What to look out for
Food and water, sunshine, hygiene, and being bitten. “Just everyday things” but they could well have repercussions for your health.
We can tell you the kinds of risks you will generally be exposed to and which simple measures you can take to reduce these risks.
One of the nicest things about a holiday is enjoying the sunshine, providing, of course, that you are going to a country where the sun shines more often than it does in the Netherlands. But, in more ways than one, there is a dark side to the sun: its power.
Here are a few simple tips to bear in mind:
- Don’t go out into strong sunshine between 11.00 and 15.00.
- Adapt your activities to the sun, temperature and climate.
- Make sure that you drink enough.
- If you are exposed to sunshine for a long time wear long clothes and cover your head.
- Take good sun-barrier products with you, and make sure they have a high protection factor when it comes to children.
- Don’t walk on bare feet; you’ll burn them.
- Use a good sun block, with a high protection factor, even if you sit in the shade for much of the time.
One of the most common causes of illness among travellers is the consumption of contaminated food or water. In most cases this does not have serious repercussions but just results in inconvenience, such as a short bout of diarrhoea (“traveller’s diarrhoea”).
You can get food poisoning by eating food in which bateria has produced toxins; it is these toxins that actually cause the food poisoning. The complaints are short and sharp and usually start quite soon after you eat the contaminated food (within 12 hours). They include suddenly feeling poorly and vomiting, and sometimes also diarrhoea, either once or a few times, but not accompanied by a fever. Traveller’s diarrhoea usually clears up quite quickly. If it doesn’t clear up within a few days you should see a doctor.
Some types of food can be susceptible to contamination if they are not prepared properly (thoroughly heated) or not correctly preserved (kept cool enough) such as meat, chicken, fish, rice, sauces and packaged and tinned food.
More serious infections that can be contracted via contaminated food and drinking and swimming water include typhoid fever and cholera, salmonella and shigella, amoebic dysentery and hepatitis A (inflammation of the liver). Any form of diarrhoea that does not clear up after a few ways or is accompanied by fever or blood/mucous discharge should always be taken seriously; see a doctor.
With diarrhoea that lasts longer there is always the risk of dehydration because the body loses a lot of fluids. This is particularly true in the case of small children because they can dehydrate very quickly. It is important to ensure that someone with diarrhoea drinks enough fluids.
With the right vaccinations many diseases can be avoided, but unfortunately not all of them. However, by taking a few simple precautionary measures you can avoid a lot of problems.
- If you don’t trust the drinking water, only drink water that comes in sealed bottles.
- Always drink “bottled water” or boil the water before you drink it. This also applies to milk.
- In a restaurant do not accept a bottle that has already been opened.
- Bear in mind that ice cubes have been made from water and that salad will have been rinsed in water.
- Eat as little fish and/or molluscs as possible.
- Do not eat raw meat and make sure that meat has been properly cooked before you eat it.
- Make sure that what you eat has not spent too much time out of the fridge and that it is not kept for too long before you eat it.
- Be careful with salads and other raw-food products.
- Eat only pre-packaged ice cream and not the homemade (scooped) variety.
- Never eat food from roadside stalls
- Take ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) with you. This is a water-soluble mixture that helps you avoid dehydration.
- The most important tip is also the simplest: always wash your hands, before going to the toilet, after going to the toilet, and always before you eat.
The bite of a mosquito, flea or tick can lead to an irritating itch or swelling, but it can also lead to diseases like dengue of malaria. There are no vaccinations against most of these diseases so in all regions in which they are endemic it’s important that you do as much as possible to avoid being bitten by these insects.
A few tips:
- wear clothing that covers as much of your body as possible.
- apply insect repellent to the parts of your skin that are exposed.
- in a number of situations you should use a mosquito net.
- if you find a tick nestled beneath your skin remove it as soon as possible.
You can get further advice in one of our Travel Clinics, as well as accessories such as insect repellent.
By far the most common cause of life-threatening situations in foreign countries is not disease, but traffic accidents. This is why we want you to be aware of the potential hazards of driving while you are abroad.
