When making travel plans, we research the countries and plan our escape from everyday life. We look for the cheapest deals on flights and accommodation, how long to go for, what activities to get involved in, and even consider the best clothing to take to the destination. But do we always take our health into account?
Without even knowing, we may be at risk of disease from bugs, animals, food and even from other people.
It is common for travellers to become ill whilst overseas, the most common health problem being travellers’ diarrhoea, but there are more serious, life-threatening diseases out there. Here are a MASTA’s top 5 tips to ensure you stay healthy while travelling:
1. Do your research
While planning your trip, research the disease risks and via entry requirements for each country you plan to visit. This may change closer to the time of travel, but will give you an idea of what is happening out there and if any countries won’t allow entry unless you’ve been vaccinated. Careful pre-planning is essential in order to safeguard your health.
The Government website can help you familiarise with local customs, religious holidays and laws as well as politically unstable areas. Consider subscribing to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office free email notification service. This will alert you to any updates and changes to the travel advice of the countries you plan to visit.
2. Talk to a travel health specialist
As well as doing research, seek advice from a specialist well in advance. Your GP can provide you with your vaccine history to assist the nurse at your appointment. We recommend you book this appointment 6-8 weeks in advance of your trip in order to get the most up-to-date advice. This allows enough time for MASTA's specialist travel health nurses to complete a thorough risk assessment for your trip and offer any vaccinations/anti-malarials you may need.
3. Set aside money for vaccines
Factor the costs of vaccines/malaria tablets into your expenses. Many vaccines are not given on the NHS, so you would need to pay for these. Others require a course of vaccine to ensure your protection against a certain disease which may get expensive depending on how many you need. After all, it will be certainly cheaper having vaccines than paying medical bills abroad if you have to go into hospital (and healthier!).
4. Research Medical facilities abroad
Many countries have high quality medical facilities, however some don’t. They may also be further away than you expected. Use the International Society of Travel Medicines' global clinic directory to find the nearest reputable travel clinic overseas.
5. Make sure you have Travel Insurance
Having a good level of insurance will cover the costs of healthcare and arrange repatriation back to the UK if you become seriously ill. The key here is to make sure your insurance covers all activities you may be doing. Your insurance will not be valid if you become ill or injured from anything not listed on your policy. Having an EHIC card will also help cover costs in a European country.
Where do I start?
If the world of Travel Health is very new to you, the best place to start is by doing some research. MASTA’s specialist travel health nurses have been protecting travellers for over 30 years, and can offer evening, weekend and last minute appointments. As well as a traditional ‘In Clinic’ consultation, we can complete a consultation over the phone at your convenience and then organise an appointment at a local clinic.
To help get you started, there is a free Vaccine Checker and Disease Directory at www.masta-travel-health.com