Australians love travelling but all too often the stories of the fun times are overshadowed by tales of sickness and illness. In fact, people getting sick on their travels is a very common occurrence and some Government statistics show overseas travellers have a 50 per cent chance of suffering from a travel-related illness.
The most common travel-related sickness is gastrointestinal infection which is generally picked up from poorly prepared food and untreated water. But there are other travel-related diseases which are more serious, and these include infectious diseases such as rabies, hepatitis A and B, and typhoid.
To minimise the risk of disease and illness, some planning is needed and when planning your overseas trip, one of the first things to think about is getting the appropriate vaccinations. You should be up-to-date with vaccinations for tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and polio. In addition, travel experts recommend that measles, mumps, rubella and hepatitis A vaccinations should be on the list.
Additional vaccinations may also be needed depending on where you intend to travel. Travellers to some areas may also need to be protected against meningococcal, meningitis and rabies – and that is not a complete list. Check with your travel expert but plan well ahead and allow up to two months for your vaccination program.
Malaria is also an issue for travellers to some areas and while this disease is deadly in many cases, only about 40 per cent of Australians carry antimalarial medicine on their travels. But medicines are only part of the story and avoiding being bitten by a mosquito is the best prevention so carrying effective insect repellents is a very useful precaution and one which your community pharmacist can help you select.
The most common problem for travellers is gastrointestinal infection which can cause great discomfort and turn part of your dream holiday into a nightmare. Some simple hygiene procedures are an important part of helping to avoid such infections as many infectious organisms are spread by hand-to-hand contact and then hand to mouth.
Hand cleansing alcohol-based gels should be packed for your travels. There are also a number of medicines available that you can take with you and once again your community pharmacist can help you select the ones most appropriate for you. It is important to talk to your pharmacist as they will take into account any medical conditions you may have and also any other medicines you may be taking when selecting the appropriate travel medicines.
In fact, your pharmacist can help you prepare a customised travel first aid kit that is specifically targeted at your needs and for the destinations you are visiting.