The number one rule is ‘be careful of water & uncooked food’. Tap water is not considered safe to drink in most developing countries. Bottled water & soft drinks are fine but be cautious about ice. Fruit & vegetables are difficult to clean & may be contaminated where they are grown. They should be safe if they are peeled or cooked, so salads are best avoided. Also be careful of raw, cold, reheated or under cooked food.
Health – Environmental
Prevention is the key to staying healthy while abroad. Travellers are advised to receive the recommended vaccines and follow some common-sense precautions.
Altitude Sickness may develop in those who ascend rapidly to altitude greater than 2500m.a.s.l. The lack of oxygen affects most people to some extent until they become acclimatized. The effect may be mild or severe and occurs because less oxygen reaches the muscles and the brain at high altitude, requiring the heart and lungs to compensate by working harder. Altitude sickness is not dependent on a person’s fitness and can affect even the most healthy and experienced athletes. The risk increases with faster ascents, higher altitudes and greater exertion. The symptoms resemble those of an alcohol hangover: headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and occasionally vomiting. When travelling to high altitudes it’s important to ascent slowly, avoid overexertion, eat light high-carbohydrate meals for more energy, drink extra fluids to avoid dehydration, and avoid alcohol as it may increase the risk of dehydration.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infection. Taking anti-Malaria tablets is recommended for tropical regions & rainforests/jungle. The tablets have to be taken before arrival in the affected region, continuing through the trip in the risk area and after returning. To prevent mosquito bites wear light-coloured clothing, long pants, long sleeves and use mosquito repellents preferably one containing over 50% DEET.
Yellow Fever is also a mosquito-borne infection. After visiting a region where Yellow Fever occurs, you will need to have the vaccination to get to most other countries, including Malta. So it is obligatory to get the vaccine at least 10 days before starting the trip. Don’t forget to take your vaccination certificate on your trip (known as the yellow booklet). It is mandatory for countries that require proof of Yellow Fever vaccination upon entry.
For Motion Sickness eating lightly before and during a trip will reduce motion sickness. Always remember to wear loose and comfortable clothes during a long trip. Dehydration or salt deficiency can cause heat exhaustion. Drink sufficient liquids, do not do anything too physically demanding and add extra salt to your food.
You get Diarrhea from ingesting contaminated water or food. If you develop Diarhhea be sure to drink plenty of fluids and take oral Rehydration solution containing lots of salt and sugar. If it persist for more than 72 hours or is accompanied by fever, shaking chills or severe abdominal pain you should seek medical attention.
Health – Immunisation
Be sure that you are up to date on your routine vaccinations. As a precaution, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the following vaccinations for travelling to developing countries:
- Diphtheria/Pertussis/Tetanus (DPT)
- Hepatitis A and B
- Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR)
- Meningococcal (Meningitis)
- Tuberculosis (TB)
- Yellow Fever (when travelling to affected areas)
It is advised to get vaccinated two months before travelling. For guidance, contact the Immunisation Unit at your local Health Centre. For more information visit also the World Health Organization website at www.who.int, the Centres for Disease Control & Prevention website at www.cdc.gov and the NetDoctor website at www.netdoctor.co.uk
Health – Toilets
Some countries have a few wicked public toilets, which in most cases are just a hole in the ground (sometimes even on trains) or a ditch over which you squat. Some have very low partitions (without doors) between the individual holes & some have none. Toilet paper is rarely provided, so it is useful to bring along your own sanitary necessities. However, toilets in hotels are the western type & normally they provide toilet paper. Usually in shopping centres & large department stores, apart from a number of squatting toilets you will find also one or more western type.
Medical Kit Check List
Following is a list of items you should consider including in your travel medical kit:
- Bandages, plasters & antiseptic – for cuts & grazes
- Aspirin or Paracetamol – for pain & fever (ex. Panadols)
- Cold & flu tablets, throat lozenges & nasal decongestant
- Antihistamine Tablets – to prevent motion sickness (ex. Avomine)
- Antibacterial Ointment – for bacterial/fungal skin infections (ex. Fucidin)
- Antihistamine (Cortisone) Cream – for allergies, to ease itching from insect bites, skin irritations & inflammation (ex. Hc45 Hydrocortisone 1%)
- Aloe Vera Gel – to ease sunburn, rashes & other minor skin irritations
- Muscle Rub – for muscle pain & strains (ex. Deep Heat)
- Domperidone or Metaclopramide – for nausea, bloating, vomiting & other stomach discomfort (ex. Motilium)
- Loperamide or Diphenoxylate – for diarrhea (ex. Imodium)
- Rehydration Salts – to prevent dehydration which may occur during diarrhea
- Good mosquito repellent preferably containing 50%+ DEET
- Anti-Malarial Tablets – when travelling to affected areas (ex. Mefloquine or Malarone)
- Sunscreen lotion with 40+ SPF
- Lip balm & eye drops
- And other medicine prescribed by your doctor
If possible carry your prescribed medicine in their original box together with their literature and your doctor’s prescription. Also don’t forget to pack your vaccination certificate (yellow booklet).