Travel Health

The following advice has been checked by an experienced British GP however the advice is only general and you should discuss your personal needs with your doctor.

 

Before you travel

Prior to travel, it is highly recommended that you consult your doctor or travel clinic to determine if you require any appropriate travel vaccination. It would also help to ensure you are covered for any long term condition you may be suffering from and provide the opportunity to request adequate medication in advance of your travel itinerary (eg. contraception, diabetic medication, asthma inhalers). 

Some vaccination courses need to start several weeks or even months before your travel in order to be effective. It is therefore important to make an early appointment to allow for adequate preparation and vaccination. A good starting point is to determine your requirements by using the NHS 'fit for travel’ website (www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk). This provides a wealth of travel vaccination advice for your chosen destination(s). In addition, you may require antimalarial tablets for certain destinations and is vitally important to obtain adequate cover in high risk areas. Based on your previous immunisation history, your doctor, travel nurse or travel clinic advisor should be able to advise you on the most appropriate vaccinations for your chosen destination. For those living in the UK some travel vaccinations can be provided via your GP under the NHS (these are usually Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Tetanus), however other vaccinations such as Yellow Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies and anti-malarials may be charged. Your GP or travel clinic should be able to advise you on any charges applicable. Whilst this additional cost may seem ‘off-putting’, it is highly recommended to obtain the appropriate vaccinations in order to prevent serious illness or in some rare cases death, particularly in high risk areas. Some countries may not even permit you to enter without the appropriate vaccination certificates (eg. Yellow fever vaccination). 

General measures for travel include the use of mosquito repellent sprays (eg. Deet) and mosquito nets at night. If possible, wear long sleeved clothing and trousers to minimise bites, if you become concerned then it is good to be aware of the symptoms of malaria. Always drink bottled water (or cooled boiled water) and ensure adequate hand hygiene particularly when handling food. Consume food from trusted sources eg. hotels, reputable restaurants or adequately prepared self-catered food. It is also important to know the location of the nearest medical facility should an emergency arise and have the relevant contact numbers to hand. 

It is vital to take out adequate travel insurance for your trip. The most important element of travel insurance is the coverage for medical expenses. If you are injured or fall ill whilst traveling, insurance companies not only cover your costs but can arrange treatment and even organise repatriation if necessary. However, if you take inadequate travel insurance cover, do not declare any pre-existing medical conditions or are in breach of your terms and conditions, you may be left without cover and owing thousands or even millions in health costs due to an unsuccessful claim. If you do fall ill or are seriously injured whilst abroad, do not hesitate to seek the appropriate medical assistance without delay - it is not worth taking any chances. 

 

While you are away

While you are away you must keep track of any medication you need to take. If you start to suffer from an illness or an injury then you should find a hospital or medical clinic as soon as possible. Travel guides often include information of local medical clinics. If you are in a non-English speaking country then you should try and talk to a trusted employer, tour leader or hotel manager, or call your insurance company. For insurance purposes you often need to obtain a note from the doctor you visit and receipts of any payments you make. It is a good idea to keep your insurance certificate with you at all times as treatment in some countries can be delayed while you prove your cover or ability to pay. 

It is important that you keep yourself protected from the sun whilst abroad. A bout of sunstroke can ruin your time abroad, while skin damage can lead to long term health issues such as skin cancer. Even in countries that have high cloud cover the sun can be strong. It is recommend that you wear a hat and sunglasses and apply sun cream regularly, particularly if you are spending time in water. The British Skin Foundation recommends a minimum of SPF 30 even when tanning. Some countries lack the regulations on the UV protection that sunglasses bought in the west are subject to; therefore can be best to buy before you travel.

 

When you return

When you return is crucial that you complete the full course of antimalarial medication as you are still at risk of infection despite having left the malaria region.

If you need to make any claims for medical bills you must contact you insurer as soon as possible as many insurers have time limits on making claims.

If you have any health concerns from your trip then you should contact your doctor or a confidential advice service immediately.

 

Sexual Health

As at home you should always practice safe sex. Instances of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) remain in the traveling community and can be higher in some countries popular with young travellers. If you do become concerned for your health there are sexual health clinics in many of the countries you are likely to visit and are usually found in all good travel guides. You should also keep in mind that the contraceptive pill may be less effective whilst taking antimalarial tablets or if you have an upset stomach or experience vomiting. Condoms produced in developing nations may not be as effective and can be smaller than those found in the west.

You may want to discuss longer acting contraceptive options with your GP or sexual health clinic. Methods such as the contraceptive implant or coil can be fitted before you travel and can last for up to 3 years. Remember that these methods do not protect against STDs. Speak to your GP or family planning advisor to discuss the pros and cons.

 

Useful Links

Center for Disease Control
The CDC offers advice and up to date news on traveller health.
http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/

 

fitfortravel
Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK
http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk/home.aspx

 

Marie Stopes
Marie Stopes UK provides contraceptive and sexual health advice for men and women
www.mariestopes.org.uk

 

NHS Contraception
Useful advice on contraception
http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/contraception-guide/Pages/contraception.aspx

 

NHS Live Well - Travel Health
Advice for people travelling abroad, including malaria, travel vaccinations, EHIC, travel insurance, DVT and jet lag.
http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/travelhealth/Pages/Travelhealthhome.aspx

 

MD Travel Health
Worldwide travel health information and recommendations, updated daily. 
www.mdtravelhealth.com

 

Travel Health Apps

The NHS provides a list of travel health apps http://apps.nhs.uk/apps/travel/