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A to Z of How To Make Sure Your Travel Dream Does Not Turn Into A Travel Nightmare!!!
Accidents cause more deaths in travellers than infectious diseases. Be vigilant especially if travelling with children. Quality medical care may be difficult to obtain in developing countries so small injuries may turn into serious medical problems. Travel during the day is safer, and avoid motorbikes in developing countries.
Altitude sickness is impossible to get in Australia – our mountains are not high enough – but it can strike persons travelling above 3000m e.g. Cusco, Peru; climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania: trekking in Nepal; and some ski resorts. Plan to ascend gradually and carry ginko biloba and Diamox in your medical kit. (more info…)
Bird flu has now subsided but it is not gone. You are safe provided you do not visit live animal markets and do not eat raw chicken. (Most travellers do not find these restrictions difficult to follow, particularly avoiding raw chicken!) (more info…)
Bilharzia is a worm that you can pick up swimming in fresh water lakes in Africa. Admire the scenery but swim only in the ocean and chlorinated pools. If you do swim, you need a blood test when you get home.
Bottled drinks – Buy water from a reputable source. Check the seal is intact before you start swallowing. In some countries, locals make a nice living from refilling discarded water bottles with local tap water!
Blisters can be a disaster if trekking. Wear in your shoes before you go; dry socks are a necessity not a luxury; tape areas at the slightest sign of irritation with Bandaid blister block.
Chickenpox can be serious in adults – and would ruin your trip If you have not yet had chickenpox, there is now a vaccine to ‘stop the spots’.
Colds and flu can be avoided by frequent careful hand washing; don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth unless your hands are clean; and if possible avoid close prolonged exposure to persons who have colds.
Diarrhoea can affect up to 50% of travellers. It is usually due to a germ infecting the bowel. Experts now recommend taking special antibiotics to treat diarrhoea if you have more than 3 loose stools within 24 hours.
Dengue fever is like the worst attack of the flu with tiredness, rash and headache thrown in for good measure. Dengue is caught in the tropics from day biting mosquitoes. There is no vaccine, so you need to avoid mosquitoes.
DEET – Diethyl toluamide is the active ingredient in the best insect repellents – 30% DEET is ideal.
DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis is more common after plane trips longer than 12 hours, persons over 50 years, persons with a genetic tendency to clot, and persons travelling with medical problems e.g. cancer, recent surgery. It even occurs in persons traveling business class. To prevent DVT think of WALC; Water – drink lots; Activity – move your legs, walk around and get an aisle seat; Luggage – don’t have anything pressing on your legs; Compression stockings may be recommended. Taking aspirin is not the answer.
Eating and drinking safely is fundamental to staying healthy and enjoying your trip. The rule is Boil it, Cook it, Peel it, or Forget it. Food will be safe if it is too hot to touch when it comes to your table – all the germs will be dead. You need recently, well-cooked food, bottled drinks, fruit you have peeled yourself, clean hands and clean utensils. Avoid ice in drinks, raw, undercooked or reheated food, – especially egg based cold sauces.
First aid training is a great idea if you will be going off the beaten track – the life you save may be your own or someone you are very fond of.
Flu (influenza ) hits one percent of travellers. The Australian flu jab will help no matter where you are visiting – The vaccine takes two weeks to work and definitely does not give you the flu, runny nose etc. The Flu vaccine will give you a sore red arm for a few days. A flu jab is essential for travellers over 65 years of age.
Get fit before you go – you will always enjoy your trip more. Its good for your general health to be fit too..
Giardia is a common cause of gut problems in travellers to the developing world. It causes mild persistent diarrhoea and can hang on for weeks if it is not treated. It is reported to be quite antisocial as it causes lots of bad smelling wind and burps. You need special antibiotics to kill the giardia germ.
Hepatitis A is the most common vaccine preventable disease. Hepatitis A is generally caught from contaminated food and water, Vaccination is highly recommended for all travellers, and then you are protected for the next 20 years or more!
Hepatitis B is caught from unprotected sex, un-sterile medical equipment, and contact with infected blood or body fluids. All children in Australia now have “Hep B” vaccination as part of their childhood vaccines. We have a combined vaccine that covers both Hep A and B, so it saves you having too many needles! Successful Hepatitis B vaccination protects you for life.
Hookworm is a parasite that lives in the soil. In Asia, travellers catch it by sitting on the sand or soil where animals have been soiling. This worm can cause a very itchy, moving rash that follows the line of the worm’s passage through the skin..
Hair loss during or shortly after travel is not a specifically female problem but is usually more noticeable and causes more concern in women. It is quite common after prolonged or stressful travel The hair does grow back. Have a checkup when you get home just in case it is something else.
Insurance is essential. If you cannot afford travel insurance, you cannot afford to travel overseas.
