It has famously been said that travel broadens the mind but loosens the bowels. And indeed it is a truism that to enjoy travel fully you need to remain healthy... MASTA are your experts in all Travel Health queries and they have given us a great list of what to do before we even start packing our suitcase.
So how do we get started?
There is a lot to consider starting with your own health. We do not leave our current health behind when we travel, ensure any health conditions are well managed before you leave home.
You may need to seek advice from your GP or specialist. Ensure your insurance knows about any health conditions you have. Make sure you know what medicines you normally take in case you need more whilst you are away.
Then you need to think about what health risks are present in your destination. Once you know what illnesses occur in the area you are visiting, how do you make an assessment of the risk to you? You need to know how easy it would be to get an infection and how you might prevent it.
To make this judgement, you also need to know if any activities will increase your risk of these infections. So you have another factor to consider. For example, if you are taking a safari will you have other risks of illness that are different to a beach holiday? Some infections are more likely if you are travelling rurally such as yellow fever. What about taking a cruise; are the health risks different to staying in a hotel on land? Norovirus and influenza outbreaks are a known risk for cruise holidays.
The next thing is to think about what you can do to prevent these infections. Unfortunately only a small number of these travel-related illnesses can be prevented by vaccination or by taking medicines. Modern vaccines are pretty safe and effective but may require several doses. Some may be provided without cost at your GP but others will not.
So you will need to consider if you want or need vaccinations/malaria tablets for your trip. And you will also need to think about the many illnesses that could occur for which we have no preventive vaccine or medicine.
Then you need to understand how to prevent them. Some illnesses may be prevented by vaccinations but they are not all ‘free’. Some vaccinations may be essential to get in or out of a country and some may be recommended for all travellers to a destination. Some may be worth considering because of what you are planning to do on your travels.
If you are going to a malarial area, it is really important to get the right advice and take medicine if advised. Know steps to take if you develop any symptoms following a trip. For example, it may be worth leaving it for a few days if you have simple diarrhoea to see if it will settle but it is important to treat feverish illnesses as an emergency if you have been in a malarial area.
It is important to read your insurance exclusions to know what you are not covered for as the health infrastructure in countries varies widely. If you are travelling to an EU country you should have got your European Health Insurance card (EHIC) which is free and can be obtained from: http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/Pages/about-the-ehic.....
There are many helpful websites for advice including the Foreign and commonwealth Office https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice who provide safety and security advice for countries. If you are travelling to multiple countries you may wish to get multicountry advice from the MASTA site: https://www.masta-travel-health.com/
Be sure to visit MASTA at Destinations: The Holiday & Travel Show 2019 in both London on the MASTA stand and Manchester on stand E2.