This section is here to give you all the advice and information you need concerning travel health, with professional advice from a qualified nurse.
Backpacking your way around the world will be one of the best experiences of your life, but it is really important that you consider your health before and during your travels. Far too often it is a subject that people either overlook completely or get overly scared about, there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground on this issue. But it really doesn’t have to be like that at all, as with your personal security and safety, a little bit of knowledge and a bit of preparation can go a long way and keep you fit and healthy to enjoy your trip.
Health Information And Advice.
Travel health is an extremely important part of your travel planning, but it is not something to be overly scared of or worried about. Having as much information and advice as possible, being as informed as you can be and taking every reasonable preventative step you can take reduces your risk to easily manageable levels and allows you to get on with the business of actually enjoying your trip!
Pre Trip Health Advice.
Know before you go is a popular phrase for a reason. Travel health is a huge subject and a very complex one, which is why you need advice from a qualified health professional, but knowing what you need to know is an important first step, so let’s get started with the basics
Travel vaccinations are one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce your risk for a wide variety of diseases out there and in very general terms are recommended for the majority of countries with different levels of intensity. Routine vaccinations such as MMR and HPV for example are highly recommended wether you travel or not, whilst Rabies on the other hand may only be recommended for certain at risk groups travelling to specific countries but not others. It is important that you seek specific professional advice that tailors the recomendations to where you are travelling and your own past medical history because there is never a one size fits all approach.
It is also important to remember that there are a significant number of travellers out there who clinically cannot or should not get specific vaccinations because of their own past medical history or personal circumstance. Yellow Fever for example is a very common vaccination that is a great tool in the fight against a highly communicable disease, many people can take it perfectly well and it is a requirement for entry into some countries. However there are a significant group of people who cannot clinically take it if they have a weakened immune system as a result of illness or treatment, a PMH of sever anaphylaxis to similar vaccines or severe allergies to its ingredients such as eggs, gelatin or chicken protien, are pregnant or have a wide number of other issues. In that case the entry requirments for countries allow for exemptions and extra clinical advice on mosquito avoidance and bite prevention is given.
This is why there is never a one size fits all approach and why expert, qualified advice on travel vaccines should always be sought on an individual level by every single traveller.
Malaria And Antimalarials.
Malaria is one of the most widespread and serious tropical diseases and public health concerns in the world, with almost half the worlds population at risk. It is spread through the bite of female mosquitoes and if not diagnosed and treated, can be fatal. The good news is that malaria is entirely preventable and curable. This is exactly why it is essential for travellers to have a full risk assessment before they travel and take every possible precaution they can when they do. This includes taking antimalarials when approporiate and most importantly mosquito bite prevention too.
A vaccine for Malaria is in development, or to be more accurate numerous vaccines are in development. As of 2021 the very first malria vaccine RTS.S, also known by its brand name Mosquirix has been approved for use in certain at risk communities by the WHO for the first time. The results are extremely promising but as of yet this is still not available or recommended generally.
Antimalarials on the other hand are extremely common and are advised based on three primary considerations, where you are travelling to (and more specifically the risk in that destination and the type of malaria parasite in that region), how you travel and what you plan to do there and finally your own personal past medical history. It is important you seek personal medical advice on this.
Insect Borne Diseases.
Malaria may be the most well known insect borne disease, and it is certainly one of the most dangerous and most common, but there are plenty of other insect borne diseases you need to know about and protect yourself from too dependent on where you are going, from Japanese Encephalitis and Dengue to Yellow Fever and far more besides. Make sure you are aware of the risk in the destinations you are travelling to and take the appropriate steps to protect yourself.
Insect Bite Prevention And Mosquito Repellent.
Protecting yourself against insect bites is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect yourself from a wide range of insect borne diseases when you travel, especially in countries where these are particularly prevalent.
The good news is taking precautions against mosquitos and other biting insects is not difficult and it certainly is not expensive either, all it takes is a little knowledge, the right gear and a little discipline.
General Travel Health.
No question on travel health is ever a stupid one, ever, and everyone makes basic mistakes from time to time. The trick is to inform yourself as much as possible and be as responsible as you can be for making small changes in your own behaviour and taking responsibility for your own health.
Preventative Travel Health Advice.