Insects must be avoided at all costs. In the dangerous animal stakes, tigers and lions are nothing compared to the humble mosquito. Insect bites can be poisonous, hurt, set off allergic reactions, get infected or carry some really nasty diseases.
Jetlag is worst when flying east. Take it easy for a few days. Melatonin and some sleeping pills can help if you taken them at bedtime in the new place.
Jiggers are fleas that burrow into your toes in Africa. Keep your shoes on.
Kit – A travellers’ medical kit is a great way to use precious luggage space. Travellers commonly need treatment for diarrhoea, chest infection, pain and wounds. What you need depends on your past health, your medical status, where you are going, what you are doing etc. Prescription drugs are commonly included in many travellers’ medical kits.
Letter for medications – You need an authorisation letter for any tablets or pills you wish to carry in your medical kit.
Meningococcal Meningitis vaccination may be recommended for some parts of the world, and for young travellers living in close contact with large numbers of locals e.g. dormitory style accommodation. Vaccination is compulsory if you go on the haj. There are different strains of meningococcal germ. In Australia, kids get vaccination against group C. For travel, you generally need Meningitis ACWY vaccine. (more info…)
MMR (Measles, Mumps Rubella) vaccination is recommended for everyone born after 1966 if they have not had all three diseases – and its free!
Motion sickness can be helped with drugs but you need to take them before you get sick.
Noroxin is a prescription medication used to treat travellers’ diarrhoea fast – a vital component of a travellers medical kit.
Obtaining reliable medicines overseas may be very difficult. 40% of the drugs in some developing countries are wrongly labelled, out of date etc. (more info…)
Plasmodium falciparum is the medical name for malaria. If you are visiting a malarious area, it is very important that you seek medical advice before you travel. You may need to take pills for prevention, or have them in your kit to treat the disease if you get sick in the ‘middle of nowhere’
Packing. “Take more money and less stuff”. Taking too much luggage is a definite health hazard leading to strained backs and nerves.
Quinine is the old malaria treatment. Tonic water will not do the trick – you would need to drink about 60 litres of tonic water every day to prevent malaria.
Quinhaosu is a new malaria treatment developed by the Chinese from one of their ancient herbal remedies. It works very fast at killing parasites, but is not used for prevention.
Q Fever vaccination may be needed if you will have contact with animals especially cattle, sheep. Q fever is common in Australia too. (more info…)
Rabies causes about 50,000 deaths per year worldwide (compared to SARS which caused 774 deaths). Rabies is always fatal. You may need vaccination before you go.
Road safety is important no matter where you are. Be especially wary if they drive on the ‘other’ side of the road. Confusion over which side of the road to drive on, was reported to be a major factor in the death of an American tourist in Brisbane recently.
Responsible Travel. There are about 500 million trips taken annually around this planet. We have a responsibility to ensure we don’t destroy the very cultures and environments we visit.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) are common in travellers because they visit high risk places and ‘let their hari down’. Despite the best intentions, many unsafe contacts happen when a person’s judgment is affected by drugs or alcohol.
Security – even at home your personal security can never be taken for granted. Leave expensive trappings at home, don’t dress like a tourist, try to keep your hands free, do your research so you know the parts of town to avoid and keep someone regularly informed of your itinerary. Only drink beverages you have opened and poured yourself.
www.smartraveller.gov.au is an Australian government initiative so you can access up to date travel advisories and tips on safe travelling.
Snakes – Don’t worry, the worst ones are here in Australia.
Teeth or dental problems while you are away can often be avoided if you have a dental checkup in the 6 months prior to departure.
Tetanus is still a real problem in many parts of the world. These days, travellers are recommended Boostrix, which gives protection against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough for ten years.
Urinary problems like infections or even kidney stones are more common when travellers don’t drink enough water as the water is ‘not safe’.
Vaccination 6 weeks before you go is worth it if you want to stay safe and healthy. Vaccines work with your body’s natural immune system by giving it a ‘dummy’ to practice on, so when the real disease comes along , your body can fight off the disease quickly and efficiently.
Vomiting in travellers is likely to be food poisoning. Sometimes anti-nausea pills can make things worse.
Women travellers need special extras in their medical kit e.g. treatment for thrush, cystitis, extra contraceptive pill to stop their periods. See our contraceptive pill time zone calculator.
Wounds can get infected more quickly in the tropics. Don’t forget to pack antiseptic and dressings.
X?? Caught a mystery disease X? Get a checkup immediately. Most tropical diseases are easily treatable if you catch them early.
Yellow Fever vaccination may be compulsory before visiting certain countries or to get back into Australia. Visit Yellow Fever Online for more information.
Now RELAX, have a snooze, you’ve done your research, had the necessary shots early, you are carrying a medical kit, and have strong insect repellent and sunscreen. You are all prepared! Travel is good for you. Job burnout is much more dangerous than travel.