When planning a trip to a foreign country, especially a developing one such as the Philippines, stock-piling on the familiar OTC meds at home may seem like the sensible thing to do. However, things happen, and you may end up extending your stay or possibly forgetting to bring that bottle of Pepto-Bismol or Codeine. If you don’t know what to ask the local pharmacist for, here’s a bit of help.
I asked a medical professional, Dr. Christopher Palogan, M.D., for a fail-proof medicine kit essential over-the-counter medication as well as their local brand names for gung-ho travelers who are eager to explore the country but may need to pack a few OTC tablets, syrups, and ointments to help them acclimate.
Please note that this article is not a substitute for actual medical advice and I urge you to do so – or at least go through the list of what you would need with your family doctor – before heading to your local drugstore or chemist.
With that being said, here are 11 of the most common over-the-counter medication you may need during your trip to the Philippines, and their local brand names:
This should be the very first thing in your medicine box, used for overall pain-relieving properties. Didn’t think that bottle of lambanog would get to you? You may want to think again. This’ll get you through a few bumps and bruises, and the occasional sprained ankle for those planning to enjoy a scenic mountain hike.
Local: Advil, Dolan, Alaxan, Medicol, and Midol
The mild antihistamine can soothe most allergic symptoms – this may be absolutely crucial when commuting around the less than ideal roads of Metro Manila – but it also has an annoying side effect of making one drowsy. Take one or two of these before going to bed and you’ll be out before you know it… without the groggy Ambien hangover the next day.
If you need to be up and about and get your sinus passages cleared at the same time, keep a few of these little babies on you. You never know what may cause an allergic reaction – everything from the flowers at Dangwa to the strawberry field in Baguio might make your nose go haywire. See what I did there?
International: Sudafed Nasal Decongestant, SudoGest
4. Hydrocortisone Cream
When traveling to the tropics, don’t be surprised about how many bugs come out at night. They were here before there were people and I’d bet they’d still be around once we’re long gone. Not to mention the fact dengue is a major concern during monsoon season. Everyone has their own little tricks for preventing bug bites that range from anti-mosquito lotions, mosquito repellent stickers, to burning scented oils to keep the pesky little buggers at bay.
Local: Hydrocortisone. I would also suggest OFF! Botanicals Insect Repellent and Green Cross Insect Repellent Lotion
5. Topical Antibiotic Ointment
Great for small cuts or scrapes – this is a godsend when traveling to far-flung reaches of the country. This’ll Help with wound healing and healing as well as keeping the affected area clean.
International: Neosporin ointment
Local: Terramycin and BNP Ointment are the closest substitutions for this.
This helps to literally slow that shit down! If you didn’t think twice about trying the local ‘hawker’ or carinderia culture in the Philippines, let me just tell you right now, this ain’t Thailand. Sure, there might be a few hidden street food gems scattered around the city, but they are few and far between, so stick to establishments that actually have front doors. If you want to pull a Bourdain or a Zimmerman… well, you have been warned.
7. Magnesium Hydroxide
If your problem is that your food is coming out of you fast enough (probably due to eating too much street food) speed it up with a few bottles of probiotics, a glass of juice with some major fiber, and wait for the fun to start. If that doesn’t help, you always have this alternative.
International: Milk of Magnesia
If you plan on heading to Bicol (CamSur is where the wakeboarding action is at!), you are definitely going to feel the burn when digging into spicy soups, entrées, pastas, and pizzas – these folks love their bitchin’ little chillis. And I’m not just talking about preventing heartburn. Oh no, you’re also going to feel that ring of fire burn when you take to the crapper in the morning.
Local: Kremil-S Advance
9. Calcium Carbonate
In support of #8, this gives you fast-acting heartburn relief in preparation for before you go hard as a motherf*cker on that chili-stuffed something or other or from overeating kimchi with the group of Korean wake-boarders you had made just friends with.
International: Tums, Rolaids
Perfect for long bus trips to Bicol, Sagada, Ilocos Norte, or for when you want to try the local jeepney. This helps in preventing motion sickness or biyahilo, and should help you not vomit on your Jesus sandals. Oh, and by the way, please don’t wear your Jesus sandals.
This definitely helps with Dehli-belly, eating way too much Filipino food, or partaking too much of the local fishball- and balut-merchant’s wares. Like most medication, this is not without its side effects, so double-check with a doctor first before you increase your dosage.
Local: Lomotil or Immodium