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Dr Duncan

Looking after your health on an overseas holiday.

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With the strong Aussie dollar making overseas travel more attractive, suddenly “The world is our oyster” rings true for old and young alike, and as a result many people are now choosing to travel to areas once considered exotic and remote thanks to the affordability of modern air travel.

However, if we are to make sure that our overseas jaunts are to be happy memories, and not miserable ones, then it’s best to be well prepared and well informed before we leave home. So here are a few suggestions that should help your holiday be not only a happy one, but a healthy one too!

Your health is all that matters

We’ve seen and heard that slogan before, but it’s even more important to heed its advice once you leave the safety net of our fantastic Australian health care system.

See a doctor before you travel, preferably one who has some experience in travel medicine. You should discuss:

  • Where you are travelling to, for how long and for what reason – scuba diving, climbing, exploring or just plain R&R.
  • If you have ongoing health issues, you need to discuss what precautions you might need to take and what medications you need to bring with you. And ask your doctor to give you a signed list of all the medications that you will be carrying with you – it’s a useful thing in some countries with strict drug protocols.
  • Make sure you’re up to date with all your current vaccinations – tetanus, diphtheria, polio etc – and check to see if you require any special ones for the areas you are entering, such as Yellow fever or Hepatitis. And as so many areas of the world are affected by malaria, you should discuss what sorts of precautions to take and for how long. As we’re all a little bit different, all health recommendations need to be tailored to suit the individual by their own doctor.
  • Check out where you are going, and I don’t just mean where the best nightclubs are! Some parts of the world are affected by natural disasters - Turkey has an awesome history, but it also has frequent earthquakes; Japan, Indonesia and Sri Lanka have all been shattered by tsunamis and Thailand has suffered devastating flooding. Being caught in any of these types of events can be terrifying or even deadly.
  • We live in a free and open democracy, but other parts of the world live by other standards and systems that can come as a shock if you’re not fully prepared. For example, alcohol is banned in most Islamic countries and its public use can lead to prison, so knowledge of the local customs and laws and being respectful of them will not only keep you on the right side of the law, but will also make your stay in their country much more pleasurable.
  • It seems that every year there is a new outbreak of some potentially lethal infectious disease – bird flu, chicken flu – so ask to be kept informed by your travel agent or doctor if there are any changing health situations in the country you intend to holiday in.

Be Prepared

Even though we think we might be ready, things can still go wrong once you are on holiday, so be prepared and plan for getting sick, or getting sunburnt, or having an accident, and think about who you would call should you suffer a serious injury or sickness.

First aid kit: these are available in various levels of needs from the basic to the jungle excursion variety!

For those who take regular medications, make sure you have enough to last the whole holiday: it is probably wise to carry them with you whilst travelling and not pack them with your main luggage as that can go AWOL at many airports! Also, take a copy of your prescription with you and leave another copy back home with someone whom you can contact in an emergency.

I usually recommend that you take the following for the more common travellers complaints:

  • Medicines for diarrhoea and vomiting
  • An antihistamine
  • Nasal decongestants for air travel 
  • 1% Hydrocortisone cream for bites or sunburn
  • Antacid tablet.
And don’t forget the sunscreen, mozzie repellent, antibacterial hand wipes and lubricating eye drops for long distance flights.

One final thing re packing for holidays: so many people use HUGE suitcases when they travel, and lifting them on and off carousels can be a recipe for instant back injuries. My suggestion is that instead of the one huge case, try carrying smaller lighter cases that can easily be lifted, and which are less likely to put you in danger of spending your whole holiday trying to get on and off of your favourite poolside sun lounger.

Have fun

A little bit of thought before your holiday will pay enormous dividends and leave you time to really relax and have Fun. If you follow these golden rules, then hopefully this will be the holiday of a lifetime.

  • Be careful about food and water
  • Don’t take silly risks
  • Slip slop slap and use insect repellent
  • Drinking to excess will not make your holiday happier – quite the opposite in fact!
  • Respect the laws and customs of your host country and its people.

Article written by Dr. Duncan Jefferson. More articles here. For more information on health care and private health cover, visit HBF Insurance at www.hbf.com.au.

The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.

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