A collection of medicines and pain-relief tablets on a kitchen table.

Getting Sick in a Foreign Country

Thoughts from Alanna…

Getting sick sucks. Getting sick in a foreign country sucks even more. I’m lucky that I live in a place that still speaks English (although a slightly different version) but buying different medicines can be tricky and annoying.

I have not found my trusty NyQuil or Neocitrain. I’m in new territory now.

If you’re planning a trip away, I would definitely suggest that you bring some familiar medicines from home, like you’re usual Cold/Flu tablets. If you’re moving away (or travelling for a huge amount of time) you’ll need to get comfortable with finding new meds.

PS: Getting sick while living abroad makes homesickness 100% worse. Don’t be surprised if it hits you unexpectedly!

Quick Tips for the UK

  • You’re not going to find your usual “go-to” brands so make sure to familiarize yourself with what’s at your local shop.
  • A lot of medicines you’ll need to get over the counter (any drowsy-type medicine for sure). Many big grocery stores (Tesco, Asda, etc) will have a person working the pharmacy and that’s who you’ll need to go to. If you’re unsure what you need, just tell them your symptoms and they’ll be able to give recommendations
  • I usually just buy medicine from Adsa where I buy my groceries, but Boots is also a really popular pharmacy-type place, very similar to Shoppers in Canada.
  • Ibuprofen (very common) is what’s in Advil. Acetaminophen (not very common) is what’s in Tylenol. Next to Ibuprofen is paracetamol which is also very common. You can by no-name packs of Ibuprofen and paracetamol tables for mere pence at the grocery store.
  • Liquid medicine tastes 100% worse than what you’ll have experience with in Canada. Just awful. Terrible. And I can’t say they have many “flavoured” liquid versions, like cherry or strawberry. It’s just medicine and it tastes like garbage.

A bottle of NiteNurse with a cap full of the green medicine.Nite Nurse

This tastes like hell on Earth and burns all the way down. It’s supposed to make you drowsy so you can only get it over the counter. While I can’t say that it puts me to sleep right away like Nyquil, once I’m asleep on Nite Nurse I will not wake up for a solid 12 hours. Be careful taking this on a work-night (I missed my alarm and thus missed my bus to work).

A small white bottle of Menthol crystals.Menthol Crystals

You can get tiny little tubs of these over the counter and are really lovely if you’re stuffed up or congested. Put a few into a bowl, fill with boiling water, put your nose over the bowl and cover yourself with a towel. It’s powerful! it’s also really nice just to keep in your bedroom to breathe better when you’re sick.


You’ll be able to buy the usual Halls lozenges at most shops, but you’ll also find a bunch of different medicine-type lozenges that are fairly cheap. A pack of “Asda” brand ones are usually just a pound or two.

A white mug full of medicine-tea in front of a desktop Canadian flag.

Lemsip at my desk!


I like Lemsip because you can get a powdered Cold & Flu version. I throw a few packets in my purse, boil some water in my tea mug at work and pour in the medicine. Thankfully, it doesn’t taste too bad and feels really nice on a sore throat. If you can’t be bothered, there’s pill versions as well. Beechams also provides the same thing.

Whatever the case, stock up on meds and orange juice (with or without “bits”) and get better soon!