Are you counting the days down until you leave for your trip of a lifetime? Do you need to travel overseas for business soon? Are you planning a visit your overseas friends or family? Traveling overseas is fun and exciting, but not if you end up getting sick or worse, ending up in hospital. Taking care of your health before you travel and being aware of possible health issues can help prevent travel related illness. Before you board the plane to explore the world, we suggest you take the following simple precautions and measures.
Checklist of things to do before you travel
To help you get prepared for having a healthy holiday, we suggest you do the following:
Make an appointment with your GP
Arrange vaccinations and get medications
Pack a medical kit for yourself and your family
Get travel insurance
Research your destination
1. Make an appointment with your GP
Even if you are well, it is important to see your GP well in advance of your overseas holiday; ideally 6 to 8 weeks ahead of your departure date. They can advise you on what vaccinations you may need and which measures you can use to avoid getting ill from the food and water you consume. Every country has their own risks and your GP can tailor travel health advice to suit your health needs.
2. Arrange vaccinations and get medications
It is important to note that some countries legally require travellers to be vaccinated against disease. Refusal of entry to countries can occur if you’re not vaccinated. Your GP will be able to recommend which vaccines and medications are suitable. This will depend on your age and medical history, the season in which you’re travelling, the length of your trip and the destination you’re travelling to. We suggest that you see your GP 6 to 8 weeks before you depart.
3. Pack a medical kit for yourself and your family
Some countries may not have supplies of hygiene products that you need. We suggest you pack hand sanitiser, sanitary products, contraceptives, condoms and nappies. It is also important to pack a basic first aid kit that includes:
If you regularly take prescription medicine, make sure you have enough supplies. When you’re travelling, it is important to leave the medicines in their original packages with the dosage instructions and your name. If you use injectable medicines or insulin, it is important to take enough supply of needles and syringes. Your GP will be able to write a letter stating what the medicine is, how much you need for your travel and that the medicine is only for personal use. They will also be able to advise which antibiotics and gastroenteritis medication is appropriate.
4. Get travel insurance
Did you know that Medicare doesn’t cover any health costs incurred overseas by Australians? As part of your comprehensive travel insurance, we strongly suggest you get travel health insurance. Make sure you take note of the following:
Does it cover all medical expenses for illness or injury?
Does it cover your partner and other family members travelling with you?
Have you fully disclosed any pre-existing medical conditions in writing? If you don’t a later claim may be disallowed.
5. Research your destination
When you research your destinations, we suggest you get answers to the following questions:
Will the food and water quality be excellent, average or poor? Eating and drinking contaminated food and/or water has the potential to increase the risk of infections including typhoid, gastroenteritis, Hepatitis A, some parasites and cholera.
At your destination will you be exposed to wildlife and/or farm animals? Rabies is carried by many animals in the world and ticks and mosquitoes can carry diseases. These include yellow fever, dengue fever and malaria. The Australian Government’s website Smarttraveller https://smartraveller.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx has useful information.
Health tips for when you are travelling
Once you’ve reached your destination, there are some simple preventive things to keep in mind to prevent illness and injury. Health tips for travelling include the following.
1. Protect yourself from insects
Infectious diseases can be spread quickly via a bite from infected mosquitoes. To avoid being bitten, we suggest you always wear insect repellent that contains DEET or Picaridin. Wearing long sleeves and long pants when you’re outside can also be helpful. If possible, use a mosquito net over your bed at night.
2. Know the risks of rabies
Rabies is a virus found in most countries outside of Australia and New Zealand that infects any warm-blooded animal. Spread through scratches or bites from infected animal, it can be life threatening. Some animals that are carrying the rabies virus often don’t look unwell or behave differently. If you are bitten or scratched by an animal when you’re travelling, you must seek medical attention immediately.
3. Think carefully about what you drink and eat
Did you know that food-borne illness is a major cause of disease? From an upset stomach to diarrhoea to serious diseases such as cholera and Hepatitis A. The sources of food-borne illness won’t always be obvious. For instance, a bottle of soft drink may be safe, but the ice placed in it may have been made with contaminated water.
Foods that are considered to be high risk include:
Food prepared in unhygienic premises
Food exposed to flies
Unpasteurised dairy products
Raw or undercooked meat or seafood
Top things to remember when you get home from travelling
Once you’ve returned from your overseas travel, it is important to keep monitoring your health. Some illnesses and diseases won’t become apparent for a few days or weeks after you return to Australia. If you feel sick 2 weeks after your overseas travel, it is important to see your GP as soon as possible. Some diseases and illness have a long incubation period. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it is important to make a GP appointment immediately:
Unexplained skin rashes or lesions
Persistent coughing or difficulty breathing
Unusual bleeding from the eyes, ears, nose, mouth or anus
Swollen glands in your armpits or neck
Prolonged loss of consciousness (not caused by consumption of alcohol, drugs or medications)
Whether you’re travelling overseas for business, pleasure or a mix of both, it’s important to stay healthy. Our GP ’s have extensive experience and training in travel medicine and are here to help you prevent illness and disease.