Health Advice

Backpacking

People of all ages are taking to the open road, seeking an adventure of a lifetime. This type of holiday will leave you with fantastic memories that will last a life time, with stunning sights and scenery coupled with sheer exhilaration and freedom. However, before you go, make sure you have thought through the following issues so you can enjoy your once in a life time trip.

Vaccinations

Check your vaccination requirements at least 6 months prior to your trip. Speak with your GP about any boosters you may need, and about any other vaccinations recommended for the areas you are planning to travel to. Make sure this is not elft until the last minute, as some jabs cannot be taken within three months of another jab, so make this your first priority!

Ensure that you are in good health before you leave. Get a dentist check up - this will lessen the risk of needing emergency treatment abroad. Keep a record of your blood group, and consider joining the Blood Care Foundation, should you require emergency blood while away.

Travel Supplies

Take a well-stocked first aid kit with you and, if required, enough prescription medication for the trip. Check out our pre-travel shopping list and note the essential items needed for your trip to make sure you have everything you need with you.

Prevention of Accidents

Accidents can increases the risk of HIV or Hepatitis B & C if you require a blood transfusion in a high-risk destination.

  • Records show there are more tourist deaths in road accidents or drowning incidents than from diseases contracted abroad! So make sure you are careful with swimming; don’t go too far out into the sea if you are not a confident swimmer.
  • Never drink alcohol before swimming. Even a couple of drinks can impair your judgements.
  • Remember many countries will not drive on the same side of the road as we do in the UK. Check this out before you travel so you can be prepared, particularly if you are hiring a vehicle yourself.
  • It’s also worth remembering that a lot of the roads abroad are not as well kept as the roads in Britain. Many can be badly maintained and bumpy, and roads tend to be narrow and winding, so drive extra safely.
  • Never drink alcohol before driving.
  • Always swim with others, keep check on tides, currents and strong winds.
  • Be careful when using a lilo at sea, as currents can change swiftly and could sweep the airbed out to sea. Although it may feel relaxing, make sure you do not drop off on a lilo at sea! If you feel tried, take to the beach or by the pool instead.
  • Allow at least one hour after eating a large meal before taking to the sea or pool.
  • Always look for emergency exits and check balconies, fire exits and first aid arrangements on arriving at your chosen accommodation.

Malaria Risk

Check out your malaria risk prior to leaving for your trip. It’s worth remembering that mosquitoes feed between dusk and dawn and are most active in low light hours after dusk, and in the hours prior to dawn. It is therefore important that repellents are used after evening time to prevent being bitten.

Where possible, use a repellent that contains a natural-based repellent such as lemon or eucalyptus, or those that have DEET. Apply liberally to the entire body, even areas that you would normally have covered, as a precaution. Make sure to keep reapplying your chosen repellent, as they normally have a life span of just four hours. After this time, you are not protected.

While clothing alone will not protect you against mosquito bites, it can help in prevention. Clothing that covers a large proportion of the body, such as long sleeve shirts, full length trousers, and socks, are helpful in preventing you from being bitten. Although mosquitoes can bite through different materials to penetrate the skin, wearing these types of clothing will substantially lower the risk. It’s worth remembering denim jeans and canvas boots will make it more difficult for mosquitoes to penetrate the material, although in hot climates this may be not be ideal for all travellers.

Sex Files

Sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia, Hepatitis B and HIV are easily contracted if precautions are not taken. Casual sexual behaviour abroad can increase the risk of contracting HIV by 300-fold.

It only take one time unprotected to contract an STI. Don’t take the risk! Make sure you have a supply of condoms with you, whether or not you intend to use them. They should be bought at home, before travelling, as in many countries local condoms can be destroyed by heat and are often of a poorer quality. Go for the Extra Safe variety just in case. The Pill can protect against pregnancy, but will offer no protection against STI’s whatsoever.

If once you return home you have any unusual rash, discharge or soreness, you should stop having sex immediately and see your Doctor or local Genital Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic, where they can conduct a series of tests for you and offer advice, free contraception and treatment. All this is confidential.

