Article by Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates
Are you planning on travelling abroad this summer? In a lot of summer destinations, there are different diseases and hygiene factors to keep in mind. It is definitely worth researching your destination and remembering how you can stay healthy and travel safely abroad.
We spoke to the team at The Online Clinic, for five key rules to keep in mind:
Check before you travel
If you know you are going to travel to a tropical country, make sure you check the health requirements. A good place to start is the NHS site Fit For Travel, which can provide you with up-to-date information. Don’t leave it too late as some injections need to be given well in advance of travelling. The injection for Japanese Encephalitis for example, requires injections to be given at least 4 weeks before you travel.
The health requirements for tropical countries change regularly, so it’s important to make sure you are relying on the most up-to-date information there is.
Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home
When you’re on holiday, it’s easy to put safety to one side and engage in unsafe activities – such as those involving wildlife or extreme sports. Some of these might not be covered by your insurance and can be dangerous. A good way to cover yourself from harm is to avoid any overly risky behaviours. Ask yourself whether this is something you would do at home – and if the answer is no it’s best to avoid it!
Being abroad can mean you are meeting a lot more people and drinking more than you would at home. It’s important to always use barrier contraception, especially when travelling.
Keep an eye out for any symptoms such as pain (while urinating, or in the testicles) or unusual discharge. A lot of STIs won’t result in any symptoms at all, so still make sure you get checked as soon as possible if you engaged in unprotected sex while travelling.
Avoid mosquito bites!
If you’re travelling to somewhere which has a high risk of tropical diseases, make sure to take precaution and cover your legs and arms with loose fitting clothing. Mosquitos are the most common way tropical diseases are spread, and they can bite through tight fitting clothes – so wearing loose clothing can help to provide a barrier.
If any of your skin is uncovered, apply insect repellent with a high DEET content. The higher the DEET content, the more effective it will be. You should also choose accommodation which has mosquito nets covering the windows and doors, preferably ones that are impregnated with mosquito repellent.
Mosquitos spread many tropical diseases which can be deadly, including Japanese Encephalitis, malaria and dengue. Speak to a GP before you travel to decide which injections and tablets it’s worth having before you travel.
Watch what you eat
If you’re travelling to a developing country over the summer, remember that diseases can be caught through poor sanitation. Cholera is one of the most common diseases which can be caught in developing areas of sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia, the Middle East or Central America.
If you’re in a high-risk area, take precautions through monitoring what you eat and drink. Only drink bottled water, or water that has been boiled first, and only eat food that is freshly cooked and is piping hot.
There are a few key foods and drinks that you should avoid. These include:
- Tap water and ice
- Drinks that have been prepared by street vendors
- Ice cream
- Salad or pre-peeled fruits
- Raw or undercooked meat
There is a cholera vaccine which is usually given to people who are at particular risk of catching cholera. Visit a GP to explore your options.
Advice given by Dr Elizabeth Kershaw-Yates, GP and one of the medical team at The Online Clinic: https://www.theonlineclinic.co.uk/