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How to Avoid the Most Common Travel Illnesses

Posted: 18th August 2015 08:25

You may have been preparing for your travels for months, but have you thought about preparing for the unexpected?  Getting ill whilst travelling is undoubtedly a hindrance, stopping you exploring a location or disrupting further travel plans.  It’s important you know what to take, what to avoid and what to do whilst you’re travelling to prevent or deal with common travel illnesses.

Before You Go

Medical Equipment

Remembering to pack some basic medical equipment could save you a lot of hassle and having to fumble with a dictionary in the pharmacy.  Pack any medication you need to routinely take, pain killers and motion sickness pills if you suffer with travel sickness.  Some other things to pack could include antihistamines in case of any allergic reactions, antidiarrheal pills and insect repellent.  Although you can be well prepared before you travel, you can’t pack your whole medicine cabinet, so researching the closest pharmacy is a great idea so you know where to go if necessary.


It will be worthwhile to take extra precautions and make sure your vaccinations are upto date. Having these vaccinations is relatively easy and they could save you a lot of stress. So make sure you’re immunised, or check with your doctor if you’re unsure.  There may be a series of standard travellers’ vaccinations you can get such as a Hepatitis A or Typhoid vaccine.  But also research your destination to see what extra vaccinations you may need to book in for, some countries such as Poland and Slovakia could require a Hepatitis B vaccine.

In Transit

Staying Hydrated

Whether you’re travelling by plane, boat, or train it’s important to look after yourself whilst travelling to your destination, and especially vital on long-haul travel.  Keeping your fluid levels topped up is one of the ways you can avoid the common issue of becoming dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to dizziness, headaches and tiredness, and in extreme cases can damage your liver and affect kidney function.  To combat dehydration you should steer clear of alcohol and caffeine, or drink in combination with plenty of water.  

Keeping Moving

Keeping moving is especially important for a long haul flight, but equally will help keep you awake so you don’t miss your stop or the food trolley.  When you’re flying, particularly in a long flight, it’s worth trying to stand up and move around the cabin every hour or so.  Walking around the aeroplane will aid circulation, helping ease swelling ankles, and preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).  Although generally DVT becomes a risk and more common the older you get, it is worth keeping in mind that moving about the cabin will help keep a healthy blood circulation. 

Whilst You’re There

Food and Drink

Getting sickness or diarrhoea from food and drink abroad is not uncommon for travellers.  For food safety it is important to follow basic food hygiene rules; making sure meat is cooked thoroughly and is not cross contaminated, don’t eat anywhere which looks or seems unsanitary and regularly wash your hands.  Another thing to look out for is safe and clean food preparation particularly with fruits, vegetables and salads.  Most food outlets will be safe, but remain aware.  Equally most water throughout Europe is safe to drink but it may be worth researching before-hand, as well as avoiding ice-cubes in drinks and being ready to buy bottled water or boil your water.  Even if you’re cautious you may get sick from safe food or drink due to an array of new bacteria so arrived armed with antidiarrheal pills and keep hydrated.

Sexual Health

Sexual health whilst travelling follows the same principals as sexual health at home.  Although this may be an obvious instruction, there is an increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STD) when travelling abroad.  So practise safe sex by using contraception, specifically condoms.  It may be better for you to take condoms with you that you know are safe, or look out for the CE or Kitemark which guarantees safety.  It is important for you to not let standards slip if you’re drunk or just in that relaxed holiday mode, so remain careful and vigilant.

Insect Bites

It’s likely you’re no stranger to the irritating itch of an insect bites.  However they are not only annoying but can cause more serious problems.  Look out for bites from bugs such as mosquitos, bed bugs or biting flies.  These insects could be carriers of disease, or cause various skin reactions, and sometimes infection.  Make sure your accommodation has good hygiene, especially in bedding, and perhaps air-conditioning or screens over the windows and doors.  To protect yourself keep covered at night and use insect repellent containing the chemical DEET.  It is probably best to seek medical advice if you think the bites have become infected, or if you are having a particularly severe reaction.

Heat and Cold

Health issues can be caused by Travelling to a climate you’re not used to, which can take the form of a range of illnesses and ailments from sun burn to altitude sickness.  If you’re travelling to somewhere hot remember to be sensible with sun-screen, and keep hydrated and limited sun exposure to avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  If your location is cold, specifically mountainous, be wary of altitude sickness and issues from exposure to cold.  Make sure if you’re mountain climbing that you are wearing appropriate clothing to remain insulated to avoid hyperthermia or similar illnesses, also increase altitude gradually and stay hydrated.

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