Travellers Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is the most common health problem that effects travellers. Almost everybody has experienced this at some point on their journeys, and know how restrictive and uncomfortable it can be. Normally, this is caused by consuming food or drink that does not suit your body. Any food or water from an infected source can cause traveller's diarrhoea. The onset of this normally occurs three days into your holiday, and can continue for up to 10 days after return. Normally, the illness will die down after rest and rehydration, within 48 hours.

How to Avoid Traveller's Diarrhoea

  • Stick to bottled water!
  • Remember that ice cubes will be made using the local water, so avoid these from your drinks. You could always make some yourself using bottled water if you have apartment accommodation.
  • Always remember to brush your teeth using bottled water. Although you don’t intend to drink any of the water you out in your mouth, you may swallow some by accident. It only takes a small amount to upset your stomach.
  • Check the seal is in place when buying bottled water abroad and ask to open the water yourself. If you think the bottle may have been opened, don’t take the risk and go for carbonated water instead, again asking to open the bottle yourself.
  • Be careful not to accidentally consume water when you are in the shower or washing your face.
  • Avoid roadside food vendors selling ice cream and unwashed fruit.
  • If you are eating from a buffet, be wary of food kept warm under food lamps, as these can be a source of infection.
  • Eat from a buffet service early, as soon as the food is bought out, to make sure it is a fresh as possible.
  • Avoid unpasturised milk, shellfish, soft cheeses, lukewarm food and empty restaurants!
  • Remember; food should either be piping hot, or freezing cold.
  • If you are self catering, always boil water before using it in cooking.
  • Keep your personal hygiene standards high. Always wash your hands before eating, and after using the toilet. Keep a hand sanitiser with you for extra convenience.
  • If you get diarrhoea, drink plenty of clear, clean fluids. You may want to take some medication with you in case this happens.
  • Avoid seafood and abide by the "cook it, boil it or peel it" rule when eating in local restaurants.
  • Avoid salads at restaurants, particularly in areas of high risk of infection and poor sanitation.
  • When swimming avoid swallowing water in swimming pools, lakes or the sea.

You can purchase products such as Dioralyte, which contain rehydration salts consisting of sugars and salts (glucose, sodium chloride, potassium chloride and disodium hydrogen citrate) to replace body fluids lost as a result of acute diarrhoea. Antibiotics, as advised by your doctor, should be taken if the condition does not improve or worsens. If after 24-48 hours the diarrhoea does not improve or worsens it is good to seek medical attention, as the diarrhoea could indicate other conditions.

Sun Care

As the Australians say - Slip, Slap, Slop - Slip on a shirt, Slap on a hat, and Slop on some sun cream.

Sun creams are often applied too thinly, and are not regularly applied throughout the day. Sun protection begins to loose it’s effectiveness over time and will need to be applied at least every 3-4 hours. It should also be applied 30minutes before exposure to the sun, whereas many people don’t do this. Others will go into the sea and into pools, without realising their sun cream is not waterproof. The water will instantly remove the cream from the body, meaning you have no protection. You should always try to use lotions that are waterproof, especially on children who are constantly in and out of the pool, exposing themselves to the high temperatures with no or little protection.

The higher the SPF (sun protection factor) on your cream, the greater the protection against UVB rays. UVB rays are responsible for burning of the skin, but while all creams protect against UVB rays, not all protect against UVA rays. Some travellers presume both UVA and UVB rays are protected in all sun creams but this is not the case and travellers should be more aware of this. UVA protection is usually rated separately between 2 and 4, so make sure you buy a sun cream that offers both!

You should also consider your clothing when you are exposed to the sun for long periods of time. Wear sunglasses to protect the delicate skin near the eyes, and always wear a hat to protect the head and back of the neck. It is also wise to wear tops that cover the shoulders as these can often become burnt. By avoiding the sun between 11am and 3pm you can prevent sun burning and overexposure, as this is the time span where the sun is at it‘s peak.

It’s also wise to drink plenty of non alcoholic drinks while in the heat. Water in particular will help to keep you alert and your body hydrated, as you loose more water in heat due to perspiration.

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