Health Advice

Travelling abroad can expose you to health risks that you may not encounter in the U.K. Some of these risks are minor, but some can be more serious or even fatal.

Advice on the most common problems you may encounter whilst abroad, and how avoid them are listed below, click on each topic for more information.

Travellers Diarrhoea

80 million people travel from developed to developing countries World Wide each year. It is estimated that nearly half of these will contract Traveller’s Diarrhoea, making it the most common illness affecting Travellers. One third of people affected by Travellers’ Diarrhoea are forced to change or abandon travel plans. Aside from physical cost there are high costs in terms of time, money and distress.

  • To help prevent traveller’s diarrhoea there are sensible precautions that everyone should follow.
  • Ensure food is piping hot before eating
  • Avoid eating salads unless washed in bottled water
  • The rule for fruit and vegetables is wash, peel, cook or leave
  • Avoid raw fish
  • Avoid eating in places where flies abound
  • Stick to what you know
  • Sterilise suspect water supplies by boiling or using commercial tablets or filters
  • Avoid ice in drinks
  • Avoid eating ice cream, particularly from street vendors
  • Stick to known brand canned drinks
  • Drink and wash teeth in bottled water
  • Run showers with hot water for a few minutes before entering, inadequately treated water systems may harbour bugs.
    Wash your hands frequently.
  • Carry ‘no water needed’ hand sanitiser with you so that you can always clean your hands before eating.
  • Infected food and water are the most common ways of acquiring traveller’s diarrhoea.
  • Avoid undercooked meats, particularly pork and poultry.
  • Avoid shellfish harvested from shallow water.
  • Inadequately reheated cooked rice is often a source of infection.
  • Dehydration is the greatest threat to health during bouts of diarrhoea and vomiting.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, approximately 3 litres a day.
  • Include diluted fruit juices and salty soups to help replace lost nutrients.
  • Try to eat as little as possible during the first 24 hours.
  • Rehydration packs available from a pharmacy can be a useful standby.
  • Use bottled or treated water to reconstitute oral rehydration packs.
  • Avoid the use of drugs such as Loperamide (Imodium, Arret), unless absolutely essential, as they slow down elimination of the causal organism.
  • Seek medical assistance if symptoms last for more than 48 hours, or you develop a temperature over 38c or you have blood or mucus in your stools.
  • There is a free app which can be downloaded onto a smart phone, it is called Can I Eat This, simply type in the food you are intending to eat and your location and the app will tell you if it is safe to eat.

Sun Know How

The Ultra Violet component of sunlight is a health hazard, Exposure can cause sunburn, and prolonged exposure increases your risk of skin cancer, and will prematurely age your skin, the main way to avoid UV damage is to reduce your exposure to the sun.

The sun is most dangerous in the middle of the day, find shade under umbrellas, trees canopies or indoors.

Make sure you never burn, sunburn can double your risk of skin cancer.
Always cover up using clothing with fabrics which offer a high degree of sun protection.

Wear a T shirt, wide brimmed hat and stay in the shade between 11am and 3 pm when the sun is at its strongest.

Wear sunglasses, eyes are damaged by the UV component of sunlight.
Use factor 15 + UVB sunscreen.

Apply generously 15 – 30 minutes before you go outside and reapply often, at least every two hours and when it is washed, rubbed or sweated off.

Remember to use sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection. UVB is denoted by the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) number 15, 30 etc. UVA is denoted by a star rating. If you are using insect repellant apply sun screen first, allow this to dry and then apply your repellant. If you are using insect repellant containing DEET, this will reduce the effectiveness of the SPF in the sun screen, so always use a sun cream with at least factor 30 SPF.

Report any mole changes or unusual skin growth promptly to our doctor.
Skin cancer is of the most common forms of cancer in the UK.
In 2016 2067 people in the UK died from malignant melanoma.
Melanoma is the 3rd most common cancer amongst 15 – 39 year olds, and early detection is vital for successful treatment.
The incidence of melanoma in the UK is rising, in the last 5 years by 24%

UV radiation damages DNA which can lead to the development of skin cancer. A tan is not a sign of health, it is a reaction to DNA damage.
There is a higher risk of skin cancer for some people, those who burn easily, have fair skin and or freckles, have red hair and or pale eyes, or who have had skin cancer before, or have a large number of mole (50 +).

If any of these apply to you take extra care to protect yourself in the sun.

Insect & Animal Bites

Animal bites can be dangerous.

Avoid petting even apparently team animals.

Mosquitoes, flies, ticks and fleas are carriers of many diseases.
Use suitable insect repellent, ideally containing DEET, on exposed areas of skin.

Avoid using scented soaps, creams or perfumes as these can attract mosquitoes and insects.

Wear long trousers and long-sleeved shirts to help prevent insect bites.
Use impregnated mosquito nets in an endemic area.

For more information on bite avoidance see leaflet

Flight Advice

Aeroplanes can be dangerous to your health.

Get up from your seat and move around regularly to prevent “pooling” of blood in your legs and ankles.

Simple arm stretching can be done in your seat and helps to encourage good circulation.

Drink plenty of non-alcoholic non fizzy drinks to prevent dehydration due to the dry cabin environment.

Jet lag is worse when moving from west to east because the body finds it harder to adapt to a shorter day than a longer one.

If you take medication according to a strict timetable, such as insulin or contraceptives, seek medical advice from your G.P. before you travel

For more information see NHS Jet Lag