TRAVEL HEALTH AND SAFETY

Travel Health and Safety

To enjoy travelling and get the most from new places and experiences we always need to take care of our travel health and safety. Well, one can never be 100% safe. And as our friend surgeon likes to say – there are no healthy people, only underexamined ones. However, respecting simple rules can save you from big troubles. Here are a few notes from our own experiences

FLYING WITH COLD AND FLU

If you were unlucky to get this annoying thing during your trip, or even worse, a day before the vacation – make sure that you remove nasal and ear congestion during take off and landing. Use whichever medicine works for you normally. Change of cabin pressure is not the most pleasant thing even for a perfectly healthy traveller, but if your nose or ears are blocked (which does not allow to even up the pressure inside and outside your body) it may result in hellish pain and temporary deafness that lasts longer than your vacation. I had 2 planes getting to Thailand with a bad cold and fever a few years ago, and even though now we are recalling my single sided deafness on that trip with a smile, back then it was not that funny

SUN AND HEAT PROTECTION

Everyone knows that sun is dangerous and if you are exposed to it for too long your skin will get burned. And everybody turns into a lobster on their first night of a beach vacation anyway – right? You can burn you skin even if sky is covered with clouds, and you can easily get excessive dose in a shadow, if this shadow allows scattered waves of sun radiation through. (Like for example most of the parasols they installs on the hotel beaches). So it sounds like bringing sunscreen is a smart choice for your travel health and safety routine. SPF 30 is said to block 97% of sun rays while SPF 50 – 98%. You know your skin better, the choice is all yours.

One thing we would like to mention – lots of sunscreens contain ingredients that damage coral reefs and disrupt their reproduction. Therefore, if you want to save this underwater beauty for the next generation of travellers like us, choose sun cream alternatives that are reef safe, which would normally mean Oxybenzone, Titanium Dioxide and Octinoxate free. You may want to do your own research on this subject as well.

Lesser known but more unpleasant and dangerous result of being overexposed to the sun, and especially exaggerating with physical activities in the heat – is a heat exhaustion, that can further develop into a heat stroke. If you are travelling in a hot damp climate – make sure to
– keep yourself hydrated,
– wear light, natural clothing,
– avoid staying in overheated, unconditioned areas for too long, and
– try to do any kind of strenuous exercise (like long complex hikes) during cooler times of the day

VACCINATION AND OTHER PREVENTING MEASURES

Should I have vaccinations before travelling?

In some cases, vaccination certificate may be a mandatory requirement to enter the country (there are ways to avoid it, but tsss, you have not heard anything like that from us). In others – injections are a recommended measure. Even living in megapolis it is always a good idea to be vaccinated against polio, tetanus, hepatitis, and typhoid (your family doctor will definitely provide more details on that). Another rule of thumb for your travel health and safety is to keep your immunity and your fit at their best when you travel. Your body is already getting some stress from jet lag and acclimatisation, and the stronger your immune system and your fit levels are – the easier body withstands all hardships of the road. The rest is about sober assessment of pros, cons and risks (and immigration requirements :))

Do not forget that any vaccinations should be done several weeks before your trip. Vaccinations weaken your immune system and take time to become fully effective. So if you missed the right time, in most cases it is better to skip vaccination at all rather than having it last minute.

A few words on malaria, which is one of the most widespread and unpleasant diseases you need to plan against. Taking antimalarial medications for preventive purposes if you are not travelling during the wet season and not staying in the directly affected areas may harm your liver and digestive system. Not taking such medications when there is a real risk of getting infected may impact not only your vacation but whole your future live in general. Also, it is good to remember that in endemic areas they usually sell malaria self-tests, so that you can examine yourself at any moment should you start feeling unwell or have any doubts

On top of that, there are plenty of other parasites waiting for us in different corners of the world. Do research the biggest dangers of the country you are travelling to beforehand and develop a habit of monitoring your health and reactions of your body while on the road, so that you can request medical advice as early as possible if something doesn’t feel right. Thankfully, nowadays simple courses of medication eliminate most of the problems that may arise after travelling to exotic destinations

WILD ANIMALS AND POWERS OF NATURE

You cannot know what to expect from either of them, so the very first travel health and safety rule here – never expose yourself to unneeded risk.

I wish you never step on the sea urchin in turquoise waters of Zanzibar, never have to desperately unstick leeches off your legs after a walk in Sri Lankan Hill Country in the rain, never put your feet on an rocking stone when climbing a steep mountain and never fight with your last powers to get out of the stormy sea that pulls you further and further from the shore. And there are things much more dangerous than that. To avoid them, take time to get prepared for your trip. Research the habits of wild animals that you are going to encounter and the right ways to behave around them; learn about sneaker waves and rip currents, sand storms and avalanches, poisonous plants and venomous critters, crevasse and rockfalls. We live on an amazing planet, and one of the aspects of respecting its wonders is not putting yourself in danger. Stay safe

YOUR MEDICAL AID KIT

Essential pills and medications that we always have in our hand luggage are for:

  • Fever, pain and inflammation – (like Paracetamol and Ibuprofen)
  • Food poisoning (Activated Charccoal)
  • Dissenteria (Loperamide) and dangerous dehydration often caused by it (Rehydron)
  • Any medical condition that you have and that may recidive while you are enjoying your vacation – bring your pills for that
  • I cannot emphasise enough carrying basic Antihistamine (like Loratadine) to fight allergy and specifically life threatening reactions like swelling.
  • If there is a risk that you are going to get burned – bring any cream with Panthenol, it will help your skin to recover fast.
  • Lots of walking often means lots of blisters: antiseptic, sterile cotton and plasters are a must as well.
  • Sore throat, cold sore and nose congestion can cause a lot of discomfort, unless you have everything you need to tackle those in your bag.
  • Should you bring any antibiotics along? There is no right answer here. I do have Ampicillin with me, but only because i know that (a) this is a medication that i was taking before and I do not have allergy to, (b) last time i was taking antibiotics 3 year ago, so less chances to develop resitence, and (c) it is there only for an edge case of a bacterial (not viral) infection with complications that would not to go away. If all above is not your case – it is better to avoid tablets you are not familiar with

Please note that above is not a medical advice, is a sharing of personal experience. It is always good to consult with your doctor 🙂


Image credit: Pexels

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