06.Travel health checklist
- Visit a travel health specialist and get the appropriate vaccinations for the area you’re travelling to.
- Take out insurance to cover hospital treatment, medical evacuation, and any activities.
- To try to avoid being bitten by disease-carrying mosquitoes, pack some good repellent and a long-sleeved shirt and long pants.
- Boil, cook and/or peel food and choose bottled water.
- Avoid animals such as dogs and monkeys — they could be carrying rabies.
- Carry a traveller’s medical kit containing items such as headache tablets, antacids, antiseptic lotion, cotton wool, Band Aids or similar, latex gloves, safety pins, insect repellent and hand sanitiser. Specialised kits for diarrhoea are also available from a travel doctor.
- Have a check-up on return if you’ve been ill.
If illness strikes
Always carry your insurance company’s emergency assistance card with you and contact the company as soon as you need help — most insurance companies provide 24-hour advice to travellers. Often your insurer will make arrangements for you to have treatment.
If you suffer from diarrhoea while away (and one doctor we spoke to told us around 50% of travellers fall victim), it’s very important to keep hydrated. Seek medical attention if your symptoms last more than four days, if your diarrhoea contains blood, if you have a fever or if symptoms persist after 24 hours for children, the elderly and those with existing stomach problems.
It’s a good idea to buy a specialised medical traveller’s kit from a travel doctor if you’re travelling to areas with poor sanitation. It’ll typically contain re-hydration salts, antibiotics and Loperamide, (a 'stopper' for when you can’t afford to be glued to the toilet seat).
If you get sick after returning from overseas, tell your doctor the countries that you’ve visited in the last 12 months, since some viral, bacterial or parasitic infections can take between six weeks and a year to incubate.