This is a guest post from our supporters Lloyds Pharmacy.
Venturing to far-flung lands is always exciting, but the wise traveler always makes sure they’re protected against whatever exotic bugs and diseases they may encounter. If in doubt, visit your GP or use an online service – they’ll be able to tell you whether you’re likely to need malaria tablets, a hepatitis travel vaccination or just a good old-fashioned traveler’s health kit. Below are some of the more common diseases travelers may encounter, and more importantly, how to avoid them:
Flickr photo by US Army Africa
Also known as traveler’s diarrhoea or the more colourful “Montezuma’s Revenge”, dysentery is an inflammation of the intestine with very unpleasant consequences. Many frequent globe-trotters will pick up this disease at one point or another, and while it’s normally not too serious, you should certainly get it checked out by a doctor to make sure it isn’t one of the nastier varieties.
Usually, the only course of treatment is to keep drinking water and wait it out, which can take anything from a few days to a couple of weeks. Prevention is better than the cure, so make sure you wash your hands before eating, after using the toilet and avoid sharing towels and facecloths. Washing your laundry on a high heat can also help to kill off any bugs nesting in there.
If you’re travelling to Asia, Africa or South America, it’s advisable to start a course of anti-malaria pills ahead of time and continue taking them after you return from your trip. Malaria is another mosquito-borne illness that can be very serious if it’s not treated promptly, so seek medical advice as soon as possible if you notice you’re developing flu-like symptoms. The most popular brand of anti-malaria pills is Malarone, but it can have a series of side-effects, so be sure to consult your doctor before taking it.
Flickr photo by USACE Europe district
A common ailment in Thailand, the South Pacific and Africa, dengue fever is spread by mosquitos and causes a nasty rash, along with fever, headaches and joint pains. It’s a viral disease with no treatment and there is no effective vaccine against it, so really it’s just another good reason to avoid mosquitos as much as possible – apply repellent liberally, sleep under nets and cover up as much skin you can while you’re out and about.
Lyme disease is spread by ticks and can be contracted on trips all over the world, but it is most common in Europe and North America. Early signs include an expanding rash around the bite and the disease can lead to shooting pains, sore muscles and joints, and eventually damage to the nervous system.
Again, the best way to avoid it is not to get bitten in the first place, so don’t skimp on insect repellent and protective clothing. If you do find a tick, remove it quickly with tweezers, but take care not to crush the body or leave the head in the skin.
Hepatitis A can be contracted through contaminated water, under-cooked food, unsafe sex and simply not maintaining basic hygiene. Vaccinations are available and should be considered, particularly if you are travelling to high-risk areas like Central and South America, Africa and Southern Asia.
Flickr photo by Fotos Gov/Ba