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Around the world in 15 travel health tips

It’s time for holidays! Your suitcase is packed, you’re ready to leave, and cannot wait to get a proper tan to show on social media. Mark Twain used to say that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”, but unfortunately the health problems we may come across while travelling are far less poetic. Danger is always lurking, especially in far-flung and unexplored destinations. A simple stomach upset or sunstroke may be enough to turn the holiday you’ve been dreaming about all winter, into an unforgettable nightmare.

Each destination has its own set of risks, but this golden rule applies to any location you visit: never travel unprepared. For this reason we asked delegates attending the 2016 North European Travel Medicine Conference to write down some useful health tips for responsible globetrotters. From visiting Tanzania to avoiding smelly feet, here is everything you need to know to prevent potential drama – and make the most of your holidays.

To help you dive into this sea of wisdom, we’ve collected some of the best tips for your perusal. Happy travelling!

Image Credit: ‘Mosquito’ by FotoshopTofs. CCO Public Domain via Pixabay.

A Bug’s Life

  • Always wash your feet when you arrive in the tropics. Mosquitoes are attracted to smelly feet and ankles.
  • When in Northern Europe, be aware of ticks: use repellent.
  • If travelling ants are on the move, in the direction of your house or tent, use kerosene around the perimeter – it will make the ants go in another direction.
  • When camping or staying in any simple accommodation, always check your boots BEFORE putting them on (in case of spiders or scorpions etc).

Learning from experience

  • Instead of a face flannel ‒ take a jay cloth: light and easy to dry.
  • Duct tape can be used for a multitude of situations: to hold up a mosquito net, to cover holes in net, to hold footwear together, to mend a backpack, could even be used to strap an ankle.
  • Take half as many clothes and twice as much money.
  • Don’t forget to put sun cream on the backs of your hands.
  • Bugs are not the only dangerous things. Look out for plants – they can be beautiful but may be harmful as well.
Image Credit: ‘Colored Pencils’ by stux. CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.

Customs and traditions

  • Dress local: make sure you don’t look like a tourist when you’re in less safe areas.
  • Be careful when talking to officials and always be polite: sometimes they have a low threshold for travellers. Don’t give them any excuse to arrest you.
  • Pens are a great gift for children in developing countries – take as many as you can!
  • When taking a taxi in Thailand, ask for “Takametr” (i.e. to turn on the meter). If the driver says “Yes”, stay. If he/she says something else, change taxi.

Better safe than sorry

  • Scan all important documents into an email address that you can access around the world, so that if you get them lost or stolen, you can still access your information (for example your Yellow Fever Certificate).
  • Wash your hands ‒ and knife, fork, and spoon.
  • Keep a referee whistle handy: if in fear of attack or mugging, blow ‒ it will give you enough time to get away.
  • Take a door wedge on your travels – hotel and hostel doors open inwards so put it under your closed door at night to stay safe from intruders/staff with a master key.
  • If you’re travelling to busy cities, write your mobile number on your children’s forearm in marker pen – if you get separated people will be able to call you.

Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink

  • Carry a water purifier when in the desert. Local tribes store rain mainly in limestone, underground storage areas.
  • Take care with eating salads – the water used to wash them is not always pure.

Medical kit and caboodle

  • If you are going to undertake a quick trek to Kilimanjaro you should consider taking acetazolamide to prevent altitude sickness.
  • Spray DEET into the air and walk through the mist. This stops the mosquitoes biting through your hair.
  • Always carry a small tube of anti-bacterial hand gel. You may not always get the opportunity to wash your hands.

Carousel Image Credits: ‘Travel Tips from the 2016 North European Travel Medicine Conference’ Copyright Oxford University Press.

Featured Image Credit: ‘Mountains’ by Unsplash. CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay.

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