My dear travellers, today I have for you a very important and needed entry regarding health and our safety during the journey. Many factors contribute to a successful journey, and one of the most important is the knowledge and awareness of situations that may (although they do not have to be preventive at all!) Meet us in various corners of the earth. Discovering new, often unfamiliar places is fantastic, but somewhere in this eurofia, an ambush, crazy taking pictures of subsequent landscapes and trying the next exotic dishes, there must be a place for a rational approach to taking care of yourself.
If somebody thinks that he is untouchable and on vacation or on a journey of dreams only beautiful situations happen in film, he is unfortunately wrong. Regardless of what is the purpose of our journey and what is its nature, taking care of health must be the number one of all activities. During the holiday period, the frequency of trips increases, but this trend is slowly changing and travels appear throughout the year. And more and more often these are remote, tropical and culturally different places. This means that – especially in a new place – we must be well prepared for all possible situations, so that we can easily enjoy the journey.
The quality of life and sanitary conditions in Europe are very high, and we are used to it and often we do not know how many aspects we need to pay attention to during a stay in another country, especially one that is less developed, has a different bacterial flora or diseases that do not occur in our home country.
Let’s also overthrow the myth that, with short trips, such as in Europe, we can wave our hand for proper preparation. It does not matter whether we are going to Croatia for a week or a month’s trip to the Amazon. The principles of caring for health, safety and widely understood travel prophylaxis apply to EVERYWHERE.
I am not here to scare you, but to share with you my travel experience and what I have often learned about health on the go. Most important, however, is the fact that most of dangerous situations and diseases can be easily avoided by following the basic principles of PREVENTION, ie prevention in advance.
Remember that vaccinations before departure are the basis, but the vaccinations alone do not protect us from infection, so our main goal is to prevent any disease from being infected. And for that we have some security rules in everyday functioning.
That’s why today I am in a hurry and I have gathered for you the most important rules that we travellers must know and apply. Because we agree, there is nothing worse than being sick on the road.
In the first place, we should remember about water. It is contaminated water and food prepared on it that are among the most common causes of traveler’s illness. Especially when it comes to poorly developed countries, which are a frequent destination of exotic travels. Diseases that can be infected by infected water are, for example, travelers’ diarrhea, typhoid fever, type A jaundice or cholera (hence the vaccination for these diseases is definitely recommended, because contrary to appearances, they are not rare).
The easiest way to treat water is to cook it, because it kills all pathogenic bacteria, viruses and parasites. If it is not possible to boil water (eg during survival expeditions), it is worthwhile to obtain chemical treatment agents containing iodine, chlorine or silver compounds, or modern microfiltering filters (portable point-of-use).
RULES YOU NEED TO REMEMBER
1. Drink only bottled water
(with a closure protected with foil that is not used in Poland) or canned. Even in restaurants, order water in a bottle, not one that will be served in a jug or directly in a glass.
Warning! In India, I met with cases that the water sold in street kiosks was poured into plastic bottles from the well, and then with a lighter the cork was melted to make it look pre-bottled (!). There is a patent for it: always squeeze the bottle with water firmly, if the cork does not fire, it means that the bottle was closed at the factory and you can boldly drink it.
2. Avoid drinks with ice coming from an unknown source
Like you remember about bottled water, but how hot it is, man does not pay attention that tap water can also be found in our juice or drink. Inspecting the source of water used seems like a miracle, so I use a simple rule – in the tropics I never drink ice-cold drinks. Believe me, it can be experienced, and the problem of wondering if it would be good water for sure, disappears as the hand took away.
3. Wash fruits and vegetables with bottled or boiled water
Remember – the same principle as using ice – washing food with tap water or well is no different to drinking it, because bacteria and viruses will just stay on the food. Even after washing, always take them out. You can also burn the skin with boiling water, which will kill most of the germs.
4. Avoid foods that have not been cooked sufficiently
High temperatures and humidity, as well as poor food storage conditions, make it vulnerable to an increase in the number of microorganisms that can cause infection. This particularly applies to meat, eggs, seafood and dairy products. Do not eat undercooked food and food that you are not sure that it has undergone heat treatment or, for example, has been out of the refrigerator for a long time. Contrary to appearances, it is not difficult to travel, for example stalls in Southeast Asia are a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses and fungi. Just look at the raw meat or fish, which without a refrigerator lie on the countertops for many hours, and should turn on you a warning lamp. Another example – Cuba and famous cakes with whipped cream sell on the street at 30 degrees (without a refrigerator). We definitely say NO to such snacks.
5. Watch out for street eateries and stalls
I know, I know, you will be outraged right now, because how to go to a new place and not try the local cuisine at the points where mainly locals eat and usually very cheap. I’m not saying no, but just be careful. Try to choose those in which there is a lot of traffic, so the food has to be prepared on a regular basis, and try the dishes cooked and fried. In addition, pay attention to what these dishes are served – ideally, these are disposable plates and cutlery, and not, for example, plastic reusable. All you have to do is look closely at the place to see that your plate after the predecessor has just been roughly rinsed in a large bowl of water that has been there for several hours and has more bacteria in it than you can imagine.
