Travel Health Advice

Travel Health

The key to enjoying your holiday is to stay in good health throughout your journey.  Maintaining good travel health requires a change to your routine.  There are many factors that can affect the state of your health while travelling. Taking sensible precautions, such as those discussed should keep you in good health while travelling allowing you to enjoy your holiday.

Knowing the regions you are travelling to is key to being prepared to face the health risks associated with that region.  The first resource recommended is are the Consulate websites provided by various governments such as Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (UK), Bureau of Consular Affairs (USA), Department of Foreign Affairs and trade (Austrailia).  Each of these site give travel health advice by country / destination.  These site has a wealth of information (with warnings for their citizens, however the advice is  general and suitable in most parts for travellers of all nationalities).  Analysing the sites ‘advise by country / destination’ you can get familiar with the essential criteria needed about a particular country.  The ‘advice by country / destination’ has advice on Health (diseases you should be aware of like malaria, yellow fever etc), Safety and Security (Terrorism, Crime, Political Situation, Local Travel), Local Laws and Customs you should be aware of, Entry Requirement (visa, passport requirements), Natural Disasters and other general advice.

Information from the Consulate websites will give you a good idea of the health challenges you face throughout your itinerary.   It may be appropriate at this point to visit a travel clinic / GP to get vaccinated against some of the fatal diseases like yellow fever, typhoid, meningitis etc.  You will also require medication for tropical diseases in absence of a vaccine, such as malaria, which can be available via (private) prescription.  A good understanding of side-effects of the drugs and vaccines will allow you to make better informed decisions about the choices of medication you have.  For example, Doxycycline (anti-malaria drug) increases photo-sensitivity ie you will be more prone to sunburn.

Visiting a website British National Formulary (free to register) primarily used by British Pharmacists and Doctors alike will give you insightful information about the various drugs and vaccinations.  The section on Malaria presents all the drugs that are applicable for malaria in each region (but up-to-date information should be consulted via your GP).  Furthermore, there is information about the side-effects and the number of pills you need to take before and after visiting a malaria zone.  I advise acquiring the medication from the your country before you travel as the you will know of reliable sources to acquire medicine, being familiar with how well regulated the pharmaceutical industry is in your own respected country.

Beyond the various vaccinations a number of precautions can be taken to maintain a healthy disposition.

General Health advice:

  • Drink bottled / boiled cooled / sterilised water only.
  • Eat only in well frequented establishments (if there are plenty of locals eating there, that is an encouraging sign).
  • Avoid having ice in your drinks, as this could be from local tap-water.
  • Avoid dairy food unless it has been pasteurised and properly refrigerated.
  • Only eat fruit which requires peeling (it will not be washed in local untreated water) and vegetables that have been well cooked to avoid dysentery.
  • Also inspect the plates and cutlery to ensure they are not dirty (consider using your own (disposable) utensils when eating.
  • Avoid bed bugs by spraying bed bug spray in a cheap hostel / hotel, one that contains permethrin, this will also protect your from scabies.
  • Carry a fist aid kit.
  • Do not Fly and Dive within a 24 hour period.

At High Altitude:

  • Drink bottled / boiled cooled / sterilised water only and plenty of it, especially at high altitude.
  • Ascend slowly in high altitude, also acclimatise to high altitude before considering an ascent (resting at high altitude for 24-48 hours).
  • Drink Coca tea / chew on Coca leaves to help cope with mild altitude sickness.
  • Take Acetozolomide / Diomax one day before ascent to help prevent altitude sickness.
  • Avoid alcohol at all costs at high altitude.
  • Eat light, high carbohydrate foods.

In the Heat & Tropical Zones

  • Stay out of the midday sun (11:00 – 15:00) in hot countries.
  • Wear a hat to protect you from the sun.
  • Use sun block to avoid getting sun burn.
  • Wear a thick layer of clothing (mosquitoes can bite through some fabrics) and  keep yourself covered in regions with Malaria and Dengue Fever.  Apply DEET lotion to the clothes and skin to repel blood sucking insects. Through experience, dark and black coloured clothing attracted mosquitoes.
  • Shake your clothes and shoes before dressing in tropical regions (especially jungles) to avoid a nasty bite from an insect or reptile.