Sunday, July 17, 2016
Summer is the time of year that many of us look to get away and jet off abroad. Whilst we have some stunning destinations on our doorstep in Europe, there are still a large number of us that venture further afield.
However, with these faraway destinations comes a whole host of different considerations to factor in before you travel, one of which should be vaccinations. In many popular tourist destinations around the world, such as Thailand, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa, the climates are very different and home to a number of diseases that aren’t common in the UK and Europe. This means you may need additional vaccinations or medication to protect you from diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, and typhoid whilst you’re away.
Before any planned trip outside Europe, you should always contact your GP or practice nurse for vaccination advice at least eight weeks prior to travel. The NHS does provide some free travel vaccinations, this includes a combined booster for diphtheria, polio and tetanus, as well as hepatitis A, typhoid, and cholera. Other travel vaccinations like yellow fever, rabies, tuberculosis, hepatitis B and C, along with tick born encephalitis and Japanese encephalitis will need to be paid for.
Naturally, the level of risk and the additional immunisations you require will depend on where you’re travelling. Some diseases are more common in certain parts of the world, so doing some research and talking to your GP or visiting a travel health clinic before you go, will ensure you get the right vaccinations to reduce the risk of contracting a disease whilst you’re away.
Carefully considering the destination is of paramount importance as countries. For example, African, Asian and South American countries have much higher risks of being exposed to yellow fever, rabies, tetanus and hepatitis A and B, along with malaria through mosquito bites.
Making sure you’re aware of the potential diseases and have the right vaccinations and antimalarial treatments, along with best practices for avoiding exposure such as insect bites is essential to protecting yourself.
In addition to this, it’s also important to consider where you’ll be staying and the activities you’ll be partaking in during your trip. If you’re traveling to a tropical destination, but planning on staying in urban areas, you’re probably less likely to be exposed to some of these harmful diseases and there may be a lower number of disease carrying insects, such as mosquitos, in these areas too.
However, if you plan to go off the beaten track, staying in more rural areas or perhaps you’re doing aid work with local residents in poor, remote parts, where they may have contaminated drinking water and more cases of disease, you could be putting yourself at a greater risk of exposure. Also, if you’re planning on spending a lot of time outdoors, possibly trekking in forests, jungles or swimming in freshwater lakes and rivers, you are likely to have a higher exposure level and be more prone to coming into contact with diseases that are common in these environments.
Furthermore, the time of year you will be travelling and length of your trip can also play a vital role in the risk level. Naturally, the longer you stay in a country or a particular environment, the higher your chances of becoming exposed to diseases will be. There are also certain times of year that can increase the risk and exposure levels to diseases. In tropical climates, the rainy, monsoon seasons will have a far higher population of insects that can carry diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. Therefore, if you’re going away during these times your chances of being bitten and potentially contracting a disease are vastly increased.
Finally, think about your age and health. Very young or older travellers will often have weaker immune systems, as well as those travellers who have existing medical conditions. These factors can make you more vulnerable to contracting a disease or infection, or may determine whether you can have a particular vaccination.
The important thing to remember if you are planning a trip outside of Europe, where there may be a greater chance of exposure to disease, is to always seek medical advice first. Having a consultation with your doctor, practice nurse or local travel clinic will ensure you have all the right information on vaccinations and travel advice for your specific destination to reduce your chances of exposure.
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