Getting Sick While Traveling: When Random Ass Injections Go Wrong

Getting sick while traveling is inevitable if you spend enough time on the road. That’s just how things work. If you spend a few years traveling around, sleeping in airplanes, drinking heavily, and mixing bodily fluids with others on occasion – it’s bound to happen. And it blows.

When you were a kid, sick days weren’t that bad. You curled up on the couch and watched movies while mom took care of you. Soup, crackers, and juice came on demand. Plus, you got to skip school. It probably wasn’t Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but it damn sure was an improvement over social studies class.

When traveling around the globe, being sick is quite a different story. Instead of enjoying the comforts of home and a pampering caregiver, you’re forced to cancel plans, search for a doctor that speaks English, and pray the level of medical care you receive is acceptable.

Getting Sick While Travel: My Tale

Recently, I got sick. Pretty damn ill. My throat started to hurt. I could barely swallow food. My ears filled with some fluid that drained down the back of my throat. My sinus clogged up and I became a “mouth-breather” for a bit.

It wasn’t a lovely experience. In fact, I’m still taking antibiotics now. And I hate antibiotics. I don’t even know how I got sick while traveling, but I’m still in recovery mode.

At first, I tried the over-the-counter stuff. I took Advil Cold & Sinus, used some Vick’s Vapor Rub, cough drops to sooth the throat, some teas, and a little extra sleep. I figured things would clear up naturally. They usually do.

After three days of continually getting worse, I headed to the pharmacy. After all, I live in Colombia. You don’t need a prescription for anything here. If you know what you want, you don’t need a doctor to prescribe it.

While this isn’t the best plan, I went with it. I grabbed a Z-Pack at the pharmacy. Over-the-counter antibiotics for the win.

After a three-day cycle, I was feeling better, but not great. The improvement wouldn’t last. Two days later – the infection had ramped back up and I felt worse.

So did I go see a doctor in Colombia? Nope. I went back to the pharmacy. Genius move for the win.

El Matrimonio, Colombia’s Interesting Ass Injection

I needed more drugs and not the fun kind. I walked into the pharmacy with my used up Z-Pack in hand and began to regale my tale of illness, failed antibiotic use, and more.

The bootleg pharmacist with little to no training gave me a blank stare as she tried to understand my semi-functional Spanish-speaking self.

Uninterested in my failure to get healthy after taking antibiotics, she recommended one thing and one thing only…

El Matrimonio

I don’t even know what it is. Honestly, I don’t think anyone does. I’ve asked multiple people. Hell, even the doctor I went to wasn’t exactly sure what comes in these injections.

El Matrimonio is an injection. They take you to a back room of the pharmacy, whip out a large needle, and tell you to drop your pants and spread your cheeks.

Kidding on the last part. Still, the whole process feels quite third-world. No doctors. No prescriptions. Just a needle filled with drugs you know nothing about.

So I did it. I nodded yes, paid $7 USD, and was taken to the back room. My pasty white ass glistened in the light as the pharmacist injected me with El Matrimonio. It hurt.

It hurt. Ya boy doesn’t like needles. Plus, El Matrimonio isn’t small. They fill up a big ass syringe with all sorts of liquids. You’re getting injected for at least 45 seconds.

Then she pulled the needle out and said, ‘Ya!” We were done here. My ass hurt, but I was optimistic I’d feel better soon.

Update – My friend at Juan Valdez knew what was in El Matrimonio:

  • Dipirona
  • Diclofenaco
  • Antibiotics

I’m Done With Antibiotic Ass Injections

It didn’t. Well, sort of. See, El Matrimonio worked for around 24 hours. Honestly, I felt incredible for 24 hours. I couldn’t feel a damn thing. My throat felt 100%. I had energy. My joints even felt fantastic.

A few days later, all of my symptoms had come back. I felt like death. I swore to myself I was done with antibiotic ass injections. It was time to see the doctor.

Now, I’m living in a small Colombian city. Ibague is a town of under 500,000 people with little to zero tourism.

Finding an English-speaking doctor wasn’t likely. I didn’t care. I needed to get checked out.

So I started walking. I had no idea how to find a doctor. I just hit the streets and started opening my mouth. Broken Spanish flowed out and eventually, someone pointed me in the right direction.

Read More: Is Colombia Dangerous? – 2017/18 Edition

After meandering around for an hour or so, I found the right place. 4-5 clinics right next to each other. I peeked into all of them before going into the most ghetto-looking one in the area because there was no line.

Not the best logic, but I just needed some medical attention. Patience isn’t a strong suit. I certainly wasn’t expecting a doctor fluent in English from this beat up doctor’s office.

I mumbled through the paperwork and then sat down. It cost $10 USD to see the doctor without insurance. Cool. I was told the wait would be 15-20 minutes.

The attendant mumbled my name, “Jake” in some Spanish accent that completely butchered it. Didn’t care. Just needed a doctor.

I walked in and sat down. The doctor came in and started speaking Spanish. She asked what was wrong and I began explaining my symptoms in Spanish.

She started laughing at me, “Do you speak English?”

“Well, yeah,” I mumbled.

She smiled, “Ok, start over and tell me your symptoms in English, please.”

I had stumbled on an English speaking doctor in a city where English levels were nearly non-existent.

She scolded me for getting the El Matrimonio. Telling me I’d been in Colombia too long, as that’s the Colombian solution to all medical issues.

Getting Sick While Traveling

The doctor’s visit concluded by finding out I had Strep Throat. The doctor gave me a prescription for the proper antibiotic, along with a few things to manage the pain for a day or two. I hit the pharmacy and things are clearing up like they should – when you go to the doctor instead of getting random injections at the pharmacy.

Life on the road is always an adventure. From shots in the ass to new cities to getting sick while traveling – that’s just how it goes. If you’re planning to hit the road, you’re bound to get sick eventually. Embrace the struggle of trying to get healthy while on the road. It never lasts forever, and you’ll soon be back living a life of adventure.

P.S: Hitting the road soon? Get $40 off your first Airbnb rental by clicking here.

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Jake D

Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel - one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.

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