The best way to stay healthy when you are travelling is to take all the steps you can to reduce the risk of you becoming ill in the first place. So many virus’ and diseases can be avoided completely with basic hygiene and infection prevention control, heat stroke, frost bite and othe envioronmental illnesses and injuries are preventable and we all know how STIs are avoided, right? Know everything you need to know before you go and reduce your risk as much as possible.
Travel Sickness And Illness On The Road.
The more you travel and the longer you travel for the more likely it is you will get sick at some point, I mean it’s just a normal part of life, right? You get sick from time to time at home, so you’ll get sick when you are travelling too. The thing is when you are travelling you will also come across bugs and virus’ that your body may not be used to and you will take your body out of its comfort zone and push it to its limits so you may find yourself getting ill from things you would never expect to as well. The trick is to know enough to reduce that risk beforehand and know enough to look after yourself if you do get sick and get help iud you need it. So would you know what to do if you came down with Montezumas revenge or Delhi Belly? What if you caught Dengue or got a touch of altitude sickness? Read on to learn all you need to know.
Travelling With Long Term Pre Existing Health Conditions.
There is a lot of stigma out there in very general terms for those travelling with pre existing health conditions, and that doesn’t get much better when it comes to dreaming of travel either. Too many people think that having a medical or mental health condition means they can’t travel at all and that just is not true. Sure, travel insurance may not help all that much by adding extra layers of inconvenience and beauracracy, and it may take a bit more planning, but both of those things are manageable. Don’t let pre existing health conditions become a barrier to travel and learn how you can take control of your life again and follow your travel dreams.
Travel Injuries and First Aid.
Would you know how to dress a small wound on the road? What type of plaster to use on a blister when on a long trek or how to treat severe sunburn? No one is expecting every traveller to be a fully qualified combat medic or surgeon before they set off on their round the world travels, if something requires more treatment than a basic first aid kit can handle then you should always seek professional help, but having a little bit of basic first aid knowledge and a good, basic kit with equipment you know how to use can make all the difference.
Travel Fitness And Wellness.
Health and wellness travel has become a significant niche in and of itself with many travellers visiting specific destinations just for their health and wellness benefits, but staying fit and healthy during your travels is about far more than that, it is about all they things you can do to improve your fitness and look after your health and wellness on the road.
Travel and Mental Health.
Mental health is an often overlooked aspect of general health at the best of times, but particularly so during travel. There is often an assumption that travellers are living their dream and can’t possibly be suffering from mental health problems, or that by running away from your problems to travel that any mental health issues will just deteriorate, yet this isn’t the case at all. Travel can exacerbate and intensify normal stress levels due to a lack of familiar support systems, culture shock, no daily routine and being far outside of your comfort zone, and manageable situations at home may not be as easily managed abroad. It is important to remember that mental health issues, wether new or established, are not in any way a barrier to travel. You may need to plan more and take steps to manage triggers or have contingency plans in place, especially if you are already taking medication, but travel is possible. The most important thing is having open and honest discussions about those potential issues, and that is what I hope to do in this section.
Bemused Backpacker is proud to partner with Bug Off! A national campaign by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Arctec aimed at highlighting the risk of mosquito and insect borne diseases and the importance of using insect repellents and other preventative methods during your travels..
One To One Advice.
Having as much travel health information and understanding as possible is essential before you head out on your gap year, but remember that your own research should never be considered as a replacement for professional advice and information from a qualified health professional.
You should always still seek advice where needed, as your GP or specialist nurse will have access to your past medical history and other information about you and your trip that will be unique to you that they can tailor any advice to.
My Online Travel Clinic is here to give you all the answers to your travel health questions from a qualified and registered specialist nurse.
Have you read all the information but still need a little more specific advice? Is there a travel health issue that you are worried about and need a little reassurance on? Need some information on malaria, or which vaccinations you will need? Is there a travel health issue you would like to ask about in complete confidence?
Well I am here to help.
Apart from being an experienced backpacker with over 20 years travel experience, I am also a qualified nurse with an interest in emergency nursing and travel medicine and practical experience volunteering as an expedition medic in numerous countries.
The Bemused Backpacker Travel Clinic is an indispensable resource for you to gain reassurance, expert information and qualified advice for any and all of your travel health related questions. To head into the Travel Clinic, click here.