5 Travel Health Concerns You Should Look Out For And Why
There is so much to consider when relocating to a new country. Living in a foreign country is fun and exciting. The last thing you want is for your time there to be spoiled by anything — especially your health.
When visiting a foreign country, there are a few important health concerns you can easily prevent to avoid unnecessary problems. Here are the top 5 health issues that may come up when you are in a foreign country:
1. Country-specific and climate-specific illnesses
Every country has different diseases that are common and dangerous in the area. The diseases that can harm you could also differ depending on your age.
Before you go:
Research the area’s common illnesses ahead of time yourself.
Talk to a doctor who knows about the area you’re visiting so he can give you the recommended vaccines
Even if you are returning to a country you already visited, you should still check with your doctor. This is because new illnesses may have appeared and your immunity may have decreased over time.
Dehydration is easily preventable but still happens frequently in hot climates because visitors forget to drink water. When you are absorbed by everything else around you, you can forget about basic necessities. Health authorities recommend eight 8-ounce glasses (2 liters) a day.
2. The most common diseases
There are common diseases that you are required to be vaccinated for because they can be fatal. While these vary depending on the country, it is helpful to be aware of them.
These illnesses include:
Varicella (Chicken pox)
3. Infected food and water
Some countries have lower water and food quality regulations. Therefore, a common surprise visiting local street markets is food poisoning.
The meat sold by vendors on the streets may smell delicious, but make sure it is thoroughly cooked and cleaned. There could be bacteria, viruses, or parasites inside because of low-level cleanliness during the transportation or preparation process.
If the area, equipment, or the hands that cooked the food do not look clean, avoid eating the food even if it smells or looks great. Contaminated food can keep you bedridden for up to ten days (time you’d rather be spending exploring or relaxing).
The quality of water is just as important to consider. The standard of water quality in many countries overseas can be many levels worse thanks to looser regulations. The water might be harvested from dirty rivers and wells, which is filled with bacteria and other living organisms.
For some countries, it is a standard process to boil water to purify it before you use it, even to brush your teeth. Be aware of this cultural difference before you do anything with the water from faucets. Make sure you bring a water bottle around with you because clean water could be harder to find in certain countries.
Other dangers include the ice given to you in drinks, unpasteurized dairy products, raw or minimally cooked seafood, and food exposed to the air or flies for too long.
4. Animal-specific diseases
Small insects, like mosquitoes, can carry potentially fatal infections like yellow fever, malaria, or dengue fever.
In 2016 the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus outbreak a global emergency. Zika is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Only a small number of people infected actually show symptoms so individuals can be infected and not even know. The Zika outbreak in Brazil has caused women to give birth to babies with birth defects.
The most common areas for dangerous, insect-carrying diseases include South America, Central America, Africa, Asia, Queensland, and the tropics.
To prevent insect bites and stings:
Wear long sleeves and pants
Use a permethrin spray on yourself.
Avoid perfume, cologne, or scents that attract mosquitoes.
Use a mosquito net at night.
Be careful touching animals abroad. Foreign standards for keeping pets and wildlife free of infection can be lower than what is found at home.
Seemingly harmless wild animals on the streets could be dangerous because they may carry rabies or other infections. You often cannot tell if they are infected because animals with rabies may behave just like normal animals. Dogs, monkeys, and rodents on the streets can be unvaccinated and a single bite or scratch can infect you.
Rabies is almost always fatal if not treated within six days after infection. Seek medical attention immediately if you think you have been in contact with a rabid animal.
5. Physical accidents and fatalities
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization found that injuries are the most common preventable cause of death for young travelers. Some of the biggest sources of injuries are motor vehicle accidents, drownings, burns, and electrocution.
When living abroad, you may find that cities have more chaotic and dangerous traffic than you are used to.
Always wear a seatbelt in a car and do not get into a vehicle without seat belts. Work with qualified, trustworthy tour guides and drivers. And don’t feel like you are being impolite if you want to tell your driver to slow down. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Be aware of the difference in culture. Some areas do not follow standard rules of traffic. Locals may ignore all stop signs, traffic lights, or pedestrian walkways and “drive with their horn.”
Health concerns while traveling abroad are a real issue. But with proper knowledge and prevention, you can reduce any chance of misfortune and enjoy your destination. Most importantly, make sure you go to a doctor for the proper travel vaccinations and avoid unclean food, drinks, or animals.
It may be useful to carry a card that identifies your blood type, allergies, and any medications you take in case of an emergency.
Unexpected diseases or accidents can strike at any time as an expatriate. And this can get costly. But it does not have to be.
An international health insurance provider will provide you 24/7 access to tropical disease and other international health experts that can answer the unique questions of expats.