Getting sick or suffering an injury is never nice, but when you are overseas it can be even tougher to manage. Most travel-related illness is minor, but all overseas travel comes with some risk of serious infection, disease or injury. Therefore, it is essential you prepare yourself before leaving home.
There are many ways to prepare yourself for overseas travel, including:
Medical check up: Having a medical checkup to ensure you are safe for travel prevents you from travelling when already vulnerable. Should you choose to still travel, knowing your vulnerability means you can better prepare.
Immunisations: Visiting your GP six to eight weeks before you travel to receive relevant vaccinations and any immunisations you may be due for can reduce your risk of contracting local disease. Note that some countries legally require travellers to have certain vaccinations against diseases such as yellow fever and typhoid.
First-Aid Kit: Pack a medical kit for yourself and any children travelling with you. Items you may require overseas include Band-Aids, paracetamol, saline, antihistamines, diarrhoea medication, heartburn tablets, aftersun lotion and antiseptic wipes. Also make sure you pack any medications you may currently be taking.
Travel insurance: Seeking medical attention overseas can be very costly, so ensure you are covered against sudden illness or injury. If you plan on partaking in risky behaviour such as skiing, jet skiing and bungee jumping, take out extra cover.
But what about once you are on your holiday? What can you do to safeguard yourself against illness and injury?
Eating and Drinking
Gastrointestinal diseases such as diarrhoea, stomach pains and vomiting are the most common illnesses travellers pick up. To avoid them, try drinking only bottled or boiled water and avoid ice in drinks. Also avoid fruit and vegetables that may have been washed in local water, or look for thick skinned fruit you can peel yourself, such as bananas and mandarins.
When ordering food, always eat it while it is still hot and make sure it is cooked thoroughly. Avoid shellfish and street stalls.
Some of the more serious diseases, such as yellow fever, malaria and dengue fever, are transmitted via insect bites. While vaccination can protect you against serious illness, the best way to avoid them is to wear mosquito repellent that contains at least 30% DEET. It is also recommended that you avoid the outdoors during certain hours when mosquitos are at their most prominent, or wear the appropriate clothing to further protect yourself.
Safe sex with people you don’t know very well should be practiced wherever you are in the world, but when travelling to countries such as Africa and South East Asia it’s even more essential.
Know your nearest hospital
Your tour operator or hotel manager should be able to direct you to your nearest medical centre or hospital in case of an emergency. Should the worst happen, try to find someone who speaks both English and the national language to attend the hospital with you.
If you are admitted to hospital, you should contact your nearest embassy as soon as possible, plus inform your travel insurance company.