Vacations are a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture but what happens when good vacations go bad? Common travel illnesses like too much sun and sexually transmitted infections can be easily avoided if you apply common sense. But what about the nasty diseases that you might come across? Here are a few to watch out for;
Malaria – A bite from an infected mosquito could leave you with malaria, which can be potentially fatal and symptoms can include headaches and chills. Malarial diseases are found in much of the developing world (Latin America, Asia, Africa, the South Pacific, Caribbean and parts of Eastern Europe). Check whether your destination is an affected area and get yourself to your doctor or health clinic to stock up on malaria prevention medications. Also arm yourself with plenty of insect repellent lotions and sprays such as preparations that have a high DEET content. You van also buy plug in repellants and you should make sure your room has mosquito nets fitted on the windows and use the mosquito net around your bed. Wearing long sleeves and long pants in forested areas, near water and after the sun goes down will help to avoid bites.
Hepatitis – The version most likely to affect travelers is Hepatitis A as is spread through water and uncooked foods. Hepatitis A is classified as an ‘acute liver disease,’ with symptoms including general fatigue, headaches, fever, jaundice and sore muscles. Vaccinations prior to travel are highly recommended, no matter where you’re travelling to, for peace of mind.
Montezuma’s Revenge aka Traveler’s Diarrhea - This is probably the most common travel illness and unfortunately also one of the most difficult to prevent as it can be found everywhere, regardless of where you are in the world and even the standard of your accommodation. Staying in a 5 star hotel won’t make you immune unfortunately, although it is more prevalent in parts of Asia, Africa, South and Central America and the Middle East. Reduce your chances of getting diarrhea by only drinking bottled purified water and avoiding fresh fruit, salad and vegetables as they may have been washed in contaminated water. The E. coli bacteria is very sensitive to heat so ensure your food is well cooked and piping hot throughout and that all you can eat buffet is probably best avoided, no matter how tempting it looks!
Giardiasis – Another disease which is caused by contaminated food or water, which can be found anywhere in the world. Giardiasis comes from an intestinal parasite which then causes gastroenteritis, so again follow some common sense around your eating and drinking habits.
3 Things to always remember when traveling....
1 – Check with your doctor well before traveling that your vaccinations are up to date as some require boosters, or you may need new shots and make sure your basic vaccinations like tetanus, measles/mumps/rubella, diphtheria, hepatitis A and B etc are current and read up on how to be a healthy traveler.
2 – Take a first aid kit with you stocked up with everything you might need – see our handy list of what to pack in a holiday first aid kit.
3 – Common sense applied wherever you are in the world; avoid ice cubes, drink only bottled water, avoid salad and avoid food that isn’t hot throughout. See our blog post on the common travel diseases and how to avoid them.
Yellow Fever – Mosquitoes (yet again) carry the viral yellow fever disease with symptoms including flu-like signs and a fever. Yellow fever is more prevalent in South America and sub-Saharan Africa so make sure you get vaccinated prior to travel and follow the same advice under Malaria.
Dengue Fever - This nasty sounding disease is also attributed to pesky mosquitoes! Symptoms of dengue fever included severe flu-like symptoms and muscle and joint pain. Parts of the Caribbean, South Pacific, Asia, Latin America and Africa are affected and the same advice for avoiding mosquitoes applies as above under Malaria.
Norovirus – There have been several outbreaks of the Norovirus on board cruise ships lately, as large groups of people in close confines is a breeding ground for the disease. Norovirus is pretty unpleasant with symptoms including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, but is rarely fatal. The virus causes gastroenteritis and spreads through contaminated food and water and food and unfortunately there is no prevention or treatment.
Lyme Disease – The bacteria from infected tick bites can cause Lyme Disease and is found in forest areas of Asia and Europe and in certain areas of North America. Make sure you use repellants to avoid symptoms including rashes, headaches and fevers.
Typhoid – Another disease to look out for is typhoid which is spread through contaminated food and drink via a bacteria. South Asia, Africa, South and Central America and the Caribbean are higher risk areas and typhoid, which you can (and should) be vaccinated against if traveling to a high-risk area, can be fatal.