Jetting off somewhere? Are yourself with the right medications and vaccinations before making that trip.
With diseases rife in some parts of the world, one thing you must do before travelling is to get vaccinated. Vaccination can prevent certain deadly diseases among travellers of all ages. Before heading to exotic destinations such as India and South America, here are some tips to help you stay healthy.
If you recall the jabs you were given in school, those are examples of what health professionals term ‘routine’ vaccinations, which are vaccines recommended for most people. In Singapore, routine vaccinations protect against myriad contagious diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio. Before travelling, get yourself up to date on these routine vaccinations.
On top of routine vaccinations, additional vaccines may be required for visits to some countries. To learn about the health risks in your destination, visit websites of organisations — such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — that provide health information and recommend vaccines by country.
Be sure to keep a record of your vaccines as you may need to show proof of vaccination when you disembark at your destination.
Depending on the region you are travelling to, you could be at risk of contracting diseases such as rabies, cholera and typhoid. If you’re headed to Peru, you could be at risk of malaria; while in sub-Saharan Africa, watch out for yellow fever. As such, different countries require different vaccinations. Muslim pilgrims visiting Saudi Arabia, for instance, are required to be vaccinated against meningococcal disease, a bacterial brain infection. For travel to sub-Saharan Africa and South America, yellow fever vaccination is mandatory.
Depending on your travel itinerary, you may need to take a course of anti-malarial medication a week before you set off. Inform your pharmacist of all the places you would be visiting, as risk of malaria and resistance to these medications may vary, even within a country.
The best way to navigate through these immunisations is to seek advice from a doctor. As vaccines should be taken at least four to six weeks ahead of your trip in order for them to kick into effect, consult your doctor early on the vaccines and medicines needed. Your doctor can advise you based on your health condition, past vaccinations, the area(s) you visit, how long you are staying, and what you will be doing.
However, a vaccine does not mean zero risk, as it does not always fully protect you. Taking precautions such as avoiding contaminated food and water can minimise the risk of infection.
Food & Water Safety
Since viruses are present in food and water, travellers should stick to eating and drinking safely. Avoid raw food and food from street vendors, as they may not be of a health standard to which you are accustomed. Instead, choose food that has been cooked thoroughly, as the heat would have killed most microbes that were present. Food that has been sitting at warm or room temperatures, such as in a buffet, should be avoided as it could become contaminated again.
- Food that has been cooked and served hot
- Food that comes in sealed packages
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Fruits and vegetables you have washed in clean water or peeled yourself
- Pasteurised dairy products
- Food served at room temperature
- Food from street vendors
- Raw or runny eggs
- Raw or undercooked (rare) meat or fish
- Unwashed or unpeeled raw fruits and vegetables
- Condiments (such as salsa) made with fresh ingredients
- Flavoured ice or popsicles
- Unpasteurised dairy products
- Bushmeat (monkeys, bats, etc)
- Bottled or sealed drinks
- Disinfected (boiled or filtered) water
- Hot coffee or tea
- Pasteurised milk
- Tap or well water
- Fountain drinks
- Drinks made with tap or well water
- Unpasteurised milk
PORTABLE MEDICINE CHEST
As a traveller, you may encounter poor sanitation and travelling conditions. Sudden changes in altitude, humidity and temperature could also lead to illness. Keep the following essential medicines in your hand-carry luggage to treat minor ailments on the go.
Fever & Pain Paracetamol is your best bet for fever and mild aches and pains. While effective for more severe pain, ibuprofen may not be suitable for asthmatics or people with severe gastric.
Diarrhoea Replenish electrolytes and water lost through diarrhoea with oral rehydration salts. In addition, you may wish to take adsorbents to adsorb the toxins causing you to have the runs. These adsorbents should be taken two hours apart from other medications. This is because they adsorb other medications, rendering them ineffective. Adsorbents available include medicinal charcoal (Ultracarbon) and Smecta. Medications to stop diarrhoea include Diphenoxylate or Atropine tablets (Lomotil) and Loperamide tablets (Imodium). These should not be taken if you experience fever, severe stomach cramps or bloody stools.
Gastric Irritation Vomiting, abdominal pain and a burning feeling in the stomach between meals are some symptoms of gastritis. Taking antacids can neutralise stomach acids. Be sure to avoid spicy foods as well.
Motion Sickness Travelling to a new place can be fun — until that bumpy car ride or turbulent flight makes you feel like throwing up. Take dimenhydrinate 30 minutes before the journey to prevent motion sickness.
Coughs & Colds Bring along cough drops or mixture for cough relief, as well as antihistamines and decongestants to alleviate a runny and blocked nose. Lozenges can also soothe a horrid sore throat.
For that perfect escapade, pack a bottle of moisturiser and a stick of lip balm to prevent dry skin and chapped lips, calamine lotion for itches and rashes, insect repellents, and sunscreen. Have a safe journey!
Note: This article is not a substitute for medical advice. Consult your pharmacist or doctor on your medical needs, especially if you have any drug allergies or medical conditions, or are on medication.