6. Brush your teeth with water from the bottle or boiled
Sounds fancy? But it is not. Every experienced traveler will tell you that the first moment you arrive at an exotic place is to put a bottle of mineral water in the bathroom. For example, to remember about her when brushing your teeth, because we do not have a reflex to rinse the mouth with water from the bottle. I will go even a step further – you can also wash your face with such water, and if you think that it is too much, always, but always close your mouth washing your mouth or bathing in the shower (and then dry the face and the mouth area with a towel) by accident, do not swallow water. It’s still the same tap water that we try to avoid, and sometimes one drop is enough to poison. Believe me, I did it in India – precisely because I forgot to close my mouth, washing my hair in the shower.
7. Wash your hands often and always wipe them
Frequent washing shortens life – says the adage, but not this time. Hand hygiene is an absolute foundation. Always wash them before eating and use soap. Additionally, remember to dry your hands with a towel – for the same reasons as above – to avoid mouth contact or food with water. And, best of all, have a MUST HAVE with you every traveler – an alcohol-based disinfectant gel – and use it even after washing your hands.
Insects are really a difficult opponent. There are plenty of them, they are small and “spread with the speed of light.” Their intrusiveness is not limited to bubbles on the skin or unbearable buzzing over the ear. Insects are one of the most dangerous carriers of infectious diseases, such as malaria, fever, dengue or Japanese encephalitis. Contrary to appearances, you only need one insect bite to become infected. And these diseases are nasty and for some of them (eg malaria or dengue) there is no currently available vaccine. It means that our only weapon is prevention, or in short, do not let yourself bite. Because I assume that the use of the most effective method minimizing the risk, i.e. not indulging in places at risk of morbidity (unfortunately, nowadays a large part of the world and everything we call tropics),
RULES YOU NEED TO REMEMBER
1. Repellents, repellents and repellents
The simplest and most effective rule – use repellents, that is chemical substances, repelling insects. Choose, however, those that contain DEET or ikicdynÄ. The formula – spray, gel or roll-on is optional. It is also important to know what concentration to choose. In the case of DEET, it should not exceed 20% in children and 50% in adults. However, it is not a suitable remedy for infants under 2 months old. DEET agents last for about 6 hours, but they should be used more often, for example after a water bath.
My advice is: do not hesitate to use repellents. Do not approach this: I do not want to, I have forgotten, and maybe nothing will bite me. I also had such a selective approach, until in Thailand I fell ill with Dengue. You can also try local remedies that are often based on insect repellent ingredients (such as lemon eucalyptus oil or ordinary oil) and are equally effective.
Warning! Remember that in tropical countries where you use UV filters, the repellent is applied to the skin after first protecting it with sunscreen.
2. Cover the body
There are many guides that advise you to cover up in the tropics from head to toe, i.e. long trousers, long sleeves, socks, and high boots. And if you look at a local, eg in Thailand, you will actually see that even in 30 degrees they wear jeans and blouses with long sleeves. In part, it is a habit to high temperatures, and partly protection against mosquitoes. However, I am aware that if we do not go to the jungle or safari, only for a holiday trip to warm countries, everyone wants to take advantage of this heat and sun, and walking in jeans is the last thing he dreams about. I have such a patent for it that I wear, for example, long thin dresses or thin loose pants that cover the skin, but are still airy. I put on a tunic or kimono on my shoulders, so I do not feel covered from head to toe,
Warning! When traveling more survivalowych it is worth considering buying clothing factory impregnated insecticide, such as permethrin, means a measure that has a deterrent effect on various species of insects, including: chamomiles, ticks, gnats and sand fleas.
3. Prepare your accommodation
Checking the room before falling asleep is very important. First of all, take a look at the tightness of windows and doors, check if the safety nets have holes and remove all mosquitoes from the room. I definitely recommend you choose rooms with air conditioning, because it is a natural barrier that runs over insects. If you do not have air conditioning, it is necessary to choose a place with a mosquito net, but be careful – check that there are no holes, because in many hostels or hotels unfortunately mosquito nets at the beds leave much to be desired. Traveling in Southeast Asia to less developed countries, such as Laos or Cambodia, I had my own mosquito net in my backpack (PLN 15 on Allegro), which saved me many times from the bloodthirsty attacks of mosquitoes.
4. The time of the day matters
The mosquito transmitting diseases is not attacked only at dawn and at dusk. Different types of them carry different pathogens over the course of a circular day, so realizing that we are exposed all the time is an important principle that should mobilize us to continually protect ourselves. During the day, they feed on mosquitoes carrying dengue, chikungunya fever, zika and yellow fever. However, at night, the likelihood of a mosquito infesting malaria, Japanese encephalitis and fever of the western Nile is increased.
5. Not just mosquitoes
Let’s also disprove the myth that only mosquitoes threaten us. Insects carrying dangerous diseases are much more and there is nothing to panic, but be aware that the application of the above principles protects us against the entire spectrum of insects. In a tropical climate there are often sandworms (extremely irritating micro-openings that are difficult to see and which do not sound like a mosquito) – leishmaniasis carriers, onchocercosis flies, Chrysops from which loas may develop and known tusks tse carrying an African coma. In a word – there is nothing to be protected from!
