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Safety in Distant Destinations

June, 2006
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When it comes to planning an escape to a faraway land, dreams of adventure or revelry must come hand in hand with the reality of ensuring your health and safety during your trip. Travelers must stock up on some medicines to make your trip safe and enjoyable if you travel to those countries with less developed health-care systems and places vulnerable to some epidemics.

  A pre-travel consultation can help you to assess whether your immunization status is compatible with the recommendations for that particular region, the time of year and the type of travel that you are planning. It can also be a good opportunity to check your general immunizations and to learn more about specific vaccinations for your trip.

  Vaccination is the most effective and fundamental way to protect you and your family from many infectious diseases. Remember, you should allow sufficient time before your trip departure to ensure that the vaccine offers adequate protection. A medical consultation at least 6 weeks before departure is recommended.

  To minimize the health risks in many different environments, consulting a travel medicine physician about medication is another important issue. Remember to take adequate prescription medications to last the entire trip.

 PEK041029_308 Generally, medicines for the following common infectious diseases, listed by the World Health Organization, are necessities to pack for travel abroad — diarrhea, malaria, dengue fever, influenza, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid fever, sexually transmitted diseases, meningococcal meningitis, HIV infection, animal bites with rabies risk and legion Ella. Many of these infections can be prevented by appropriate immunizations and preventive measures.

  Becoming ill in a foreign country can be frightening, so it is best to be prepared before you leave home. Contact your local embassy for names of foreign physicians and medical facilities. Carry a copy of your doctor’s prescriptions with you and a medical summary listing your medical issues, allergies and other relevant information.

  If your illness is serious, consular officers can help you find medical assistance and inform your family or friends. It is also a wise idea to check  with your insurance company to determine what coverage your policy provides, including emergency evacuation.

  After taking so many precautions, you cannot be relieved because how you handle health details during your trip is even more crucial.

Here are tips on how to stay healthy and safe:

Ingestion of contaminated food and drink is the most common cause of illness among travellers. Remember this advice: Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it!

Wash your hands frequently with soap or an alcohol- based cleanser.

Avoid food from street vendors and sauces or condiments.

Peel all fruits.

Drink commercially bottled water or carbonated beverages.

Avoid ice.

Use bottled water when brushing your teeth.

Be sure to protect yourself with insect repellents, appropriate clothing, and bed nets if there is a risk of mosquito- borne illnesses such as malaria and dengue

Use sunscreen when necessary.

Be safety and security conscious; wear safety helmets and use seatbelts and children’s car seats.

Avoid motorcycles and overcrowded vehicles, especially at night. Avoid unnecessary risky behaviour, including unprotected sexual contact.

Be aware of the risk for deep vein thrombosis with airplane travel.

Avoid swimming and water activities in freshwater lakes or streams where there is a risk of schistosomiasis or leptospirosis.

When you return from travel, it may be advisable to see your doctor. Remember certain diseases may appear shortly after travel while others may take several months.

You should seek medical help if you experience any of the following — fever, diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice, urinary problems, rashes, genital symptoms, or flu-like illness, if you suffer from chronic illness such as HIV/AIDS, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or liver disease and if you have been away for extended travel or relocation.

If you make enough preparations, you don’t need to be too nervous about your health during your trip. Just enjoy the fantastic travel with its memorable culture and people wherever you go!

 

By Susan MacDonald, the chair of travel medicine at the United Family Hospital.

The Travel Clinic at Beijing United Family Hospital and Clinics offers these medical services for travellers:

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