You may be wondering why I repeated the word cough. I did this because if you get the dreaded ‘Contiki Cough’ – which you are likely to do – that is what you will be doing. Coughing. Repeatedly. And I don’t mean like a polite-tickle-in-your-throat kind of cough. No no no. Think hacking bark. Think six pack abs from it. Haha.
The ‘Contiki Cough’ is something we’ve all read about. We’ve seen countless mentions of it, and countless warnings, but somehow we still think we will be able to outsmart it. I thought this. I was like “there is no ways the Contiki Cough will get me”. I had been stocking up on multi-vitamins and vitamin C for a couple of months before my trip. And three days (yes, three) into my short but wonderful Contiki it attacked.
From what I can figure out, the cough is caused by late nights and early mornings (therefore little sleep), drinking, eating very few vegetables and fruit etc., and generally just being incredibly busy for an extended period of time. Also, the recycled air on the coach and on the plane trips there and back doesn’t help either. The recycled air adds to it because when one person gets sick, effectively the germs travel in the coach with you from country to country for that trip in the air conditioning. There is nothing you can do to avoid these things. Okay the drinking could probably be avoided if you want, and you could probably make an effort to find more vegetables to eat. But you’re on Contiki and you are in Europe and as a result you are not going to sleep much and you are going to be very busy having fun with your new friends and seeing and experiencing as many new things as possible.
I got the cough for the first time about 3 days into Contiki. We were in Lyon and I started feeling a bit run down. My throat was getting itchy. Same thing was happening with my roommate at that time. We had both thought ahead and bought a round of general antibiotics with us in case this happened. Started taking those and got a night of good sleep. I was also using Corenza C at this point for a bit of a Vitamin C boost. I definitely felt better when I woke up the next morning. And then the French Riviera happened and there was very little sleep the next night. The following night (second night in Antibes) I felt so sick I went to bed as soon as we got home from Monte Carlo. Best decision I could have made. It took me a day or two to fully recover, which meant not having many late nights but luckily our schedule meant I didn’t miss much the nights I went to bed early.
After a couple days I was feeling 100% again, and I was so happy. Everything was great. And then everyone else got sick. So obviously I got sick again. Luckily not quite so bad this time – just ended up feeling a bit run down again. But the last day on the coach back to London from Amsterdam my body felt like it was crashing. I think it finally realised that the mad rush was over and it felt the last two weeks of Europe. By the next day I had the worst cough I think I’ve ever had. Again luckily I had done all my major sightseeing and so I could take a day just to recover in London when it got really bad. Unfortunately I didn’t have medicine in London so I was just using Corenza C and cough syrup in an attempt to mask the symptoms and make me feel slightly more human. Then my wonderful mother (supermom to the rescue) found out I was sick and promptly booked me a doctor’s appointment for the day I got home. Not sure what I would have done if I was continuing travelling – maybe my body would have realised we weren’t done yet. Haha.
When I went to the doctor I was told that it’s good I came when I did. I had some sort of chest infection thing (I’m not a medical student sorry) and he put me on a round of very strong antibiotics with antibiotic nose/throat/ear drops and all sorts of things. Took four full days before I even started feeling better. And another two weeks before it was completely gone. He told me that if the antibiotics didn’t work I’d have to come back for x-rays and stuff and I did not want to do that. Luckily they worked. Problem is it seems to be pretty contagious because in my short few days at home I also managed to make my dad and sister sick just from living in the same house. Oops. Although I’m not officially claiming responsibility for that. The tickly throat and annoying cough came and went for the two weeks, and if I have a late night out here I wake up feeling worse than I used to.
Now there’s plenty horror stories out there about how bad the cough can actually get, and I definitely believe them. There are stories of it ending in Bronchitis and/or other wonderful infections. One of our girls ended up in hospital on a drip and oxygen for observation because she was so sick. Some people take weeks and weeks to get rid of it. I think it’s probably worse depending on how long your tour is and what you’re doing afterwards. I’m generally a really healthy person, like I don’t often get colds and flu or anything, but it still got me.
You might start feeling a bit more tired than usual, and your body starts to feel a bit sore (sort of like flu). Your throat feels like it’s closing up and it’s really itchy. You start feeling a little tickle in your throat at first which eventually turns into an annoying cough, which eventually turns into a bent-over-double-gasping-for-air cough. But you’ll be okay (probably).
So how do you avoid the Contiki Cough? To be honest, I don’t think you really can. Apparently the tours that don’t involve a coach (so Island Hopping for example) definitely help you to avoid the recycled air contribution. I suggest getting a flu vaccination a month or so before you go – the strains of flu may be different but at least it’s an extra added line of defence. Also, definitely stock up on multivitamins and Vitamin C before you go. Give yourself as much of a shield as possible. Haha. Take some basic medications with you on your trip such as throat lozenges and cold stuff for example. If you get a cough, go get cough medicine as soon as you can to try stop it getting worse.
The problem is that it’s possible it’s caused by a virus, which means that antibiotics won’t necessarily help, although I thought they did. Just prepare yourself, and when you get it be sensible. It’s one of those things that are bound to happen with the conditions of Contiki – and I don’t mean dirty or anything; just the whole atmosphere. It is really go-go-go and your body takes a bit to adjust to that. So don’t stress or get so worried about it you now freak out about going on Contiki. If you did the same thing at home, you’d most likely also get sick. I know I do.
So when (or hopefully only if) you get the cough, do the following sensible things:
- Get an early night the first night you feel sick – it does help – and maybe one or two more if you need it. You might miss out on one or two nights at the bar but think of all the nights you’re saving by getting better soon
- Go to a doctor once you’re home (or when you can if it’s really bad) to prevent it turning into something even worse
- Try not to cough on anyone else. Haha. And throw your tissues and stuff away!
- Drink lots of water
And when all else fails, don’t be sensible, and drink a shot of tequila and a shot of sand and let your germs get drunk and throw rocks at each other. Sweetos.