Health ​Quick tips to stay well when you travel

Photo of Marnie McKimmie

Being ill while away is the quickest way to ruin a holiday and curtail the fun.

We can be a little blasé when travelling, getting caught in the excitement of the moment and the thrill of seeing and experiencing new things.

Being ill while away is the quickest way to ruin a holiday and curtail the fun.

But a few simple measures and a bit of wariness will dramatically reduce the chances of getting sick and make it a vacation to remember.

Don’t delay seeing your doctor if you come home from an overseas holiday and fall ill

It is important to have a “lower threshold” to seeing your GP when just back from overseas, warns WA Health Department Communicable Disease Control Directorate director Paul Armstrong.

But those showing signs of a rash must phone ahead and organise to be seen by medical staff in the carpark and be isolated in case it is a highly contagious disease such as measles.

A single returned traveller with measles could lead to as many as 300 people needing to be followed up to ensure transmission had not occurred, particularly if a hospital emergency department and GP clinic had been visited.

“It floats around in the air for quite some time and if you are not immune to measles you are likely to contract it,” he said.

“In 40 per cent of cases, people get complications ranging from severe middle-ear infections to pneumonia. In rare circumstances, they could get encephalitis — inflammation of the brain. In very rare circumstances, they could die.”

Due to high local vaccination rates, measles has not been endemic in Australia for more than a decade.

Stay away from dogs and monkeys while travelling

Travellers returning home with a dog or monkey bite or scratch have to undergo a painful series of expensive vaccinations and antibody injections to make sure they do not develop the deadly disease rabies, according to Dr Armstrong.

“There are lots and lots of people who get bitten and scratched by monkeys in the Monkey Forest in Ubud in Bali and other places where monkeys are found, such as temples,” he said.

However, WA had not had a case of rabies in recent times, he said.

Wash your hands

Gastroenteritis-linked food poisonings could be linked back to hands not being washed or not washed properly after going to the toilet, warned Dr Armstrong.

“They might have a gastroenteritis that is transferred from the so-called faecal-oral route,” he said.

“They might contaminate the food they are handling and serve it to other people or they might just touch other people and the germs get into their mouth.”

Too few people washed their hands properly, which involved washing hands for 10 to 15 seconds with soap and warm running water.

Also take hand sanitiser and use it regularly.

Use condoms and don’t underestimate the risk of HIV

Condom use and safe sex practices remain vitally important, with HIV on the rise in some western heterosexual and gay communities, warns Dr Armstrong.

Chlamydia and gonorrhoea infections are also on the increase, risking infertility problems. Some people had contracted STIs and HIV while overseas and “letting their guard down”.

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