HEALTHY TRAVEL TIPS: STAYING HEALTHY WHEN TRAVELLING
Ever experienced the joy of a healthy travel? Recently I have been travelling a lot and my last trip was to Nigeria. I have seen people who go on long trips across continents and return feeling really ill. I have also heard of people who do not survive after an infection or some ailment from the visited country. This happens mostly when visiting developing countries. This makes me extremely cautious when going on trips. So it is no surprise that before I embark on any journey, I do a lot of planning to keep myself healthy while I am away and also to return feeling just as great as before I left. After my last trip, I can report that I feel so healthy and happy.
Travelling can increase your risk of getting sick. From the moment you get on a long flight, there is a risk of deep venous thrombosis. When you arrive at your location, you are at risk of contracting many other diseases. Prophylaxis are actions taken to prevent a disease. I believe in the saying “prevention is better than cure”.
TIPS FOR A HAPPY AND HEALTHY TRAVEL
Research your travel destination
There are research reliable websites to find information on your travel destination; including information on risks to your health and up-to-date details on routine vaccines you are required to have. One of such websites includes:
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention website . This website gives country and disease specific advice for travelers and Healthcare professionals. Personally, I like this website because you get an understanding of risk factors that can cause you to contract a disease. Additionally, you are advised on prophylaxis and on-site actions to take to reduce your risk of falling sick.
See your General Practitioner (GP)
Four to six weeks before your trip, you need to see your GP. He will advise on your general health and also on Vaccinations you might need. Certain countries will require you to show proof of getting these vaccines done before entry into the country. You do not want to be that person who is caught unawares. Your GP will examine you to know you are fit for your trip. If you are pregnant, it is equally important to get a check up done before you embark on a journey.
Travel Health Insurance
Be sure that your health insurance covers the country you are travelling to. Healthcare abroad can get quite expensive. If your current health insurance does not cover your destination, there are lots of companies that would offer travel health insurance and are not very expensive. One that I use is AXA insurance.
Malaria borne countries
Are you travelling to a malaria borne country, then you would need to take with you some Prophylactic medication. When I traveled to Nigeria, I had my Atovaquone/Proguanil (Malarone) pill with me each day. I had to take it a day before travelling, everyday while I was there and for 7 days after I returned. Sounds very tasking but your body will thank you for it. It is also important to know when and how to take these pills because you may have side effects if not taken correctly. Insect repellents are also very useful for some extra protection. Avoid mosquito bites by wearing light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing that covers your arms and legs, and by regularly applying a mosquito insect repellent on all exposed skin areas.
Pets and other animals
In certain countries you run a high risk of diseases like rabies. Though uncommon in humans, it is very fatal. It affects your nervous system and may cause diseases in the brain and even death. Avoid handling animals you do not know or having contact with strays. If bitten or scratched by an animal, quickly wash off thoroughly with soap and water and apply a disinfectant. Also seek medical attention as soon as possible to care for the wound and to assess whether you are at risk of infection and require preventive treatment.
Food and water poisoning
When unsure of the water in a country, always buy bottled or boiled water. Each country has different standards of food handling and preparation so we need to be really cautious. Furthermore, when traveling thousands of miles away, you are encountering an entirely new bacterial community that your body has never encountered before. This may result in Travelers’ Diarrhea. Symptoms of this include loose stool, cramping and bloating. Nausea, vomiting and bloody stool may occur in later stages. To prevent this, one should avoid fruit or uncooked vegetables. Street food should also be avoided as much as possible as you do not know the source of their water and the process of food preparation. I always have a pack of imodium (loperamide) just in case of a mishap. You always need that emergency medication to relief you. Imodium is sold Over the counter (OTC) in most countries.
Pack your regular medications
Do you have a chronic disease such as diabetes, hypertension, hashimoto’s thyroiditis or any other chronic diseases? You would need to take your regular medication with you. A holiday is not a holiday from your pills. Having to buy new medication abroad can be pricey and you may run the risk of buying fake pills which would cause more harm than good to your health. If you have a bag with all your pills, keep it in your suitcase the night before so you do not run the risk of leaving it behind.
Be mindful of needles
Tattoo parlours abroad may not maintain the same level of hygiene standards. Be mindful of tattoo artists reusing their needles. Also with regards to seeking healthcare overseas, the attention to infection control might be less. The risk of Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV is very high in such cases.
Maintain personal security
Do all you have to do in the day time. Avoid going out at night unless you really have to or you are with a trusted person who knows the surrounding. Keep your passport safe at all times and do not carry it around when you are out so you do not lose it. Follow all social laws and customs in the country.
For pregnant women
Travel is generally not contraindicated during pregnancy. But it is important to see your healthcare professional before embarking on a trip. Pregnant women risk serious complications if they contract malaria or viral hepatitis E. Travel to areas endemic for these diseases should be avoided during pregnancy if at all possible. The safest time to travel is your second trimester. Going to altitudes beyond 3000m or remote areas is not advisable during pregnancy. Certain vaccines and medications are contraindicated as well. So your gynecologist will have a lot of information for you.
After You Come Home
After you return from your trip abroad, get medical attention right away if you aren’t feeling well or have been injured. It is especially important to see a doctor if you have a fever, rash, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other unusual symptoms. Some diseases take a while to show symptoms so if you know that you took part in a risky behaviors, it is best to inform your healthcare professional. If you are returning from an area where malaria is a risk and become sick with a fever or flu-like illness for up to 1 year after you return, see a doctor immediately. Let him or her know the country you have visited.