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The Biggest Health Hazards of Traveling




Scientist examining sample in the lab

The conditions which make a location ideal for tourism are also the conditions which allow infectious diseases to thrive. When you go abroad, you may not suffer only from culture shock, but a shock to your immune system as well. You will likely be exposed to foods and animals which your body is unprepared for. Traveling also poses a risk by putting you in close contact with many strangers in a short space of time. You are more than 100% likelier to fall ill on a plane, than in daily life. You will also likely be using accommodation which is filled with other people’s germs. While exploring new cultures and ideas, be sure to avoid the following common travel related illnesses.

Diarrhea and Food Poisoning

The most common travel illness is diarrhea. It effects between 30% and 70% of travelers, depending on the destination. Like food poisoning, it usually comes from food which is undercooked or prepared in a dirty environment. Mild diarrhea shouldn’t be a problem, but it can be painful and lead to nausea and dehydration.

Prevention and Cures

As this is the most common travel illness, ensure that you are covered for compensation while abroad. If you require medical attention overseas, this will give you peace of mind financially. Avoiding diarrhea completely may be difficult, but aim to eat in places which are clean or prepare your own meals, using filtered water to clean vegetables. When it does strike, increase your consumption of water and electrolytes. Seek proper medication from a pharmacy as soon as possible.

Insect Bites and Infections

Depending on where you spend most of your time, you may not have many encounters with genuinely dangerous insects. Head deep into the rainforest, however, and they become life threatening. Common insect related infections include malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever.

Prevention and Cures

Before you leave, give your nurse a visit and ask which vaccinations you need for the area you are traveling to. They will be able tell you the most common or dangerous diseases you may be exposed to and ensure you are fully protected. Do this several weeks in advance to allow time for your body to become immune. If you are already ill from an insect bite, seek medical attention immediately.

Altitude Sickness

Heading into the Andes, Alps or Himalayas? One problem you may be underestimating is altitude sickness, which feels much like a hangover, but is much more serious. You may feel nauseous and dizzy, while having difficulty breathing.

Prevention and Cures

Always keep a close eye on your altitude and don’t ascend too quickly. If you do land in a mountainous region, give yourself a few days to adjust before climbing higher. Paracetamol can help with headaches, while the pharmacy may have medication specifically for altitude sickness. If it gets too much and isn’t going away, then the only cure is to head back downwards to sea level.
A good vacation can be ruined by illness, so take the time to protect yourself. Talk to your nurse about vaccinations and research the most likely conditions in the area you are visiting. Travel insurance will cover any medical costs, but seek treatment early if illness does strike.

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