Travel & Health

Travelling while on vacation is an enjoyable experience that can help rejuvenate both the body and mind. It helps with relaxation and relieving stress.

In the summer, families start planning their holidays in different countries around the world. However, the increase in the number of travellers and international trips can lead to a rise in the number of people affected by travel-related illnesses.

Some individuals may experience health symptoms during their vacation, such as gastrointestinal problems and other infectious diseases that may spoil their experience.

Furthermore, many people travel to countries which have certain diseases that are uncommon or non-existent in their home country.

For this reason, these countries have specific preventive requirements, such as vaccinations, to protect their residents.

Therefore, it is essential to raise awareness among families before their travel date to stay informed about the latest health updates issued by health authorities regarding vaccinations or health conditions related to their intended destination.

Based on this, we can divide the health advice related to travel into three stages:

1- Before Travelling:

When preparing to travel abroad, it is essential to visit a travel clinic 4 to 6 weeks before the travel date. These clinics specialise in providing all the necessary information and health advice related to travel, including how to maintain food and drink safety, practice personal hygiene to reduce infections and get medical consultations for individuals at higher risk of health complications, such as pregnant women, children, the elderly, or those with weakened immune systems.

Moreover, these clinics provide vaccinations and necessary medications based on individual travel destinations.

Therefore, it is recommended to carry a copy of the vaccination record and a list of the medications used when visiting the travel clinic.

Travel-related vaccinations:

It is necessary to complete routine and travel-related vaccinations at least two weeks before the travel date. These vaccinations contribute to protecting individuals and reducing the likelihood of contracting various infectious or common diseases.

These vaccinations include Meningococcal, seasonal flu, yellow fever, pneumococcal, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, and rabies. Moreover, the required vaccinations for certain countries depend on the prevalence of specific epidemics, which may vary from one country to another.

2- On the Airplane:

Some things need to be considered while on board the plane, including:

Stimulating blood circulation and ensuring its activity by extending and moving the legs constantly. Standing up and walking for a few seconds are recommended. Compression stockings can also be used to maintain normal blood flow and reduce the risk of clotting.

Staying hydrated by consuming sufficient amounts of fluids through drinking juices and water while avoiding drinks containing caffeine.

Getting adequate sleep and rest, especially during long flights.

Motion sickness is one of the diseases associated with travel, resulting from excessive movement that disturbs a person’s senses. Symptoms may include vomiting, nausea, and headaches. To alleviate these symptoms, travellers are advised to adopt a healthy posture during the flight and avoid eating immediately at the beginning of the journey, and in case of such symptoms, the doctor may prescribe medications to alleviate these symptoms before boarding the plane.

3- During Travel:

There are health risks associated with consuming contaminated food and water during travel, one of which is diarrhoea, a common issue among travellers caused by microbes that affect the digestive system, especially when travelling to places lacking general cleanliness. Symptoms typically include diarrhoea, stomach pain, nausea, fever, or vomiting. To prevent this, travellers are advised to:

Maintain personal hygiene and regularly wash and sanitize hands before eating or after touching any contaminated surface to reduce the spread of infections.

Avoid eating undercooked food or purchasing food and milk from street vendors.

Drink bottled water and use boiled water or purified water from filtration devices and avoid putting ice in drinks, as the beverages may be clean, but the ice could be contaminated.

Avoid raw vegetables, including leafy greens, and consume fruits with thick peels, such as bananas, oranges, and tangerines, while avoiding fruits with edible peels.

Ensure the cleanliness of the restaurant where the meal will be consumed to ensure they meet hygiene standards.

Other important factors to consider during travel include:

Minimizing the consumption of fast food and heavy fatty meals, which may cause nausea and sluggishness, and opting for healthy light foods. Some hotels and restaurants offer healthy food options for their guests, so it is advisable to look for them to avoid health problems on your trip.

Staying hydrated and drinking sufficient amounts of fluids and water.

Engaging in moderate physical activity to reap the numerous health benefits of exercise during travel.

Getting enough sleep as the body needs rest during travel, especially when crossing different time zones, carrying luggage from one place to another, or walking throughout the day.

Avoiding excessive exposure to sunlight, using sunscreen, and wearing protective clothing with light colours and breathy cotton fabric that lets the air in and absorb sweat.

Using insect repellent when necessary to prevent mosquito and insect bites in countries where they are prevalent.

Carrying a card containing essential information in the local language, such as blood type, chronic diseases, severe allergies, and the generic names of your medication.

One of the significant disturbances that can affect travellers is jet lag (the body’s time regulation mechanism), which is particularly evident among travellers heading to very distant countries. It results in sleep disturbances, stomach issues, fatigue, and lack of concentration. Therefore, travellers are always advised to drink plenty of fluids, consume light foods, avoid smoking, limit coffee, tea, and energy drink intake, and get enough sleep and rest during long journeys.

By: Dr. Badreyya Al-Harmi, Consultant Public Health, Emirates Public Health Association

Al Jundi

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