(This post is dedicated to the parents. Relax!) I'm definitely thankful for the general good health I enjoy and try not to take it for granted. Still, I wanted to make sure everything was hunky dory inside and out before venturing out into the non-Western world for six months.
I made appointments with my OBGYN for a six month cleaning and with my dentist for my annual exam. Or maybe it was the other way around. Regardless, I was glad to get a green light from both. Then I had to find a general doctor for the first time in South Florida so I could get a physical. The biggest factor in choosing a medical provider for me is proximity, so I found one only a couple miles away. She was very engaging and thorough and I had lab results just two days later. My cholesterol was unusually high as usual, which is irritating since I exercise almost every day and haven't eaten meat and drastically reduced my dairy intake over the past decade. She also made a point to refer me to an endocrinologist since my TSH levels were high, which is indicative of hypothyroidism, or an under-active thyroid.
This too is baffling because my metabolism and I have traditionally been BFF. Seriously, I got teased in high school for having a thigh gap and skinny monkey arms, which I realize now was really just the other girls projecting & justifying their own insecurities. There are worse fates.
Anyways, symptoms of hypothyroidism are pretty generic and include fatigue, dry hair, dry skin, irritability, memory loss, weight gain, constipation... So far it just sounds like being on your period. After calling about six different doctors in my network, I was finally able to make an appointment in May and will find out more when I see her in a couple weeks. I'm not really worried since I wouldn't have even known there was anything going on if not for the blood test. Still, I'm gonna do some research on natural ways to stimulate your thyroid.
MEDS & SUPPLEMENTS
The main reason I needed to see a general doctor was to get a prescription for 6 months worth of Claritin-D, or rather its cheaper generic counterpart, since I'm not allowed to buy more than one box at a time for fear I'll start my own meth lab. They don't even order that much at any given time at my pharmacy so I had to wait a couple days after dropping off the script for my supply to accumulate. After getting professional allergy tests late last year, I found out I was annoyingly (as opposed to deathly) allergic to most plants, pollen and animals so I'm not taking any chances with foreign flora and fauna. Ciprofloxacin, however, was readily available for $4 for 14 pills. But I'm hoping I won't actually need it because this is the common cure for Traveler's diarrhea.
The biggest challenge was getting my hands on a six month supply of birth control. I need it because "cycle" is a misnomer for what I experience without them. Mine has a mind of it's own and will come and go as it pleases with no warning, rhyme or reason except to make my life miserable - unless it is controlled with regimented pill-popping. No surprises on this trip! I'll also carry a customary first aid kit, some ibuprofen and band-aids. Lots of band-aids.
Since I don't eat meat, I take a daily B-12 supplement and can choose between capsules or liquid spray. And I don't normally take a multi-vitamin since I tend to cook healthily at home but I'll probably bring some along since I'm not entirely sure what I'll be eating abroad.
The CDC has a nifty little site where you can check each country's biggest biological threats, to humans anyways. I checked India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam and there were no real red flags. Immunizations for Typhoid and Hepatitis A are encouraged but not mandatory. Fortunately, I got a veritable cocktail of vaccines two years ago before going to Africa including Yellow Fever, Hep A, TDAP, Typhoid and Polio & my Rabies booster after I got bit by a cat when I was volunteering at a shelter around the same time, so I'm ready for anything. Including immunity to a zombie pandemic should one arise.
Since my regular health insurance does me absolutely no good while traveling outside the United States, I investigated travel insurance and found one of the most comprehensive and affordable plans at World Nomads. Not only does it cover accidents and sickness but also baggage, trip protection and 24 hour hotline for just over 100 bucks per month. Honestly, I'm more worried about cancelled flights and lost luggage than anything else. Besides, the Ashram and Volunteer programs I'm participating in require it anyways.
Also known as the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, is a free service for Americans and basically the US Embassies' way of knowing which countries you are in and when, just in case. I already had an account set up prior to volunteering in Kenya and received pertinent warnings via email both before and after my trip. Here's the current State Dept warning as of Jan 9, 2015: In response to the airstrikes, ISIL called on supporters to attack foreigners wherever they are. Authorities believe there is an increased likelihood of reprisal attacks against U.S., Western and coalition partner interests throughout the world, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Asia. Translation: Everyone hates America and no where is safe. The end.