Staying healthy on holiday
With school and public holidays upon us once again, many Western Australians will be jetting off for a well earned break.
Whether you are travelling up within the state or overseas, remember to take some simple steps to ensure you stay healthy on holiday.
Common issues that face Western Australian travellers include:
Gastroenteritis/gastrointestinal diseases (stomach upsets) are caused by bacteria, viruses, worms or other parasites and are more common in travellers to developing countries.
These conditions are usually associated with improperly prepared foods, untreated water or poor personal hygiene.
Minimise the risk of contracting food poisoning by eating only in places that look clean. Also avoid uncooked food, including salads, seafood and fruit that cannot be peeled.
Symptoms of food poisoning include diarrhoea and crampy stomach pain and can be accompanied by nausea or vomiting.
Effective preventative measures are available and should be discussed with your doctor.
Food and water quality varies from country to country. If you have any doubts about the quality of water you should:
- use only bottled water to drink and brush your teeth
- always check the seal of bottled water to ensure it has not been tampered with
- never put ice in drinks – freezing preserves germs.
Mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, Japanese encephalitis, dengue fever and yellow fever, are prevalent in many Asian, African and South American countries.
People travelling within WA should also remember that mosquito-borne viruses, including Murray Valley Encephalitis, Ross River Virus and Barmah Forest Virus, were also a risk to people travelling north, especially those camping near wetlands.
Travellers could minimise their risk of being bitten by mosquitoes by:
- Wearing long, loose-fitting and light-coloured clothing. Mosquitoes can bite through clothing that is tight against the skin, including denim jeans
- Applying an effective mosquito repellent to any areas of exposed skin. Lotion and gel formulations containing diethyl toluamide (DEET) or Picaridin are the most effective
- Installing mosquito nets around bedding
- Where possible, avoiding outdoor activity around dawn, sunset and the hours immediately after sunset when mosquitoes were most active.
For further information, visit Snapshots from Health
Sexually transmitted infections
Recent research has shown an alarming incidence of unprotected sexual contact in overseas business and holiday travellers.
An estimated 90 per cent of overseas sex workers in some cities have HIV and hepatitis B (external link).
Abstinence is the only way to completely avoid all sexually transmissible diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, gonorrhoea, syphilis, chlamydia, herpes and warts.
The next best thing is to practise safe sex by using condoms with water-based lubricant. It is wise to take Australian condoms as these are made to Australian standards.
See your doctor before travelling to ensure you and your children are up to date with the recommended vaccination schedule.
Check that you are immune to (or vaccinated against) measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, polio, diphtheria, tetanus and influenza.
Vaccination against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, meningococcal disease, yellow fever, rabies, Japanese encephalitis and other diseases may also be recommended if you are travelling to countries where these diseases are more common.
Deep-vein thrombosis is a blood clot that may form in the deep veins of the leg. It can lead to serious health problems, by travelling around the body and damaging vital organs such as the lungs.
Deep-vein thrombosis occurs most often during long flights due to a range of cabin-related factors such as:
- cramped position
- insufficient fluid intake
- low humidity
Most of these can be factors prevented by:
- regular calf exercise
- moving around the cabin every two hours
- ensuring adequate fluid intake
- avoiding diuretics including alcohol and caffeine.
Maintaining medication regimes is an important consideration for all travellers.
It is easy for people on the move and not in their usual routines to forget to take their medicines and this can have adverse consequences for their health.
Travellers could avoid medication mishaps by:
- Remembering to pack medications and repeat scripts
- Ensuring medications were stored properly, so their efficacy was maintained
- Ensuring medications could be accessed easily when needed
- Ensuring scripts were filled ahead of time, to avoid running out of medication
- Keeping doctor, pharmacy, family and emergency numbers handy
- Discussing with their GP or pharmacist any health issues that may impact on their travel plans
- Asking their GP to provide a list of current medications.
- Putting in place a medication reminder system to ensure medications are taken on time (this could include setting an alarm).
A medicines list template and an iPhone app that helps people keep a record of their medicines and reminds them when to take them can be found at the National Prescribing Service (external link)
For more information on travel health visit: www.public.health.wa.gov.au.
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