Thursday, September 3, 2015
While we all would like to think that our holiday will be incident and illness free, the truth is that 50% of travellers to less developed countries will develop some form of travel-related disease within 48 hours of reaching their destination.
Each year, 20%-50% of international travellers develop Travellers Diarrhoea (TD), a number that adds up to around 10 million people. It is the most common affliction to affect travellers, especially those who are travelling to lesser-developed countries. The most common symptoms of TD are an upset stomach, needing to open your bowels more frequently and loose stools. This can often be accompanied by painful stomach cramps, a high temperature and nausea. If you experience any of these symptoms during your holiday, it is important to stay hydrated, so drink plenty of fluids and consult a doctor immediately.
These are scary statistics and one that not many people know. Of course, you won’t be thinking about falling ill on your holiday, but it is vital that you consider the risks and how to avoid them before leaving for your trip. Depending on what part of the world you are visiting, there are certain things that you should be extremely cautious of, and some things you should completely avoid, in order for you to have a happy and healthy holiday:
Many lesser-developed countries do not have safe and clean water, both in the rivers and lakes and from the taps. Even more developed countries, such as Egypt, have bacteria in their drinking water which, when swallowed by someone not used to it, can cause severe illness. For this reason, you should always drink bottled water when you are travelling and don’t have ice in your drinks. Also, try to avoid taking a dip in the local river or lake as this could make you extremely ill. Dirty and contaminated water is one of the main causes of TD.
If you are unsure about what it is, don’t eat it. Many cultures eat foods that Western travellers digestive systems may not be equipped to deal with. Intense spices, flavourings or meat not cooked as well as you are used to can cause an upset digestive system and lead to TD.
Any tourist destination is bound to be full of small companies or individuals offering once in a lifetime trips, outings or activities. However, you should not enter into anything blindly. Just because someone says they offer the best service and are relatively cheap does not mean they are qualified or insured. Do your research before you travel and find reputable companies who you can trust will implement health and safety precautions in order to keep you safe.
To help ensure that your holiday is healthy and illness-free, it is best to be prepared. Take with you any medicines you regularly take along, with some added extras to help keep you at your best. Probiotics make for great travelling companions, as they will help your body to maintain a healthy digestive system, as you bombard it with new foods and flavours. Also, take with you nutrient replacing medicines and diarrhoeic tablets so that should you become ill, you can help to fight it.
Nutrient replacements will help to ensure you don’t get dehydrated if you develop TD and give your body back some of the nutrients it need to function. Paracetamol and ibuprofen tablets should also be on your packing list, as they will help to bring down any high temperatures caused by illness.
It is sometimes a requirement, if you are traveling to certain countries, that you receive a set of immunisations from your GP before you travel. It is essential that you find out if you need this before your departure, as they will protect you from diseases which may be rife within the country you are visiting.
It is important to be prepared, in order to ensure your holiday is a healthy and happy one. Do your research on your destination and pack any medications you may need if you get ill, as once you are in a foreign country you may struggle to find a pharmacist or doctor who speaks English to help you out. Avoid any risky foods or drinks and be careful who you choose to lead your activities. Follow this and you will be well on your way to a holiday to remember- for all the right reasons.
If you need guidance to prepare for your holiday, you can always talk to our dedicated GP, Dr Helen Webberley. She can advise you on different medications required for different countries, prescribe you with suitable treatment and guide your follow up treatment, in case you will need one.