Travel is more available so it’s really no surprise that approximately 9.6 million Australians travelled overseas last year. The purpose for overseas travel can vary from work, visiting family, sightseeing, volunteering or even having medical procedures done but what doesn’t vary is the amount of time you should be planning ahead for travel vaccinations and other precautions. Every traveller should visit their GP at least six to eight weeks prior to leaving the country to make sure they are aware of what they need to do to remain healthy while travelling.
While you may think that travel health is only about making sure you have the right travel vaccinations, it can cover everything from remaining injury free, avoiding travellers diarrhoea and staying safe while travelling. Did you know that 2% of Australian travellers die from infectious diseases?
Which travel vaccinations will I need?
Your GP will be able to give you specific advice for the region/country you are travelling to. Many diseases only affect a limited portion of a region/country so it will depend not just on where you are travelling but also on what you are up to while there. Complete knowledge of your travel itinerary will help your doctor provide you with the best advice.
It’s also a good time to ensure your routine immunisations are up to date as they can be able to be done at the same time as the travel vaccinations that you may require.
What else do I need to watch for?
18 to 24% of Australians travelling overseas die as a result of preventable injuries. Other injuries commonly be caused by traffic accidents, sporting injuries, sunstroke or theft. These injuries occur for a number of reasons such as:
- Unfamiliar or risky environment
- Lower safety standards than Australia
- Unfamiliar rules
- Carefree attitude or riskier behaviour by traveller
- Over-reliance on tour operators to protect travellers
- Influence of alcohol or drugs
What are some common travel vaccinations?
- Hepatitis A
- Meningitis (Men ACWY)
- Tuberculosis (BCG)
- Enterotoxic E.coli (traveller’s diarrhoea)
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Yellow Fever
Is there a vaccination for Malaria?
There is currently no vaccination available that offers protection from malaria so if you are travelling to a country or area that has a risk of malaria it’s very important to take antimalarial medication to reduce your risks of becoming infected. Other steps you can take to prevent malaria include using a DEET mosquito repellent, wearing protective clothing that covers your arms and legs especially at dawn/dusk and using a mosquito net while sleeping. Mosquitos can also transmit other infectious diseases such as dengue, yellow fever and Zika.
How can I avoid traveller’s diarrhoea?
In Australia we are very lucky to have uncontaminated water sources available to us but this is not the case in every country and contaminated water can be a leading cause of traveller’s diarrhoea (TD). Another cause of TD can be food contamination stemming from poor hygiene and lack of food safety standards such as those we are used to in Australia. It is said that prevention is better than cure and in the case of TD it is doubly true! To reduce your likelihood of getting TD make sure you;
- Only use safe water for drinking, cooking or brushing your teeth
- Wash your hands frequently or use an alcohol based hand sanitiser gel
- Your GP may also recommend an oral cholera vaccine called Dukoral
If you do get TD there are medications available that can help however if you have ongoing severe diarrhoea or a fever you should seek medical attention.
Can travel vaccinations help prevent STI’s?
Sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) can be reliably prevented and the steps to ensure you don’t get infected are the same when travelling as when you are at home. There are currently no vaccinations available for Hepatitis C, syphilis and HIV. If you are planning on engaging in sexual activity while overseas make sure you are protected from contracting an STI by avoiding unprotected sex, especially with high risk partners.
Unprotected sex is not the only way you can become infected with some blood borne viruses, engaging in intravenous drug use as well as unscreened blood transfusions, injections with non-sterile medical equipment can also lead to contracting Hepatitis B and C as well as HIV. It may be a good idea to leave the piercings and tattoos until you return from your holidays!
What about medical procedures?
Medical tourism has become a boom industry over the last couple of years with many people opting to go overseas for plastic/cosmetic surgery or dental procedures. This boost is partly due to an influx of medical tourism agencies offering packages that incorporate flights and accommodation as well as the cost of the procedure. This is a high risk industry and we often hear of patients returning with unhappy experiences and poor standard work. The Australian Dental Association (ADA) and the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) have both issued advice for people considering having dental work or plastic/cosmetic surgery done overseas. They suggest that you take your time making a decision and to do your research.
- Research online or try to visit the hospital beforehand. Look for reviews or places recommended by expatriates living in that country. Many hospitals provide background details on their dentists, including qualifications and where they trained.
- Ask questions. Ask for a full treatment plan and ask about the time frame, as well as the total costs. Are the medical standards of care and quality control requirements at least as good as those in Australia? Have I been assured that the devices and products used in overseas hospitals meet Australian standards?
- Make time. Don’t book an inflexible airfare or limited annual leave, as you may need to stay longer than expected.
- Accept that you may need to go back for more work. You may lose the savings you made initially.
How do I make an appointment for a travel doctor in Geelong?
Just contact us at Kardinia Health and we will be able to assist. You’ll need to make a double appointment as this will allow our GP to talk through everything with you. You may need a review appointment as well. Your health is extremely important and never more so than when you are travelling.