before sickness struck. A sore throat, to be exact. Or, as they call it here, dolor de garganta.

The sickness itself wasn’t so bad. It was the fact that I was in Toledo, that I didn’t know how to express my pain to a Spanish nurse, and the fear of spending part of my first week in the hospital. Thankfully, our group leaders were able to help me out quite a bit. If it hadn’t been for them there would have been much more panicking involved in this process. And much more pain, because if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have gone to the pharmacy at all. Because, you know. Avoidance.

So what do you do if you get sick abroad? Well…


Step 1: DO NOT DENY IT. I was all set to do this, but thankfully my group leaders stopped me. I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t gotten some medicine, my sore throat would have gotten worse and I would have had to spend several hours in the Spanish ER. Not my idea of a good time.

If you are part of a travel group, TELL YOUR LEADERS YOUR SYMPTOMS. This was invaluable to me because I didn’t end up having to speak any Spanish at the pharmacy at all. I told my leaders what I was feeling, and they translated for me. Nifty, huh?

If no one in your group speaks fluent Spanish, I still wouldn’t recommend going alone. Take the best Spanish-speaker in your group and a friend for moral support, grab that pocket dictionary (don’t rely on WiFi), and taxi your way on down there.

Hopefully you’re not totally on your own (because that’s never smart when you’re in a strange environment), but if you are, most likely the workers at the pharmacy will do their best to help you. Use your dictionary, bring any medication you’re currently taking, and try your best. Again, it’s really not recommended to go alone. When you’re feeling miserable, the last thing you want to do is navigate medical terms in a foreign language.


Step 2: ACTUALLY TAKE THE MEDICINE. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but if you buy medicine…take it. Unless it looks obviously shady — which it shouldn’t if you got it from a clearly marked pharmacy — it’s safe. I don’t think any over-the-counter drug can be very dangerous, unless you have an allergy to something, which the pharmacists will ask you about before they give you anything. If you’re really paranoid, Google the ingredients to make sure.

If you need to take the medicine at regularly scheduled intervals and you suck at remembering that (like me), set a timer. There’s no point in going through the hassle of getting to a pharmacy and communicating what you need if you’re not going to follow through with that.


Step 3: REST. Or should I say, descansa. Your friends may be going out to party. Maybe you were planning on going ziplining, or skiing, or hiking. Maybe you had a walking tour all planned out. As much as it sucks to stay put when you’re abroad, you have to rest if you want to recover quickly. Stay at the hotel and get someone to bring you food if possible. Or be like me and skip dinner entirely in favor of a brownie you forgot to eat on the plane. (Okay, maybe that’s not the best option. But going out may not be advisable either, depending on how sick you feel.)


Step 4: SLEEP. Sleep is hard to get when you’re running from city to city, and jet lag makes it even worse. (Suffice it to say, lack of sleep is probably why you got sick in the first place.) Once you’ve taken your medicine, do your best to get as much sleep as possible. The best medicine in the world isn’t going to make up for lack of rest and sleep, trust me. There’s no magic pill that makes you all better so you can keep exploring. Or if there is…find it and patent it. I will pay you. You’ll be rich. Do it.



Step 5: IF YOU’RE REALLY SICK…GO TO THE HOSPITAL. I don’t have experience with this step, thankfully, because my symptoms greatly improved after taking medicine, resting, and sleeping. However, my leaders had told me that if I hadn’t improved by the time we got to Granada, they would take me to the hospital. So thank God I avoided that curveball.

Hopefully, you worked out international insurance before leaving for your trip. If you’re travelling with a study abroad program, like I am, they might have put something together for you. Check your e-mails, files, and any other resource they sent you. It’s there for a reason.


That’s my travel advice for today. Hopefully, you’ll never need it. But if you do…hey, I went through this before you. As did thousands of other people. So chillax. It’ll work out fine.

(Unless of course it doesn’t, but your anxiety has already thought of that, so I’m trying to stay positive here.)


Stay crazy, friends!