Boring Yet Essential: Travel Health

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If you’ve been reading my blog, then you’ll know my next planned trip is Zimbabwe and Botswana.  As always before a trip, I made an appointment with the nurse to go through travel vaccines.  I was talking to a well travelled friend of mine, and they seemed oblivious to a lot of the information given about health when travelling, which has prompted me to write this blog.   Boring disclaimer bit: I’m not a health professional and I’m not here to offer anyone advice, just to talk about my experience and hopefully encourage you to seek more information before you travel (which I’m sure you do anyway).

Dreading The Travel Health Appointment

I always dread the travel vaccine appointment as it often feels like I have to sit through a lecture of dos and don’ts.  My appointment was yesterday, and I was pleasantly surprised that she gave me the information in a non-condescending way.  Often saying “As a seasoned traveller you probably already know, but…”   And I was happy to be reminded of the advice, as I’d rather hear the advice twice than not at all.

I Just Go with the Recommended Advice

I’m not going to discuss why or why not you need the vaccines, I just go with the advice and have whatever is recommended for that country at that time.  Advice changes often, and I leave it to the professionals to tell me what is recommended.  I’ve had most of the vaccines available free on the NHS.  Plus I had the yellow fever vaccine a few years ago before I went to Kenya, with the view that I’m probably going to be travelling to a  high risk country where I need the certificate in the future, so I might as well be protected in a low risk country too.

Antimalarial Tablets

For me, this time it was an easy decision.  I did a lot of research before I went to Kenya and I came to the conclusion which were best for me – obviously that was the most expensive option but health is important and who wants nasty side effects when you’ve spent so much on a holiday.  I had no side effects last time, so decided to go with the same for this trip, as they again were on the list of recommended antimalarials.

I was talking to a friend about how antimalarials are on a private prescription, and they didn’t seem to be able to get their head around it.  Like most people we presume that all UK NHS prescriptions are a standard charge of around £8.  This is not the case for antimalarials and they are not supplied on the NHS.  I have to pay the doctor’s practise a fee just for them to write the prescription then I’ll need to shop around to find the pharmacy that will supply them the cheapest, I think they’ll cost around £70.

UPDATE!  I have since discovered that you don’t necessarily need a prescription for anti-malarials, you can have a consultation with a pharmacist.  I went into Tesco Pharmacy,  who told me they could do the prescription for £50, however if I had a consultation I could get them for just £31.  Waste of money on the private prescription, but at least I know for next time. 

Although most of the lodges I’ll be staying at will probably have mosquito nets, I’m not going to chance it and plan on taking my own.  The nurse I saw also mentioned that she’d assume I’d be taking my own, and added that I’ll know what state of repair my own net is in.  Which is true, when moving from lodge to lodge, who has time to check the net for holes every time.  I’d much rather spend that time sitting outside watching the world go by, obviously with spf 30+ and covered in deet.

Covering Up

After all the lectures I have about covering up when in high risk malaria area, it often astounds me, how many people go out of an evening with bare arms and legs.  (Yes, I’m guilty of it too).  That said, leggings and light weight shirts often work well for me over dresses.  Although for the time of year I’m going away, the nights won’t be warm, so covering up will be an easier thing to do.

I’ve heard lots of theories about how to keep mosquitos away, they include not eating sugary foods and not wearing perfumes.  I try both.

Insects In the Sand

It shocked me in thailand how many people walked on the beach barefoot.  I’d heard (from the nurse) of those horrible insects that burrow up through the sand up through your feet.  Flip flops on the beach – always.  Am I just being paranoid, no one else seems to do it?

Rabies

This vaccine isn’t free, and I’m yet to have it.  I’m undecided.  I’ve been googling and see a split in opinion.  So firstly rabies vaccines costs around £150 for the course.  Secondly if I get infected then I still need to get to a hospital for another jab.  So this is why some people think it’s not necessary.  However, once the symptoms of rabies start then it’s game over and there is no cure.  It’s a disease that affects the brain, and not a nice way to go from what I’ve learnt.  If I don’t have the vaccine and if I was infected, I’d need a course of 4 or 5 injections on different days, if I did then it’s 2 injections.

Do you notice I’m careful not to say bitten?  I believe that being scratched or licked by an infected animal can also mean you’ll be infected.  Advice is to wash the area with water and soap as soon as possible, then to seek medical advice.  The animal doesn’t have to be foaming at the mouth to show it’s infected and it’s not just dogs.  You may be surprised to hear that cats and bats can also have rabies.  I’ve found this great article.  8 things you may not know about rabies

I’m still looking at the evidence for both, but at the moment I’m swaying towards having the vaccines.

There is So Much Information

I haven’t even touched the surface.  Other things to consider include how your food is prepared and staying away from fruit and salad in buffets, taking rehydration sachets with you and so much more.  All seasoned travellers know these things and it’s having a holiday or travelling experience where illness is avoided as much as possible, so we can make the most of our time away.

Enjoy Your Holiday

I do all my research on health before I go away.  Then when I’m away I can just enjoy my trip, and try and stay as healthy as I can.

2 Comment

  1. It’s ALWAYS good to go in and get all the necessary vaccines and medications before you go on your trip! Another thing to consider is travel insurance- it’s definitely come in handy, as hospital expenses (especially in the States) can add up quickly!! Glad to see you have a post on this because I know quite a few people who travel abroad without consulting a doctor first.

    1. Rapunzel's Passport says: Reply

      It’s scary how many people don’t consider their own health when they go away.

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