Updated: Sep 10, 2019
It's important to take care of yourself while travelling. One important way to do so is to be aware of the potential illnesses you might be more susceptible to while you travel. Here are four common travel illnesses you might encounter and strategies for avoiding them.
1. Traveller’s Diarrhoea
One of the most common illnesses you might get while travelling is traveller’s diarrhoea, which can be incredibly uncomfortable, inconvenient and even dangerous. This is contracted by eating contaminated food or water and the symptoms include urgent diarrhoea, bloating, abdominal cramps and nausea that can lead to dehydration.
In order to prevent this illness, it’s important to pay attention to the cleanliness of what you consume. Use only boiled, bottled, or effectively treated water, even for teeth brushing. Eat only hot food or food that can be peeled, such as bananas. Carrying an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can also help guarantee effective hand washing. Treatment includes hydration, medication for symptom relief (such as Loperamide), and electrolyte replacement. If symptoms persist, it is important to seek the advice of a doctor.
Contracting malaria is a risk that many travellers are aware of, especially when it comes to visiting “malarial areas,” meaning locations that have the right environment for a certain type of malaria-carrying mosquito. Symptoms can start showing up to 6 months after visiting a malarial area, so get tested for it if you experience the symptoms (chills, nausea or fever), even if it’s been some time.
Preventing malaria starts with reducing the exposure to mosquito bites. Insect repellant, clothing that covers as much skin as possible, and bed nets are all simple, yet effective ways of avoiding being bitten. There is also the option of taking a preventative medication, so speak to your doctor prior to travelling for further information. Treatment can be fairly straightforward, as long as it’s identified quickly, but it is also a very serious illness that can be fatal.
A group of related viruses, norovirus is fairly widespread and can be very disruptive, although not usually serious. It affects approximately 250 million people per year and is most likely to occur in colder climates, especially when people are spending time indoors and within close quarters. The symptoms include diarrhoea, fever, vomiting and weakness. Strategies for avoiding norovirus include good hygiene practices, as it is transmitted through contaminated food and water.
4. Dengue Fever
Although most cases of dengue fever are not serious and usually resolve within a few days, a very small percentage of cases are very serious. The virus is often either asymptomatic or mild, but symptoms, if they do appear, may include weakness, fever, headaches, nosebleeds or easy bruising.
This illness is also transmitted by mosquitoes and, therefore, the strategies of bite avoidance and prevention are very similar to malaria, including insect repellant, clothes that cover skin, and bed nets. It is important to note that mosquitoes carrying dengue fever are present during both the day and night. Additionally, unlike malaria, there is no preventative medication for dengue fever and no vaccine against the illness. There is no specific treatment, but if symptoms present, it is important to consult a doctor.