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Healthcare during travelling

How to keep your health in check while traveling

No one wants to fall ill during a fun trip, but every frequent traveler has probably dealt with this at least once. A few nights of severe cramps, spiking fever, or insane back pain? Yup, been there, done that.

Luckily, most of these are temporary and rather simple ailments to treat. However, that doesn’t mean you should take your health for granted or forget about the dangerous diseases that may be potentially lurking around your adventure grounds. And that’s where this blog comes in. While this probably isn’t the ideal list of reminders for a sunny beach holiday in Tenerife, you will definitely find it useful for those remote jungle adventures.

Africa
1. Good travel insurance

This is super important and so worth the money. I have Europ Assistance which costs me about EUR 120 per year. It covers medical expenses of up to EUR 1,250,000 incurred worldwide. Be sure to keep a copy of your travel insurance in the local language (definitely available in English, French, Spanish, etc.).

World travel - vaccinations2. Money, money, money!

Pull up your credit card limit. I had my credit card ceiling increased just because I’m aware that sometimes you have to pay immediately in case of hospital admittance. When dealing with urgent health matters, you really don’t want to be stuck with financial restrictions. I get immense peace of mind from knowing that if something goes wrong during a trip, I can count on the extra financial reserve for a short time.

3. Get those necessary shots

I don’t know anyone who is a fan of getting vaccinated, but it’s just something you got to do. Well before departure, check in with your doctor to inquire about which vaccinations you already have and which ones you definitely need. Do this as soon as you can and leave enough time to actually get all the necessary vaccinations.

In Belgium it is compulsory to have your child vaccinated for polio. Tetanus is also a known vaccine but needs to be renewed every 10 years. This week I just received the renewal doses of my polio & tetanus vaccines (about EUR 31.5) and the typhoid vaccine (EUR 26) for the very first time. Most vaccination prices can be found here: https://www.travelclinic.com/1385/vaccinations.htm

Vaccination against typhus is always recommended for adventurous travel to places where hygiene may not be up to the mark.

I had my hepatitis A & B vaccines (costing about EUR 100, if I remember correctly) for my first trip to Central America. Do keep in mind that these are three pricks that you need to get at different dates over a period of 6 to 18 months. They’re necessary for people planning to travel to a distant country.

Africa

At the end of this month I will also get a vaccine for rabies (around EUR 10) because I do make several adventurous trips. Rabies is a deadly disease  transmitted by dogs, bats, foxes and monkeys. If these animals bite, scratch or even lick you, you may be in danger of this. Every traveler comes across stray dogs and monkeys, so it’s best to just get it done.

I also have an appointment in a few weeks at the University Hospital in Ghent for a vaccination against yellow fever. This shot can only be administered in  recognized centers. Yellow fever is an often fatal disease and is transmitted through mosquitoes that sting during the day. After this vaccine, you will apparently get a stamp in your passport as proof that you can show at the airport in some countries. Again, always take a copy of your vaccination certificates with you when traveling!

4. Malaria pills

The good, the bad and the ugly. You often hear crazy stories about malaria pills. Some experienced terrifying nightmares, others couldn’t sleep. Balance disorders, vomiting, confusion and even hallucinations are reported side effects of these pills. However, there is a big difference between the various malaria pills on the market. I always choose the rather expensive Malarone pills because I have never been away for extremely long periods. One Malarone pill costs around 2 to 3 euros a day, so that can really add up, especially since you have to continue taking the pill for a while even after your trip. For my upcoming trip to Kenya I will try Atovaquone/Proguanil Mylan for the first time. This costs EUR 41 for 24 tablets, making it slightly cheaper than Malarone.
Kenya

Did you know that CarePlus in their vision ” a malaria free world in 2030 ” now organizes a special promotion in which every mosquito net sold in the store sponsors a mosquito net for a third world country! If you also like to contribute, you can find the CarePlus mosquito nets in the pharmacies, drug stores and outdoor shops.

KENYA

Pharmaceutical checklist for travels


Medicines:

  • Any personal medication
  • Motion sickness medicine (Sea Bands)
  • For nausea and vomiting (Motilium)
  • Preventive and treatment medicine for diarrhea (you can ask your doctor for antibiotics)
  • Rehydration  O.R.S rehydration
  • Birth control or other contraceptives
  • For abdominal cramps
  • For stomach acidity
  • Analgesic, antipyretic & anti-inflammatory agent (Tip: I always pick up Mobistix Forte or Dafalgan Forte granules. You can take these without water.)
  • For muscle pain, sprains and bruises
  • Eye care products: disinfectant, moisturizer, lens care
  • Anti-fungal medicine (I have gotten this for the first time on the advice of a doctor)
  • Sleeping pills or  muscle relaxants (you must be very careful with this medication but I am an extremely bad sleeper and get far too little shut eye time during my travels)
  • Possible remedy for height sickness
  • Something for a sore throat

* Be sure to discuss all necessary medication with your doctor!

Insects

Wound care

  • Plasters, styptic cotton wool, compresses, elastic windel
  • Disinfectant
  • Scissors, splinter tweezers
  • Water resistant plasters

Sun and skin care

  • Sun cream
  • Aftersun
  • Lip balm
  • Protective oil for hair or a cap/hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Possibly aloe vera gel

Miscellaneous

Hope you found this list helpful. Do check out the Institute of Tropical Medicine website to know exactly how to keep health at your destination. And, as always, don’t forget to have fun!

Medical Travel Checklist

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