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Tickets booked? Accommodation settled? Visa applied?

Planning for a trip can be busy and fun, but in the midst of the excitement it is easy to forget about travel health issues. Read on to find out if you are indeed ready for your new adventures. 

 

To get the most out of your holiday, make sure you are in the pink of health. Speak to your doctor to find out more about:

  • Necessary vaccinations
  • Preparing your medication if you have a chronic condition
  • Packing a travel first aid kit

 

In our excitement, we can overlook other small but important pre-travel preparations to safeguard our health while we are overseas. Always be safe, not sorry.

  • Take time to read up about the health conditions in your destination country
  • Purchase travel insurance
  • E-register with Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Provide a copy of your itinerary to your family
  • Prepare a health card that contains your vital information

 

Always be aware of your health, the risks around you, and remember to adhere to the following safety practices.

Always practise personal protection

  • Wash your hands with soap, or use a hand sanitiser before meals and after using the toilet
  • Take steps to protect yourself against mosquitoes
  • Know the risks for blood-borne diseases

Drink only from safe/reputable sources

  • Only drink bottled water
  • Avoid ice
  • Avoid drinking or brushing your teeth with tap water

Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it

  • Make sure your food is thoroughly cooked
  • Avoid salads and cut fruits if you are unsure of its freshness and cleanliness
  • Avoid street vendors, chef specials and whole-day buffets

 

Listed below are just some of the common diseases that you should look out for when you are overseas. If you discover that you are showing some of these symptoms, monitor your condition and consult a doctor where necessary.

Food and Water Borne Diseases

These diseases are contracted when you consume food or drinks from unsafe or unclean sources.

DiseaseSymptoms Prevention
Travellers’ Diarrhoea Continuous diarrhoea, possibly with fever and dehydration Vaccination – some diarrhoeal diseases (e.g. Typhoid) can be prevented through vaccination


Hand sanitiser (to a certain extent)


Wash your hands with clean water before eating


Eat/buy food only from safe sources

Hepatitis A ​Fever, nausea, fatigue, poor appetite, yellowing of eyes and skin, dark urine, pale stools



Mosquito Borne Diseases

These diseases are contracted when you are bitten by mosquitoes that carry these viruses.

DiseaseSymptoms Prevention
Dengue Fever Fever, headache, rash, eye/joint/muscle pain Apply insect repellent to all exposed skin


Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved clothing and long pants, especially when outdoors at night


Sleep under a mosquito net or in a room where the windows are fitted with fine wire netting


For Malaria, speak to your doctor about anti-Malaria tablets.

MalariaFever, chills, shivering, headache, tiredness, vomiting, yellowing of eyes and skin, dark urine


Yellow Fever ​Fever, headache, vomiting, backache, yellowing of eyes and skin, bleeding of gums, blood in urine



Air Borne Diseases

These diseases are contracted when you breathe in the germs that are expelled by an infected person near you.

​​DiseaseSymptomsPrevention
SARS / Influenza / Avian Influenza High fever (> 38*), cough, breathing difficulty ​Practise good personal hygiene by washing your hands with soap and water or using a hand sanitiser


Tuberculosis​Persistent cough, weight loss, phlegm with blood


Recognise the symptoms to seek treatment early, and alert the doctor if the symptoms persist


Remember your recent travel history especially to high-risk countries

Chickenpox Fever, with red spots on the body and face which turn into blisters Vaccination – the chickenpox vaccine is safe and effective in protecting those who have never had chickenpox

Blood Borne Diseases

These diseases are contracted through the exchange of blood and bodily fluids, through (but not limited to) blood transfusions, the use of non-sterilised needles and having unprotected sex.

Disease Symptoms Prevention
Hepatitis B Jaundice (yellowing eyes and skin), fever, nauseaHepatitis B vaccination
HIVFever, aching muscles and joints, sore throat, swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck​Do not abuse drugs or share needles


Avoid casual or unprotected sex

​Condoms, if used properly, can reduce the risk of getting HIV. It is advisable to bring along your own condoms

 

Seek medical attention immediately for

  • Symptoms that cannot be controlled e.g. continuous diarrhoea
  • Symptoms in young children (e.g. vomiting, diarrhoea)

Always maintain hydration

  • Use oral rehydration salts (sachets)
  • Make your own emergency rehydration fluids with 4 heaped teaspoons of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 litre of water

Activate your travel insurance if you are seriously ill and require emergency transport home for appropriate medical attention

 

If you have been ill during your holiday, it is good practice to return to the doctor for a thorough check-up if

  • Your symptoms persist
  • You develop symptoms within a week of returning home

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References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID), Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ), Air Travel; 2011 (updated 2011, July 1). Available at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2012/chapter-6-conveyance-and-transportation-issues/air-travel.htm

  2. National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, Wash Your Hands (updated 2013, February 14). Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/features/handwashing/