Making sure you have all your health considerations ticked off and sorted before you take your gap year is essential, as you can then forget about them safe in the knowledge you have nothing to worry about, and concentrate on just having some fun!
Before you even set off on your round the world adventure there are certain planning stages that you need to go through in order to make your dream a reality. An important part of that pre trip planning – and one that is often neglected – is your health.
3 months before you go.
Do your research.
Know your destinations before you go. 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 an common travel health illnesses you may come across. Visit the Travel Health Pro website, the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website or the NHS’ Fit For Travel website for any updates.
2 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.
Start your vaccinations.
Depending on where you are going and how up to date with your 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 need to be taken with up to a few weeks between shots. After that your body’s immune system will need a little time to adjust.
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, so it is a good idea to get a tester dose to see if and how your antimalarials will affect you. If you have heavy 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 humanely possible.