Interest Pieces

Looking After Your Health When Travelling Abroad

Travelling abroad comes with its health risks. Often these health risks can be minimized by taking certain precautions. Here are just some of the major precautions you should consider when travelling abroad so that your can stay safe and healthy.

Do you need travel insurance?

The first thing to consider is travel insurance. If you get sick or injured in another country, you may not be able to afford medical bills without insurance. It’s possible that you may already have health insurance that covers international travel, but generally speaking most insurers won’t include this. Some countries have universal healthcare but generally this only applies to citizens of that country – you may still get treated, but you’ll still be billed after.

For this reason, it’s worth always looking into travel insurance. There are lots of insurance companies out there that provide international medical coverage and rates tend to be fairly cheap (providing that you’re not visiting a dangerous country). Some travel agencies and airlines may try to sell you travel insurance as an extra – this could be worth comparing with other insurance policies. Travel insurance schemes may also include coverage for flight cancellations and lost baggage on top of medical coverage.

Bring first aid supplies

First aid supplies are always handy to have with you in case you get injured and can’t find help. A few essentials to pack in your travel first aid kit include:

  •         Band-aids
  •         Bandages
  •         Sterile tape
  •         Tweezers
  •         Scissors
  •         Antiseptic
  •         Painkillers
  •         Thermometer

There are travel first aid kits that you can buy with most of these supplies already contained within. You may not be able to take these items on the plane with you, but should otherwise keep them in your day bag when travelling anywhere.

Don’t forget prescription medication

There could be certain prescription medication that you need to take with you. You may find it difficult to obtain this medication in another country (especially if you don’t have medical documentation of your prescription).

A few examples of prescription medication to remember could include medication for health conditions (e.g. antidepressants, insulin, prescription painkillers), allergy medication (e.g. antihistamines, inhalers, epipens) and contraceptive medication.

As a precaution, in case you lose your medication, it could also be worth taking a written copy of your prescription information. Your doctor will usually be able to provide this for you.  

Protect yourself in the sun

If you’re travelling somewhere that is likely to be sunny and you’re not used to a lot of sunshine back home, you may also want to consider ways of protecting yourself from the sun’s rays.

Those with a fair complexion could be at risk of sunburn. Not only does sunburn sting and make you look like a lobster – it could also put you at risk of developing more serious issues such as skin cancer. If you don’t want to cover up, make sure that you’re wearing sun lotion to protect yourself from the UV rays. Sun lotion comes in a variety of factors – try to stick to sun cream over factor 20 so that you’ve got adequate protection. It may take you a little longer to get a tan with sun cream on, but it’s worth the reduced health risks.

Sunglasses could also be important for protecting your eyes from UV rays. Not wearing sunglasses in the sun can put you at increased risk of developing cataracts. You don’t need to spend a lot on a pair of sunglasses. If you also wear glasses, it might be worth buying a pair of prescription sunglasses so that you don’t have to take off your specs to wear your shades. Many opticians provide these sunglasses.

Stay hydrated (but make sure the water is clean)

If you’re travelling somewhere hot, it could also be important to stay hydrated. We tend to sweat more in hotter climates, which means that we become dehydrated more quickly.

Water is the best liquid for keeping you hydrated. However, you should be careful as to where you source your water from when travelling abroad. In some countries, the local tap water may contain bacteria and chemicals that your body is not used to – this could make you sick. Consequently, it’s best to stick to bottled water in such countries.

Soft drinks can also be a source of hydration, but you should be careful of soft drinks containing ice cubes. The ice used in these drinks could be frozen tap water and could make you ill.

As for alcoholic drinks, many of us are likely to drink a few while on vacation abroad. However, you shouldn’t rely on cocktails to hydrate you – alcohol tends to make use urinate more, which means you’ll get dehydrated more quickly. Feel free to drink alcoholic drinks, but make sure that you’re also drinking water.  

Research into local dangers

Individual parts of the world may come with their individual local dangers. It’s worth researching into this before you travel so that you can take necessary precautions.

For instance, you could be at risk of contracting deadly illnesses in certain parts of the world (the most notorious being malaria). Taking malaria tablets could be necessary for reducing your chances of contracting the disease. Similarly, a doctor or nurse may recommend specific vaccines when travelling to certain countries. This may require multiple stage injections taken over a course of several weeks.

Some parts of the world could also have dangerous wildlife to look out for. This is particularly likely to be the case if you’re staying somewhere rural. Swimming in rivers or seas may not be recommended in some cases (not just because of animals like sharks and crocodiles, but because of potential parasites). You may also want to take insect repellent when travelling to places with mosquitoes, not just to reduce the risk of malaria but also general infections from insect bites.

There could also be other dangers to look out for such as natural disaster, war or political unrest. This could make a country temporarily unsafe to travel to. You can find travel warnings for countries online – these could be worth looking into if you’re not travelling to a popular tourist destination.

Keep healthy while flying

Flying can also come with its health dangers. If you’re on a long-haul flight and are travelling in economy, it’s important that you get up and stretch those legs. The cramped conditions and air pressure can sometimes contribute to a health condition known as DVT (deep vein thrombosis).

Dehydration may increase your risk of developing DVT, so on top of getting up and exercising your legs it could also be important to drink enough liquids throughout the flight.