Travel health advice

Travel Health Advice

Vaccination advice

There are several things to take into consideration when planning your travel vaccinations, including:

  • The country or countries you are visiting. In some cases, the region of a country you are visiting will also be important.
  • When you are travelling. Some diseases are more common at certain times of the year, for example during the rainy season.
  • Where you are staying. In general, you will be more at risk of getting diseases in rural areas than in urban areas.
  • If you are backpacking and staying in hostels or camping, you may be more at risk than if you were on a package holiday and staying in a hotel.
  • How long you will be staying. The longer your stay, the greater your risk of being exposed to diseases.
  • Your age and health. Some people may be more vulnerable to infection than others, while some vaccinations cannot be given to those with a particular medical condition.
  • What you will be doing during your stay. For example, whether you will be spending a lot of time outdoors, such as trekking or working in rural areas.
  • If you are working as an aid worker. You may come into contact with more diseases if you are working in a refugee camp, or helping after a natural disaster.
  • If you are working in a medical setting. For example, a doctor or nurse may require additional vaccinations.
  • If you are in contact with animals, you may be more at risk of getting diseases that are spread by animals, such as rabies.

If you are only travelling to countries in northern and central Europe, North America or Australia, it is unlikely that you will need to have any vaccinations. If you are travelling outside these countries, it is likely that some vaccinations will be required.

The areas that are considered to be of high risk for any disease may change. For up-to-date travel information on the country you are visiting, check http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/


Vaccination advice if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding

Speak to jabs, or your GP, before having any vaccinations if:

  • You are pregnant
  • You think you might be pregnant
  • You are breastfeeding

In many cases, it is unlikely that a vaccine given while pregnant or breastfeeding will cause problems for the baby. However, your GP will be able to give you further advice.


Vaccination advice if you have immune deficiencies

For some people travelling overseas, vaccination against certain diseases may not be advised. This may be the case if:

  • You have a condition that affects your body’s immune system, such as HIV or AIDS
  • You are receiving treatment that affects your immune system, such as chemotherapy (a treatment for cancer)
  • You have recently had a bone marrow or organ transplant

Speak to jabs, or your GP, before having any vaccinations.


Water and food

Many illnesses, including traveller’s diarrhoea, hepatitis A, typhoid and cholera are contracted through contaminated food and water. When travelling abroad, particularly in countries where sanitation is poor, it is important to follow strict food and water precautions and pay careful attention to personal hygiene to reduce the risk of infection.

You can reduce the risk of food and water-borne diseases by following some basic guidelines.

Water

If you have any doubts about the water available for drinking, washing food or cleaning teeth; boil it, sterilise it with disinfectant tablets or use bottled water, preferably carbonated with gas – always check that the seal on the bottle/container is tamper proof and intact.

  • Avoid ice unless you are sure it is made from treated and chlorinated water. This includes ice used to keep food cool as well as ice in drinks.
  • It is usually safe to drink hot tea or coffee, wine, beer, bottled carbonated water and soft drinks, and packaged or bottled fruit juices. Make sure that all bottled drinks have an intact seal.

Food

Always wash your hands after going to the toilet, before handling food and before eating. Certain foods are prone to higher risks of contamination and generally should be avoided.

  • Avoid foods which have been kept warm, allowed to stand at ambient room temperatures, or exposed to flies, such as open buffets.
  • Only eat food that has been freshly and thoroughly cooked and is still piping hot. Consumption of food and beverages from street vendors has been associated with an increased risk of illness.
  • Uncooked food including salads, fruit and vegetables should be avoided, unless you can peel or shell it yourself. Foods that grow close to the ground are often contaminated.
  • Fish and shellfish can be suspect in some countries. Raw and undercooked fish and shellfish such as oysters are a particular hazard.
  • Avoid ice cream from unreliable sources, such as street traders and kiosks.
  • Avoid unpasteurised milk, cheese and other dairy products.

Remember:   Boil it – Cook it – Peel it or Forget it!


Recreational water

A variety of different illnesses such as schistosomiasis, leptospirosis, legionnaires disease and gastrointestinal infections can be contracted by ingesting, inhaling or having contact with contaminated water while swimming, wading or participating in other recreational water activities in oceans, lakes, rivers, swimming pools and hot tubs.

  • Only swim in chlorinated water or that which is unlikely to be contaminated with sewage.
  • To protect other swimmers, children and adults with diarrhoea should not swim or wade in water to avoid contaminating it.
  • Some bacteria’s for example legionella or pseudomonas can multiple in warm water facilities where disinfectant levels are not properly maintained, avoid recreational water venues like hot tubs if the water is visibly cloudy.
  • Avoid swallowing any water whilst swimming or participating in recreational water activities. If in freshwater, wear a nose clip and try not to submerge your face or head.
  • Avoid swimming with open cuts, abrasions or other wounds that may allow bacteria or viruses to gain entry.
  • Do not bath or wade in water that may be contaminated with human or animal excrement, particularly near storm drains, after heavy rain fall, or in schistosomiasis-endemic areas of the Caribbean, South America, Africa and Asia.

General advice

Scan/email all your major documents

Scan your travel documents, passport, visas, insurance etc. and email them to yourself, that way you will always have a copy to access if they are lost.

Take out good travel insurance

This is mainly for health costs if you get ill or injured whilst abroad but also covers you for lost items or if you are mugged, give over your valuables. Just do it and walk away uninjured.

Don’t trust strangers or give to beggars

It’s hard to get to know the locals if you don’t trust them, but there are limits to how much you should trust them when it comes to your personal safety, money and consuming their food and drink.

Be aware that lots of locals run scams and beggars work in groups, if you give to one you could attract a crowd!

Don’t pat stray cats and dogs.

You may be missing your pets at home, but stray animals may be carrying rabies and other fun infections (and big teeth). You should also not feed monkeys, or other animals for the same reason.

Look after your Money.

Be wary of using your credit card details at internet cafes. Separate your cards and cash into several places or bags, just in case one gets stolen.

Avoid pick pockets, keep your wallet in front pockets that fasten tight or money belts.

 

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