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Preventing Illness Abroad

This is a guest contribution from Dr Garry J McCLean.

Around a billion people travel to different destinations around the world every year. Not many of them know before leaving home that over half of them would fall sick abroad. The types of illness may range from mild gastrointestinal discomfort to high-grade fever or physical trauma, but about 1 in 10 people would need to see a doctor abroad, and about 1 in 20 would be serious enough to stay in bed. I don’t mean to freak you out before your dream vacation, but with odds like that, you should be cautious.

Not all mishaps can be averted, but most of the illnesses can be prevented by taking precautions. In order to take guard, you need to be aware of what causes these illnesses. Here are the most predominant illnesses that travellers get sick with, what causes them, and how to forestall them before they ruin your trip.

Accidents and Traumas
Accidents are the most common cause of sickness abroad. These include falls, water-related mishaps, insect-bites, and injuries caused during adventurous activities. Alcohol intoxication is often a complementing factor, if not the reason for many accidents. In order to avoid accidental injuries:

  • -Use appropriate protection-gear for the sport you are engaged in
  • -Drink responsibly and don’t do anything risky (or stupid) when you are under influence
  • -Know the traffic rules if you are driving

Insect-borne Diseases
The most common arthropod-borne diseases include malaria, yellow fever and dengue, which are carried by certain strains of female mosquitoes. Typhus is another condition caused by ticks and lice, arthropods commonly inhabiting hotel rooms—especially if it’s an untidy hotel in a developing country. All these illnesses can turn out to be serious if not diagnosed and treated in time. Your best bet is to be on guard.

  • -Get vaccinated for malaria, yellow fever and typhus at least 4 weeks before travelling.
  • -Apply mosquito-repellent lotion to the exposed parts of your skin when going outdoors and before sleeping at night, especially if you are in the tropical or subtropical latitudes
  • -Wear full-sleeved shirts and long trousers in infected regions
  • -In case you suspect that you are infected, immediately report to the nearest healthcare facility for diagnosis and treatment

Food-borne diseases
Food can be the most tantalizing part of your vacation abroad—and the most troublesome too. If you are not careful about what you eat and drink, you are inviting disease. Food- and water-borne illnesses include diarrhoea, typhoid, cholera, and hepatitis A. These are all serious health problems that can spoil your trip, apart from causing considerable discomfort. Here are a few precautions you can take:

  • -Avoid drinking tap water while in developing countries
  • -Do not use ice in beverages in order to prevent water-borne diseases as well as sore throat
  • -Avoid raw fruits and vegetable—eat them only when you have washed them with safe water and peeled them yourself
  • -Avoid eating from street food-stalls
  • -Do not eat undercooked meat, poultry or eggs

STDs and Blood-borne Diseases
HIV, Aids, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C are the most common infections transmitted during intercourse or through blood transfusion. These are all life-threatening conditions and one must be do everything to prevent them.

  • -Be very careful when getting a haircut or shave at a public salon or getting an injury dressed at a clinic, especially when in third-world countries.
  • -The best way to avoid STDs is to keep your hands to yourself {Ashley edited this part :)}

About the Author:

Dr Garry J McCLean is the health and safety consultant for The Workplace Depot.