Planning your gap year is great fun, and it should be, but an important part of that planning is making sure that you have all the practicalities ticked off and covered at the right time. Health considerations are an essential part of this planning process and can often take a long time to organise, so getting each part of the travel health checklist ticked off at the right time means that you have much less to worry about and can simply concentrate on the fun parts of travel.
So before you start booking those tickets and long before you set off on your round the world adventure, let’s go through the specific health pre trip planning stages you need to go through to make your trvel dreams a reality.
6 Months Before You Go.
Do Your Research.
Know your destinations before you go. This is the easy part and generally just means collecting as much information as you possibly can. At this point simply reading reputable sources should be enough, the fact that you are aware of potential risks is the most important part.
So once you have figured out exactly where it is you want to travel, whether that is a specific country, multiple countries or entire regions, you need to research any specific malarial or vaccination requirements for the area you are visiting as well as any news on outbreaks such as zika or dengue, and any common travel health illnesses you may come across.
3 Months Before You Go.
Make An Appointment At A Travel Health Clinic.
It is recommended that you visit your GP, specialist nurse or travel clinic at least six to ten weeks before you plan to travel. I strongly recommend that you go sooner than that, especially if you are planning on travelling for more than a month and/or you need a series of vaccinations. The more time you give yourself, the easier and less stressful it will be.
Start Your Vaccinations.
Depending on where you are going and how up to date with your routine boosters you are you may need to get a whole series of travel vaccinations before you go. Unless you are a masochist you don’t want to have them all at once, and some may have timed doses which means they will need anything up to a few weeks between shots. After that your body’s immune system will need a little time to adjust too. You can’t just get them when you arrive at a destination and expect to be protected immediately.
It is also important to note that there will be some out there who for a variety of clinical reasons may not be able to get specific vaccinations, it is important to know this early as well, as whilst this is not necessarilly a barrier to travel there are other precautions that you may be able to take and get advice on. The earlier you know this, the better.
Get an antimalarial tester dose.
If you will need anti malaria prophylaxis where you plan on going, then it is important to discuss with your GP or specialist nurse which medication is right for you. The side effects of antimalarials affect different individuals with varying degrees of severity, some get very severe side effects, many get non at all and most fall in the middle of those two extremes to differing degrees, so it is a good idea to get a tester dose to see if and how your antimalarials will affect you. This means that on the chance that you do have heavy or serious side effects you still have time to speak to a professional, get a different prophylaxis or review your options.
1 Month Before You Go.
Get Travel Insurance.
Do a bit of shopping around to make sure you get the best cover for your needs (best does not always mean cheapest) and ensure that you have comprehensive health cover in your travel insurance.
Get Your First Aid Kit Sorted.
Every adventure needs to have a basic first aid kit on stand by for those basic but almost inevitable bumps, bites and scrapes. Make sure you have a solid, basic kit.
Hopefully this checklist will help you organise your health needs before you set off on your gap year. It may be a bit of a pain, I know, but once it is done it’s done, and you can forget about it safe in the knowledge that you have minimised any potential risk as much as humanly possible and can simply enjoy your travels.
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 who specialises in emergency nursing and travel medicine.
The Bemused Backpacker Travel Clinic is an indispensable online resource for you to gain a one on one consultation with a medical professional giving you personal reassurance, expert information and qualified advice for any and all of your travel health related questions. To head into the Travel Clinic, click here