To stay safe and secure abroad and to be prepared in case things go wrong, it is important to take a few simple precautions before you go and while you are there.
Food water and personal hygiene advice
Diseases like Hepatitis A can be caught from drinking or swimming in contaminated water. Unless you know the water supply is safe only use bottled, boiled or sterilized water, even for cleaning your teeth and avoid ice in drinks. Contaminated food is the most common
source of many diseases abroad. You can help to prevent it by following these guidelines:
- Only eat well-cooked fresh food
- Avoid leftovers and reheated food
- Ensure meat is thoroughly cooked
- Eat cooked vegetables, avoid salad
- Only eat fruit you can peel
- Never drink unpasteurized milk
- Avoid ice cream and ice cubes in drinks
- Shellfish is a high-risk food
- Avoid buying food from street vendors’ stalls
Travellers’ diarrhoea is the most common illness, rehydration is very important
Diseases spread through blood and bodily fluids
Diseases such as Hepatitis B and HIV infection can be serious and can be transmitted by medical procedures, using unsterilized equipment, inadequately screened blood transfusions, unprotected sexual contact, tattoos and body piercing.
Rabies is present in many parts of the world and is almost always fatal – never touch any animal! If you are licked on broken skin, scratched or bitten by an animal in a country which has Rabies, scrub the wound, apply antiseptic or alcohol Seek medical advice immediately, even if you have been previously vaccinated against Rabies.
Mosquitoes, flies, ticks and bugs can cause many different diseases eg malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever Avoid being bitten by: applying insect repellents on exposed skin eg. 50% DEET, spray your clothes with repellents. If your room is not air conditioned, but
screened, close shutters before dusk and spray your room with insecticide spray. In malarious areas if camping or sleeping in unprotected accommodation, always sleep under a mosquito net impregnated with permethrin. Avoid camping near areas of stagnant water, which are common breeding ground for mosquitoes. Electric
insecticide vaporizers are effective. Electric buzzers, garlic and vitamin B12, yeast extract etc are ineffective for bite prevention.
This is one of the most serious diseases travellers will be exposed to when visiting a tropical country. Malaria is an infection from a parasite, which occurs when an infected mosquito bites you. There are four different types and the most serious is Plasmodium Falciparum, which can kill you in some circumstances within 24 hours of developing the symptoms of malaria. It is essential you prevent malaria by:
A – Awareness – being aware of whether malaria is present at your destination and how severe the risk is
B – Bite prevention – taking all precautions to minimize your chances of getting bitten
C – Chemoprophylaxis – making sure you take the correct tablets and complete the course
D – Diagnosis and prompt treatment – knowing that malaria presents like a flu like illness, sometimes with a cough and diarrhoea. If you get these symptoms especially in the first three months after you return but up to a year after your trip, you must seek urgent medical advice, and tell them you have been abroad.
Safe sun Advice
Sunburn and heat stroke cause serious problems in travellers
- Avoid going out between 11am and 3pm when the sun’s rays are strongest
- Use an appropriate SPF sun cream
- Wear protective clothing, especially children
- Drink extra fluids, and be aware alcohol can make you dehydrated
A useful website is www.cancerresearchuk.org/sunsmart
It is sensible on any long-haul flight to:
- Be comfortable in your seat
- Exercise your legs, feet and toes while sitting every half an hour. Upper body breathing exercises can improve circulation.
- Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol
- Avoid alcohol and food before swimming
- Never dive into water where the depth is uncertain
- Only swimming in safe water, check currents, presence of sharks, jellyfish etc
- Never drink and drive
- If hiring a vehicle, avoid motorcycles and mopeds and select larger well-maintained cars
- Use reliable taxi firm
- Know where emergency facilities are
Insurance cover, personal safety and security
Always ensure you take out insurance adequate to cover all your needs including medical repatriation in the event of serious illness. Inform the insurance company of any pre-existing medical conditions. Always protect your personal safety.