Exotic journeys also involve possible contact with unfamiliar animal species living close to humans, e.g. monkeys in Indonesia or India. Our first instinct is the desire to look at them closely, take a photo, etc. However, you must be careful, because they are still wild animals, often carriers of diseases such as rabies. Bats are also carriers of bats, for example in caves. What’s more, the probability of being bitten by a dog or cat is even greater, and these are not lacking, for example in Thailand – there are whole hordes of them. It is worth to get vaccinated on rabies, and in contact with animals be restrained.
If you travel to open areas and close to nature, be sure to watch out for snakes, scorpions and spiders. Animals that are practically non-existent in Poland, so we are not accustomed to taking them into account in our way of thinking.
RULES YOU NEED TO REMEMBER
1. Avoid contact
The simplest rule – stay away from unfamiliar animals. Do not try to touch the monkeys and do not use their food (it irritates them very much and can cause them to aggressively). The same with random dogs or cats, even domesticated ones. In poorly developed countries, the approach to animals is different than in the West, no one vaccinates them and does not control them at the vet, and most of them are not.
2. Wear full footwear
Flip-flops for a walk to the jungle? No thanks! When choosing to the jungle, forest or rural areas, remember to wear full footwear, because it will best protect you against possible bites of animals living in the grass and undergrowth. Always check your shoes before putting them on and thoroughly shake them off. It is hard to imagine how much it can fit in one shoe, for example to my trainer left on the terrace in Thailand, four frogs have been packed! You do not know how difficult it was to remove them from him!
3. Protect the youngest
If you are traveling with children, be aware that through their growth they are an easy target for animals such as dogs or cats, which makes them extremely vulnerable to possible contact with their saliva or bite. Especially that children do not have barriers in themselves and are more likely to cling to animals.
4. Prepare for snorkeling
If you have plans to snorkeling, get special rubber footwear that protects you from stepping on poisonous sea animals. Here you do not have to look far – eg in Croatia there are many sea urchins, whose sting is very painful and poisonous. And what’s new in the warm waters of Australia.
Often, what you cannot see is the most dangerous, hence one of the most recommended is the tetanus vaccine, which is found in the soil. It’s easy to get infected with it, because you only need a small abrasion or scratch on your feet (and that’s easy to do), which in combination with the outdoor shoes we use on holidays, exposes us to potential contagion. The best protection is definitely wearing covered shoes.
RULES YOU NEED TO REMEMBER
1. Try not to walk barefoot
After all, even the thinnest flaps are able to protect against infection. Also avoid places with contaminated soil or sand.
2. Watch where you go
Avoid also places with high grass, bushes, venturing into the forest after dark.
3. Do not take a bath in unmarked places
It is also good to avoid swimming or wading in water reservoirs or shallow ponds, because there may also be parasites in them.
At the end I will add a few important rules that will certainly help you in small and large trips:
1. FLIGHTS AND JET LAG
After reaching the new place, give yourself time to acclimatize and get used to, for example, high temperatures or changes in altitude. Visiting and exploring with a lot of tiredness and shock of the organism resulting from changes in time and climate zones – is a simple step to its weakening, and thus greater susceptibility to disease.
2. SUN PROTECTION
In a hot and tropical climate remember about the proper irrigation of the body and necessarily about sunscreen. Do not underestimate the sun, because the closer to the equator, the stronger it is and tans us faster and harder. And against such a sun we are protected only by very high filters (minimum 30 SPF) and necessarily a headgear! It is not about a nice tan, but about avoiding sun shocks, strokes and skin melanoma.
3. HUMAN FACTOR
A factor that is very important and which is often underestimated. When traveling, it happens to get sick and even go to the hospital. In addition to good and proven insurance, which is an absolute basis, whether it is a short trip to Europe or a trip to the tropics – you also need to have eyes around the head in the context of medical facilities. In poorly developed countries, the level of sterility and professionalism of personnel may deviate from Western standards, which makes a tourist risk of contracting Hepatitis B or HIV / AIDS while taking IV drip or intravenous medications. So if you have a choice (I’m not talking about extreme cases of life and death, when any help is already all), think about it five times if the place you came to meets the standards of cleanliness.
This also applies to casual sexual encounters – always use condoms and be aware that in developing countries the risk of contracting STDs and HIV / AIDS is much higher than in Europe.
The same applies to the performance of cosmetic treatments or tattooing – if you have to, choose a reputable place, because it will reduce the likelihood of contracting, among others WZW B and C.
4. PLAN WITH YOUR HEAD!
I know that when the journey of a journey comes, everything else goes to the background, but be careful in all of this. The world will not escape us, and health may, so choose carefully the places you want to visit. Check the pages of embassies that provide current information on eg natural cadastre, as well as the WHO website, which updates information on the epidemic or the increased risk of infection, eg dengue in a given region. If you do not have to, do not push yourself into dangerous places or wait for the threat to pass. None of us is untouchable, but most dangerous situations can be avoided. On the one hand, adventure is an adventure, but on the other – at the end of the day what is really important is health and safety. Without this, each trip loses its flavor.