When you are travelling you are going to be exposed to some weird and wonderful things, some of which will not like you, so it is vital to know how to stay healthy on your travels. Knowing what to do when a medical situation arises is the difference between having the trip of a lifetime and coming home early. Don’t let an illness ruin your travels.
Macca Sherifi, author of Your Round the World Trip Planner, knows a little bit about backpacking and travelling. He should do; he’s travelled to over 50 countries, volunteered in Bangladesh, and worked in both Australia and China.
It’s safe to say he’s messed up a fair few times on his travels too. In India he battled with amoebic dysentery (see September’s magazine for more on this), and in Indonesia he was put down and out with a tropical parasite for two weeks.
Always a popular topic, Macca give us his top tips on how to stay healthy on your travels.
Before you go
Get the vaccinations you need well before you go, sort out anti-malarial tablets (if you need them), and wise up on what to eat and drink. Also, make sure you take precautions against sexually transmitted infections. That means taking a few condoms (yes, you too ladies). Trust me; you will be glad you do.
Are you insured?
Unfortunately, according to insurance company Covermore, more than 30% of young travellers leave on their trip uninsured or underinsured. When it comes to forking out for damages when a simple £100 insurance plan would have covered you, it could cost you thousands of pounds, if not tens of thousands of pounds, so make sure you are insured.
Find out if you need any vaccinations or not
You don’t always need vaccinations for travelling abroad. If you are nipping over the pond to the States or you are travelling through Europe, then you are good to go without any vaccinations. Also, despite being on the other side of the world, you don’t need vaccinations for Australia and New Zealand. However, if you are planning an epic round the world adventure, then it is likely you will need some.
Almost one in four UK travellers don’t have any vaccinations before they go away despite travelling to areas that have life-threatening infectious diseases. Don’t be a statistic.
This is something that you are just going to have to get, so take yourself off to your GP or a travel clinic, talk through where you are travelling to and find out if you need any vaccinations or not.
Don’t keep all of your medication in one place
If you have any pre-existing medical conditions that require regular medication, ensure that you have enough for your entire trip.
When travelling it is always a good idea to divide your medication between your day bag and your backpack in case one of them gets lost or stolen. The phrase “don’t put all your tablets in one basket” springs to mind here.
Malaria is a serious subject. Approximately 2,000 travellers return to the UK with malaria every year, and many more suffer while they are on the road. Make sure this isn’t you.
Obviously the way to protect yourself against malaria is to take some anti-malarial tablets. There are three main types of anti-malarial tablets – Doxycycline, Malarone and Chloroquine Avloclor. The type of drug you take will depending on where you are travelling and your own medical history.
Get into a routine of taking your anti-malarial pills just before you go to bed at night. By falling asleep straight away, it will counteract any nausea that you may have which is a common side effect.
Take a comprehensive medical kit
A fairly comprehensive medical kit (you can get these from most pharmacies and supermarkets these days) can make life a lot easier when in some of the more remote areas of the globe since it gives you a degree of self-sufficiency as well as peace of mind.
It is always advisable to carry your own set of sterile equipment when outside of Western Europe, North America and Australasia just in case you find yourself in a situation that requires a wee injection.
Many countries believe in giving injections just for the sake of it, very often containing nothing more than saline solution (or salty water to you and me), so ensure that an injection is truly necessary and then ensure they use your needles. A lot of countries re-use needles, and you really don’t want the risk of HIV / AIDS when you have got your own to use.
Watch out for the water
One thing you always need to check is whether it is safe to drink the water of not. Typically, a lot of backpackers and travellers get ill from something simple such as brushing their teeth with tap water, or eating a salad that has been washed in the sink beforehand. Make sure you read up on whether it is safe to drink water. If not, buy bottled water. Lots of it.
If you manage to do all of those things and keep your wits about you everything will be fine. Remember this mantra; if it seems unsafe, then it probably is.
If you are looking for more advice and information on how to stay healthy on your travels, you can download Macca’s ebook Your Round the World Trip Planner for free. In it, he goes into much more detail on what to do before you go.