Staying healthy when travelling is not about luck, but about knowledge. If you know how best to prevent health problems and take all necessary precautions then you can rest assured that you've done what you can to keep your trip trouble-free. However, even the most careful traveller can be unlucky, which is why it is essential to have adequate travel insurance cover.
The first thing you should consider is what diseases are present in your destination country that you can vaccinate yourself against. Thinking about this early will give you time to visit your GP or travel clinic and get the jabs in good time before you leave the country. Read our guide to vaccinations to get started on this.
Whilst some diseases can be vaccinated against before you even set foot outside the UK, remember that there are also many diseases that cannot be prevented through vaccination. Some of these are listed below - click on links for more information. You should be aware of what you can do to try to prevent catching these diseases whilst abroad, and how to spot the symptoms.
- dengue fever
- schistosomiasis (bilharzia)
- diseases spread by food, drink and poor hygiene
- sunstroke and sunburn
- altitude sickness
The following tips make very good general practice when travelling:
- If the local water is not regarded as safe, buy bottled water, even for cleaning your teeth with.
- Don't have ice in your drink and avoid salad that has been washed in potentially contaminated water.
- Make sure the food you eat has been cooked thoroughly.
- Cover your body well to avoid biting insects. Avoid dark colours as they attract mosquitos.
- Use insect repellent on exposed skin. Repellents containing DEET are the most effective but avoid use on the face and on sensitive skin.
- Use knock-down insecticide sprays in rooms just before dusk, keep windows closed and consider sleeping under a mosquito net, particularly in malarial regions.
- Ticks can be removed by pulling at right-angles to the skin. Leeches can be removed by covering them with salt or burning them off with a lighter - do not try to pull them off.
- In hot countries, prevent dehydration by drinking lots of water and avoiding alcohol.
- Always practice safe sex.
- Ensure you take regular medication with you everywhere.
- Avoid close contact with local animals.
- Sunburn and sunstroke (and of course skin cancer) can be avoided by limiting exposure to the sun between 11am and 3pm and applying appropriate strength sun blocks.
- Always carry a basic first aid kit in case of minor injuries - find out what this should include.
Find out more:
Global Explorer Guide to Vaccinations
Global Explorer Guide to Malaria
Global Explorer Guide to Altitude Sickness
Fit for Travel - NHS health advice for travelling abroad
MASTA (Medical Advisory Service for Travellers Abroad)
Note: Any of the above comments may be views of the author and not necessarily fact. Acting upon any of this advice is solely the responsibility of the reader.
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