Travel Health & Immunisations

October 01, 2017

Travelling on a holiday overseas soon? Even interstate or within a few hours, it pays to ensure that you are going to be able to stay healthy while you are away. Booking a holiday and then not being able to take it because you are sick is a bitter disappointment, so ensure that you take all precautions you can, including taking out travel insurance should you not be able to take your trip or fall ill on your holiday.

There are a few things you should think about health wise when you are travelling, like should you take ill, where will you be able to access medical care, and what type of medical facilities will be available to you. If you are travelling with children, are they going to be able to be treated by a pediatrician where you are going, and are medical facilities adequate for the delicate nature of a child?

If you are on any kind of prescription medication, you will need to either take prescription repeats with you, your medications, and letters from your primary health care practitioner to say that you require certain prescriptions, and this also depends how long you are going for, if you will have access to a pharmacy, or are going overseas. If you are going overseas, you will need a letter from your doctor, and you can take sufficient medication for the duration of your trip.

 

Travel Immunisation

Depending on what country you are planning on visiting, you may need to be immunised against a number of different diseases. Vaccines against cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A, yellow fever, tick-borne encephalitis, Japanese encephalitis, rabies, influenza, meningococcal disease, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella virus are all available and recommended to receive prior to departure where countries are prevalent with a particular type of disease.

Other diseases that travellers are particularly susceptible to include some sexually transmitted diseases such as hepatitis, HIV, gonorrhea and chlamydia. Travellers should ensure that they use condoms and other barrier protections if they are going to be having intercourse with foreign nationals, and avoid using brothels in certain countries.

Other diseases can be caused from ingestion via contaminated food, or transmitted through droplets in the air. Disease can be caused from being exposed to contaminated water with parasites in it, or being bitten by diseased animals, such as dogs with rabies.

A consultation with your doctor to discuss the particular destination and what is required in order to maintain your health while overseas is advisable prior to embarking on your holiday, and should be part of your travel plans.

 

Travel First Aid Kits

When you are travelling overseas, you should include a basic travel kit with some first aid and medicinal items in it; you may not have access to a pharmacy or supermarkets may lack medical supplies. Common illnesses overseas, such as upset stomach, diarrhoea, sunburn, headache, migraine, minor skin infections, insect bites, travel sickness and food poisoning can be relieved with some first aid and medicinal items that should be taken with you in your travel kit.

Your travel kit should include:

  • Medicines prescribed by your doctor for travel related purposes including antibiotics for certain infections; travel sickness and malaria prevention tablets
  • Your regular prescription medications (depending on which country you go to, you may or may not be permitted to take those medicines into the country or you may need authorisation from your doctor in order to do so; a consultation with a travel doctor can advise you accordingly)
  • A mosquito net to sleep under
  • Condoms
  • Hand sanitisers
  • Sanitary products
  • Toilet paper/disposable toilet seat covers
  • Water purifying tablets (it is advisable in some countries not to drink the tap water, but instead only drink bottled water due to the water supplies being contaminated)
  • Spare glasses, contact lenses, contact lens chemicals, your eyeglass prescription
  • Sterile syringes
  • A first aid reference
  • A digital thermometer
  • Pain relief medication (paracetamol or ibuprofen)
  • Any paediatric medication you require for your children
  • Antihistamines in case of allergic reactions or insect bite relief
  • Sunscreen
  • Cough/cold and flu medicine
  • Antiseptic solution
  • Band-aids
  • A first aid blanket
  • Bandages
  • Cortisone cream
  • Antifungal cream
  • Antacid for indigestion
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Laxatives in case of constipation
  • Fluid and electrolyte replacement powder
  • Heat and ice packs that are mechanically activated (not requiring freezer or microwave)
  • Wound dressings, scissors and tweezers
  • Sting relief solution
  • Eye lubricant
  • Health insurance card
  • Sunscreen
  • Burn relief cream

 

Staying Healthy While Travelling

Once you have booked in to see the doctor, been advised on immunisations and disease prevention, sorted out any potential prescriptions or authorisations relevant to the destination you are going to, and packed your comprehensive travel health kit, it is important to take into consideration a few tips to stay healthy while travelling.

Ensure that you take out adequate travel insurance, and be aware of what the procedures are in the country you are going to, in order to access medical treatment. Some countries have reciprocal medical agreements with Australia, others you will need travel insurance for.

You need to ensure that you stay well hydrated on a trip, and that you get up regularly and exercise, in order to maintain circulation and prevent deep vein thrombosis. Sometimes special travel stockings can be worn in order to help prevent clots in the lower legs and aid in circulation. This is no substitute for exercise and stretching however.

Avoid getting bitten by mosquitos by using insect repellent, wearing long sleeved clothing, and sleeping under mosquito nets.

You can avoid getting various types of food poisoning by not drinking local tap water, which can be contaminated with parasites and other microbes, and by only drinking bottled water at your destination. You should also avoid dodgy looking street-side food vans where the temperature of the food is questionable, and likely the preparation of the food has been done in an unsanitary fashion.

If you have been on a long flight across time zones, it is important to get as much sleep as possible and adjust to the time zone to avoid putting your body under too much distress.

 

Conclusion

Travelling overseas, whether for recreational purposes or for business should be an enjoyable experience. Ensuring that you see your doctor prior to departing on your trip, and also after you come back for any follow up concerns and necessary treatment is important. Maintaining health is imperative while you are travelling so that you can enjoy your holiday or business trip.

Your doctor can advise you on preventing illness, and what to take in your medical and first aid kit. Your doctor can also give you hints and tips on staying well, and provide you with any prescriptions you need to treat conditions you may contract while you are away. Travel insurance is important, as is knowing where and how to access medical treatment at your destination.

Book an appointment with your local doctor to discuss your travel plans before you go, and this will ensure that you will get the most enjoyment out of your trip and reduce any worries or stress that may come about because of health related concerns.