If you are planning to visit a new or exotic locale, it’s a good idea to set a reminder in your diary to start preparing for your trip one month to six weeks in advance.
When it comes to travel health, doing your research can really give you peace of mind – instead of worrying about becoming ill abroad you will be able to enjoy the destination to the fullest!
Check your Vaccines
Although not always necessary, some destinations require certain vaccines you may not have had in your home country. In the UK the childhood vaccination programme does protect you from tetanus and other diseases, but does not cover diseases such as typhoid, yellow fever and Hepatitis A. These can be prevented with additional vaccines.
NATHNAC (the National Travel Health Network and Centre) offers information on which vaccines are needed for which destinations. You can also look at the health related sections of your Lonely Planet books or Rough Guides for the country you plan to visit.
Your practise nurse or GP should be able to tell you if your existing vaccinations are up to date or if you need a booster.
Travel Related Illnesses
Illnesses like the mosquito-borne malaria and dengue fever cannot be vaccinated against but you can prepare to avoid them. Determine which (if any) illnesses are important to look out for in your destination.
You can then avoid disease endemic areas, gather necessary preventive items to avoid mosquito bites and even begin a course of tablets in advance; such as malaria prevention tablets.
As you can probably imagine, diarrhoea is one of the most common ailment travellers experience abroad. In fact, the NHS reports that up to 60% of people get it.
Travellers’ diarrhoea can be caused by contaminated water or food, but there are few simple tips you can follow when visiting a country with poor sanitation:
Only drink water that has been filtered, bottled, boiled or chemically treated. Stay away from ice in drinks.
Do not drink tap water or use it to brush your teeth.
Avoid salads with fresh uncooked greens.
Do not eat uncooked fruits or vegetables unless you wash them in safe water and peel them yourself.
Do not eat foods (fresh or cooked) that have been allowed to stand at room temperature or is exposed to flies.
Avoid raw seafood and unpasteurised dairy products.
If eating food from street traders, make sure it is piping hot and served in clean dishes.
Try your best to choose restaurants that are known for good hygiene practises.
Prepare a Travel Kit
Even with the best precautions you may find yourself with an upset stomach, headache, insect bites, sunburn or any number of uncomfortable ailments. Put together a travel kit to avoid having to run out and search for medicine or supplies in unfamiliar places, or in places where pharmacies may be scarce.
First and foremost, your kit should include an appropriate supply of any prescription medication you are taking. Request a copy of the prescription and carry it with you on your trip. Countries have varying regulations on what types and how much medicine you can bring with you and some medications may be regulated by stricter laws. Check your destination country’s regulations in advance to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
You can then gather things like:
Antiseptic and bandages to attend to any minor cuts, scrapes or burns.
Travel sickness tablets
Your Travel Plans and Destination
Consider where you are going and what you plan to do during your trip. Use common sense to pack additional items you may need. Think altitude sickness tablets if you plan to climb above 2,500 metres, jet lag tablets if you’ll be crossing several time zones and plenty of condoms if you hope to mix and mingle.
It is also important to be considerate of cultural practises and norms, packing appropriate clothing for things like visiting mosques and temples. Use these travel health tips but do hesitate to conduct as much additional research as you can. Travel forums and blogs can often provide first-hand accounts of your destination and let you know where to go and what to avoid.
Finally, keep friends and family members apprised of your whereabouts during your trip. In all likelihood nothing will happen to you but if you do need help they will know where to find you.
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