What happens if I get sick/ill while I'm volunteering?
Getting sick whilst volunteering abroad in a developing country, especially for long periods of time, is almost guaranteed and comes hand-in-hand with exposure to new foods and the 'relaxed' food hygiene practices that you will inevitably notice when volunteering abroad. The previous article 'Food Safety' detailed how to avoid getting sick, where possible, but what do you do when you do fall ill?
The first thing to do is tell someone, in particular, tell your in-country volunteer coordinator, who is there to help and support you during the good and the bad times. Your coordinator will be able to arrange for you to be excused from your project, and ensure that you are safe and comfortable while you 'weather the storm'. In mild cases, they can also arrange for a visit to the local pharmacy where you can pick up items to help relieve any symptoms you may be experiencing, or in more serious cases, they can arrange for you to visit a local doctor or even the hospital. In any case, you will be looked after.
The second yet still very important point is to stay hydrated. Whilst this can mean simply ensuring you intake adequate fluids (preferably not from the tap - refer to Food Safety section), this is the time to intake plenty of electrolytes. Even a simple diarrhea-inducing stomach bug can cause serious illness if dehydration is allowed to occur. It is therefore always handy to have powdered electrolyte sachets with you for instances just like this (see Medical Kits section below).
Lastly, it is advisable for every traveler, volunteering or not, to carry an emergency medical kit at all times. This kit can, at the extreme, be a real life-saver. From jet-lag and sleeping pills, to anti-nausea and anti-diarrhea tablets, it is worth taking a selection with you on your trip. Remember the rule is: If you don't have it, you will need it! For more great advice on what your travel medical kit should contain, read the article below, but don't forget, only your doctor can truly advise you on what YOU need, so it is important to seek their advice prior to your big adventure.