From bouts of Delhi Belly to painful and itchy mosquito bites, there are a number of risks to your health when you’re travelling around the world. By following some of our simple tips and advice, you should be able to ward off uncomfortable situations or more serious health problems during your gap year!
When travelling your health can quickly become a concern that you push to the back of your mind, but forgetting the basics such as sun protection, mosquito defence and keeping your hands clean can really impact on your enjoyment of the trip…who wants to be holed up in their hostel dorm room with a nasty case of travellers diarrhoea or sunstroke?! We’ve put together some basic information and advice for travellers, which should help to keep you healthy, no matter what your destination.
Sun Protection & Preventing Sunstroke
Many of the popular gap year destinations, such as South East Asia, boast tropical climates, which of course will mean scorching hot sun! While it’s tempting to bask in the sun all day and try and catch some rays (especially for us sun starved Brits), this is certainly not a healthy or wise option for you and can lead to painful sunburn and in some cases, sunstroke, which can prove life threatening.
First and foremost, you should always wear a high SPF sun cream to protect your skin from sun damage. Always ensure that this has both UVA & UVB protection, this should be applied about 30 minutes before you go out in the sun. Some formulas will take effect sooner, so always read the directions on the bottle. Make sure you reapply your sun protection regularly, especially after excessive sweating, swimming or water sports.
You should also make sure you protect yourself with appropriate clothing when the sun is at it’s strongest, this is normally between 12pm and 3pm. On particularly hot days and when the sun is at it’s strongest, it’s a wise move to wear a hat to keep the sun off your head, you may also want to consider wearing some loose clothing to make you more comfortable in those scorching temperatures, a loose fitting t-shirt should also help protect your shoulders and back from sunburn.
In countries with hot climates, you should always keep well hydrated and make sure you always have a bottle of water to hand, especially if you’re taking part in more strenuous activities. You should always make sure you take a break and sit in the shade regularly in hot temperatures, this will help avoid exhaustion and prevent sun stroke.
If you insist on lounging on the beach, rent an umbrella/parasol to keep the sun off your head and provide yourself with some shade.
Preventing Stomach Upsets and Traveller’s Diarrhoea
Traveller’s diarrhoea is the most common illness affecting travellers and is most common in high risk parts of the world such as Asia, Middle East, Latin America and Africa.
Traveller’s diarrhoea is contracted through consuming contaminated water and food, you may also contract the illness if you don’t properly wash your hands after using the toilet or before eating.
Normally, those with traveller’s diarrhoea will get better after a few days by drinking plenty of fluids and getting some rest. You can read more on avoiding traveller’s diarrhoea here.
There are a few simple tips to keeping stomach upsets at bay, by following these tips, you can reduce your chances of illness significantly.
1) Only drink bottled water and don’t brush your teeth with tap water. In more remote areas and developing countries this may prove a little difficult, so you may find it easier to disinfect the water with a good water treatment, such as chlorine dioxide. Chlorine Dioxide is the most effective form of water treatment on the market and it kills bacteria, viruses and cysts found in water, including Cryptosporidium and Giardia.
2) Always clean your hands properly after going to the toilet and before eating, if wash facilities are poor or unhygienic, simply use some anti-bacterial hand gel.
3) Avoid foods such as unpasteurised milk and dairy products, raw fruits & vegetables and undercooked meat.
4) Eat piping hot meals, if food is left to sit around for ages after cooking, the chances of bacteria developing are much higher than if you eat is straight away.
If you’re unlucky enough to contract traveller’s diarrhoea, drink plenty of fluids to help rehydrate yourself. Other options available include rehydration salts and if you’ve got a long journey ahead of you, you may choose to take some diarrhoea relief tablets such as Imodium, to help prevent any embarrassing and uncomfortable situations.
Although many of us love travelling, sometimes certain types of travel can leave us feeling a little queasy and worse for wear!
Don’t let a little motion sickness hold you back though, travel sickness tablets are a viable option for this problem and if you discuss this with your pharmacist, they will be able to provide you with more information and help you select the best option for you.
If medication isn’t for you, why not grab a pack of travel sickness wrist bands? These work by applying pressure to certain accupressure points that have been proven to stop motion sickness.
You may also want to carry a sick bag with you, just in case the plane or boat doesn’t have one! The Qeezee travel sick bag is compact and contains an anti-odour absorbent gel, this will help prevent leakages, which can often happen with poor quality sick bags. It also includes a lemon scented wipe, so you can easily freshen up after you’ve used the bag.
DVT & Long Haul Flights
Long haul flights will leave you inactive for hours, which can increase your risk of developing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) due to poor circulation. You can help reduce the risk of developing DVT on long flights by getting up and walking around the plane cabin, moving your legs around regularly and by wearing special DVT reducing flight socks.
It is also very important to try and keep hydrated during flights as dehydration is another contributing factor in the development of DVT.
First Aid Kits & Supplies
Packing a first aid kit may seem a little excessive, but you’d be surprised at just how handy these can be, even for simple cuts and scrapes during your travels.
There are many first aid kits available for travellers, from basic kits containing dressings, sterile wipes and bandages to sterile needle kits for use in developing countries with poor medical facilities.
For traveller’s visiting remote villages and developing countries, we would always recommend packing a sterile needle kit. These kits contain sterile needles and syringes, which can be passed to a medical professional in an emergency, this provides a safe way for you to receive medical treatment should you become ill during your trip, as medical equipment in remote areas and developing countries may be contaminated and unsterile.
Mosquito Defence & Bite Prevention
Mosquitoes and other insects are without a doubt one of the biggest threats to your health when travelling, causing pain, irritation and overall discomfort.
If you’re visiting areas with a risk of Malaria or tropical disease, you will need to be vigilant with your mosquito defence regime.
Using a mosquito repellent with a high DEET content, will help to keep mosquitoes at bay and keep you bite free. You can read more on mosquito defence and repellents, here.
Before travelling to countries with a high Malaria risk, you should speak with your GP or visit a travel clinic for advice on anti-malarial medication, there are many different options available and they will be able to advise you on the type that will be best suited to your personal requirements.
Another great way to protect yourself from mosquitoes and other insects during your trip is an impregnated mosquito net. Impregnated mosquito nets are treated with an insecticide which prevents insects from landing on the net, providing you with a protective barrier while you get some rest!