Common ailments on the Camino

Pilgrims unfortunately suffer the same coughs, colds and stomach upsets as anyone else.  There are pharmacies in all the towns and in most of the larger villages for advice and medicines for minor ailments.  If you feel very unwell please ask the hospitalero or pharmacist to direct you to the local clinic or hospital.  In case of emergency call 112.

We offer suggestions for a basic first aid and medicine kit in the Packing List section.

Please note the advice here is very general, if you have specific medical conditions that need special management or are allergic to or cannot take any of the over-the-counter medicines mentioned or have any concerns at all about your health, this advice may not be suitable for you and you should take professional advice from your doctor before starting your camino.

The main pilgrim-specific ailments are:

Blisters  Please see our footcare section on preventing and managing blisters.

Dehydration and Sunburn  Use sunscreen, wear a sunhat and cover the back of your neck with a scarf or shirt collar.  Sunglasses and UVA resistant clothing also help.  Try to avoid walking in the hottest part of the day.  Drink water before you leave in the morning, keep drinking regularly throughout the day, don’t wait until you feel thirsty.  Avoid alcohol. If you start to feel tired and headachey and begin to pass smaller amounts of more concentrated urine, stop walking, rest somewhere cool and shady and rehydrate with water and if possible an electrolyte drink or oral rehydration salts.  If you start to feel very unwell, urgent medical advice should be sought.

Sprains  Wearing boots with suitable ankle support should help prevent the most common sprains i.e. twisted ankles.  If you do suffer anything other than a very minor injury it is wise to seek medical attention.

Tendonitis Correctly fitted boots, proper hydration and stretching before and after exercise help to prevent muscle and tendon strains.  Also, try not to push yourself too hard in the first few days, most pilgrims with tendonitis develop this after their first week of walking because they are going too far, too fast.   If you develop aches and pains that you cannot easily shake off you should get this checked out by a medical professional.  Please note there are various physiotherapists and other practitioners offering sports massage along the Camino Francés.

Insect bites Hydrocortisone cream should soothe itchy bites, if you have an allergic reaction to bites antihistamine tablets may help, a pharmacist will be able to advise you on suitable treatment.  If you suspect you have been bitten by bedbugs, please see our section on Bed bugs on the Camino for advice about what to do. If you feel very unwell seek medical advice.

For more information on the above topics, or any topic not covered in our FAQ, further information and discussion can be found on the Pilgrim Forum, an independent website run by Ivar Rekve:


Confraternity of Saint James,
27 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8NY, United Kingdom.
Tel: (+44) (0)20 7928 9988
Company Limited by Guarantee, Registered no. 4096721 — UK Registered Charity no. 1091140
Founded in 1983 to promote the pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela

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