Healthy Living » Travel & Leisure » Healthy Travel FAQs   Login

 Travel & Leisure

May 2011
Healthy Travel FAQs
Dr V Ramasubramanian
Good health during travel is the most important factor that makes your vacation successful. However, unfortunately, it is often the last on the list of priorities when one prepares for a holiday. Here are some tips to safeguard one’s health during travel, be it for business or pleasure.

How does one plan a healthy trip?
A visit to a doctor is mandatory for the elderly when travel is contemplated, especially abroad. The consultation should dwell upon time of the year, duration of stay and area of visit; activities planned (water sports, hiking etc.) and place of stay (hotels, camps etc.). Advice regarding travel vaccines (including rabies, typhoid and hepatitis A & B) and prophylactic medicines against certain infections (like malaria) should be sought for when visiting South East Asia or Africa. At present, Yellow Fever vaccine is legally required for visiting certain parts of Africa and South America. Meningococcal vaccine is mandatory for Haj Pilgrims. Always look up on approved clinics and mode of emergency treatment on the net at the place of visit. DO NOT FORGET to take a travel insurance that provides an adequate cover. Medical care, even outpatient visits is prohibitively expensive in most countries.

What all does one need to carry?
Ensure that drinkable water would be available or else take bottled water with you.When travelling with children take some packets of biscuits or fruit such as oranges and bananas. Remember,the watchwords with regard to food and water while travelling is "cook it, peel it, boil it, or forget it"!

What does one do if a passenger close by has a bad cold/cough?
The flu, SARS and other viral illnesses are transmitted via droplets; they travel up to 6 feet from the person when they sneeze or cough. The chances of directly inhaling the virus are only within 6 feet of the person. Ensure that you cover your face when they sneeze or cough.

Does a mask help to protect one when travelling during a flu outbreak?
Infections like the flu are generally spread less by direct transfer through the air, but more through droplets that are sneezed or coughed out. When a door knob, telephone or table on which the infected person has either sneezed or coughed is touched, the person touching these surfaces is more likely to transfer the flu to him/herself when touching their own face or mouth. Keeping one’s hands clean with the use of alcohol gels/hand sanitizers is an important method of protection from these infections. The usage of masks can actually be detrimental as it gives one a false sense of security.

What to do if one develops diarrhea?
Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. A spoon of sugar with a pinch of salt in a litre of water is a quick-fix when rehydration solutions are not available. Antibiotics are rarely necessary. Anti-diarrhoeal agents help relieve the distress.

What are the symptoms that need immediate attention during travel?
Profuse persisting diarrhea, persistent vomiting which precludes optimal intake of fluids, high fever, diffuse skin rash, chest discomfort with palpitation or sweating, and breathing difficulty mandate a visit to the doctor.

What other important tips would you suggest to stay healthy?
Always carry a first aid kit whenever you travel. It should contain
  • Paracetamol for fever and pain relief
  • Pain relievers such as Ibuprofen / Diclofenac
  • Anti-vomiting tablets (Domperidone / Ondansetron)
  • Anti-diarrhoeals (Loperamide)
  • Anti-histamines for cold/itching/allergies (Cetrizine)
  • Plaster/bandage roll
  • Povidone iodine
  • Alcohol hand rub
Dr V Ramasubramanian is a specialist in Infectious Diseases, adolescent and adult vaccinations and travel medicine. He is currently a Senior Consultant in Infectious Diseases, HIV & Tropical Medicine at Apollo Hospital, Chennai

 Also See