Different medical standards
In foreign countries medical facilities are often different and not of the level you are accustomed to in the Netherlands.
A few tips
- Consider whether it’s really necessary to drive yourself.
- If you indeed do need to drive then make sure you drive a roadworthy vehicle.
- If possible, don’t drive alone, and preferably not during the evening and night hours.
- Ensure that you are always reachable (mobile phone) and that other people know where you are.
- Make sure you are well insured.
- Carry an international driver’s license and your passport with you.
- Avoid alcohol, drugs and other substances that can influence your ability to drive.
If you need to take regular medication make sure that you take enough with you to your holiday destination. You cannot rely on being able to get medication quickly wherever you might be.
Here are a few tips:
- Make sure you arrange to take sufficient medication for the complete duration of your journey, well in advance of your departure.
- Ask your dispensing chemist for a “medication passport”. This will ensure that if you lose your medication or if it is stolen, you will easily be able to get replacement medication.
- If you are a diabetic or if you have to inject yourself with insulin, consult with your diabetes advisor on your travel plans before your departure.
- Consider whether it’s necessary to take a customised travel kit with you. You can check out our range of travel accessories for first aid medication.
- Take an ample supply of medication with you on the flight, just in case your baggage arrives later.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) occur all over the world but in certain regions more so than in Western Europe. If you expect to have sexual relations with fellow travellers or the local people take the necessary precautionary items with you.
A few tips:
- Consider whether it’s really wise to have sexual relations.
- If you do have sexual relations always use a condom.
- If you even think that you might have been infected with something always get a doctor to examine you.
- For more information see diseases.
In foreign countries too, parts of many big cities can be unsafe. This not includes petty crime like pick-pocketng and robbery but much more serious crimes too.
Here are a few tips:
- Do some proper research about the risks you will be exposed to and the areas where the risks are the greatest (go to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
- If you don’t really have to go to risky places then keep away altogether.
- If you have to use a taxi ensure you use a reputable taxi service (via your hotel for example).
- Do not enter into any transaction that you do not trust.
- If possible don’t go out alone on the street, and certainly not during the evening and at night.
- Avoid aggressive people, disturbances or gatherings.
- Ensure that other people know where you are and that you can be reached.
- Assimilate yourself to the local customs and ways to doing things and do not provide provocation for irritation or aggression.
- Be careful when it comes to alcohol and drugs. Make sure you are not the cause of violence.
- Don’t get yourself noticed as the “rich” tourist.
- Make sure you are well insured.
Do you suffer from a chronic disease? If so, although making a long-haul journey is generally not a problem, there are a few things that you will be wise to consider prior to the trip.
Here are a few tips:
Always discuss the plans of your trip well in advance with the treating doctor;
Is the journey that you are planning compatible with your condition? The more “active” journeys can put a great strain on your physical endurance (if necessary you can undergo a traveller’s examination to get an idea of how physicaly fit- or otherwise – you really are);
If you suffer from a chronic heart or lung condition, for example, it can have repercussions for (air) travel. Discuss the situation with your specialist and the airline in a timely manner;
If your condition means you run a bigger risk of needing medical assistance while you are abroad, research whether the help you will need is acutally available in the countries you will be visiting;
Make sure you have enough medication and a medication passport and – very important – medical insurance that provides sufficient cover for medical help abroad and repatriation;
And, if you have forgotten to bring your medication with you, you can get last-minute medication at our dispensary at the airport.
In foreign countries animals that are infected with rabies can roam around freely. Rabies can be transmitted by being bitten or scratched by an infected animal. The disease can also be transmitted by animals licking an open wound or via mucous membranes.
But it’s not just dogs that can transmit rabies; the disease can also be spread by all sorts of mammals, including cats, monkeys and bats.
If you are infected, the virus will work its way into your nervous system and then slowly to your brain. Once rabies gets a hold it is difficult to treat and it is a disease that can have very serious consequences.
If you are travelling to a country where there is a risk of contracting rabies come and get some good advice about it and learn what measures you can take from one of our travel nurses.