Travel Vaccines for Holiday
Preparing to Travel
Make an appointment to discuss the need for vaccinations and/or malaria prevention with the Occupational Health Service or the Practice Nurse at your GP Surgery as far in advance as you can, especially for long-term or remote area travel. Ideally allow six weeks, as some vaccines need a course of treatment to provide best protection. However, don’t think it’s not worth having a travel health consultation if you are travelling at short notice, as for some travel related problems good protection can be obtained as late as the day before travel.
Make copies of your passport, insurance policy (including the 24-hour emergency number) and ticket details, and write out your itinerary plus a means of contacting you – leave copies with family and friends. If you can, email yourself a scan of important documents so you can print out a copy if needed, as well as taking hard copies with you. Make sure you have a second form of photo identification, besides your passport. Arrange a way of obtaining back-up funds in an emergency. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, contact the nearest British Consulate or Embassy immediately for advice- make a note of the address and telephone number of the local British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate before you go.
Take a basic first aid kit whatever your destination – this should contain basic items like antiseptic, plasters, wound dressings, over the counter pain relief tablets such as paracetamol, over the counter diarrhoea treatment tablets such a loperamide, oral rehydration sachets, possibly an antihistamine. A pharmacist can advise on suitable over-the-counter medications for a travel first aid kit. Do be aware of simple first aid principles – a very basic leaflet can be downloaded from - http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg347.pdf . More detailed information and advice on courses is available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/first_aid/ . Taking some type of first aid or travel safety training before you travel may be advisable, particularly if you are travelling to remote areas. The further away from medical help you are travelling, the more important a good working knowledge of first aid becomes.
Where health facilities may be poor, take a sterile medical equipment pack with clean needles, syringes and suture equipment (available from specialist travel clinics). If you are going on a package tour or expedition, check with the organisers that a kit will be carried. For long-term travel or travel involving high-risk activities or sports you may wish to consider joining the Blood Care Foundation which ensures that supplies of screened blood are available if a blood transfusion is required - http://www.bloodcare.org.uk .
If you need to take regular medication pack enough supplies of any medication that you are taking in your hand luggage. You should keep your medication in its original packaging and take any prescription documents with you. Check with the nearest embassy of the country you are going to (which may be based in London or another European city) that your medication will be legal in that country and find out whether you will need to take a doctor’s letter with you. Some medications that are available over the counter in this country may be seen as illegal drugs unless you have a doctor’s letter in others (for example any painkiller containing codeine).
Some countries - and some areas within countries - are not safe to visit. For up-to-date information and guidance, call the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice line on 0845 850 2829 or check their website . The site gives extra information for travellers who may face particular issues, such as women travelling alone, gay or lesbian travellers, backpackers, and Hajj pilgrims. Information for travellers with disabilities is available from the Direct Government website
Be sensitive to local customs and dress codes - get a good guidebook before you travel so you are aware of local laws and accepted behaviours, as well as known scams and trouble spots to avoid. Be particularly aware of local attitudes to alcohol and drugs. If in doubt, take extra care. In some places, behaviour or dress that would be acceptable elsewhere can lead to serious trouble.
Avoid showing expensive items or large amounts of money which may be a temptation to robbery. Unless it will be really necessary to have them with you, leave jewellery and valuables at home or in the hotel safe. Only carry a small amount of money in your wallet or handbag, keep the rest in a money belt or secure inside pocket. Keep clear of unlit streets and isolated areas at night – areas which are safe in the daytime may be dangerous at night, especially for women. Stay aware of what is going on around you and keep away from situations where you do not feel comfortable. Don’t take risks on holidays that you wouldn’t take at home. If a situation looks dangerous, it probably is. Never resist a violent robbery- your safety is worth far more than a camera, watch, or any sum of money!
For travel within Europe, obtain a European Health Identity Card before travelling – apply at a Post Office or at www.ehic.org.uk . This does not replace travel insurance. Even if you are going to a country that has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK, you may still need to pay for medical treatment, and none of the healthcare agreements cover the cost of bringing a person back to the UK in the event of illness or death. Making sure you've got adequate health insurance is essential. You must always tell your insurer if you have a pre-existing medical condition, or you may not be covered.
If you are travelling on business, your company will probably already have insurance that covers you - but again, you should check to see whether it is adequate and whether you need to take out extra insurance. Some credit and charge card companies provide some insurance cover for cardholders. If you have this, check carefully to see what's covered and what isn't.
Before you leave, read the small print. If you have any doubts or concerns about what's covered by your policy, contact the insurer direct. Some policies will not cover you if you travel to dangerous countries or take part in risky sports.
Traffic accidents are the major cause of death among travellers. Whether you're driving or walking, always check the local traffic regulations. If you are in a car, always wear seatbelts and put children in a child restraint. If you use a moped or motorcycle, ensure that you and any passengers have a helmet and wear protective clothing. Burns to legs from exhaust pipes are common. If you hire a car or a bike, check its condition and your insurance cover. Do not drink and drive - not only does this increase your accident risk, but it is also likely to invalidate any insurance and could be a criminal offence.
Never go swimming alone. Adults should keep an eye on each other, and children must always be supervised by an adult who can swim well. Young children should never be left alone near water, even a paddling pool. Remember, the water in swimming pools, lakes, rivers and the sea could be contaminated, so try not to swallow any while you're swimming, and if in any doubt, don’t swim. If you are diving into water, make sure it's deep enough- remember “Feet first, first time”. Each year, many people are permanently paralysed as a result of injuries sustained from diving into shallow water. Don’t swim after drinking alcohol- half of all drownings are associated with alcohol consumption. Wear a life jacket for boating, water skiing and other offshore water sports. Wear plastic shoes on beaches or reef trips to avoid infection and foot injury. Remember sun safety - water reflects UV light and increases the chance of burning.
If you're taking part in potentially hazardous sports like skiing, canoeing, mountaineering or diving, you should:
If you're scuba diving, you must allow 24 hours between your last dive and your flight.
Dealing with an Accident or Injury
Wash wounds carefully with clean water and apply antiseptic. Wounds may need to be dressed to keep them clean and reduce infection risk. In a tropical environment, wounds do not heal easily and infection is common. Prevent insect bites as far as possible, and if you do get an insect bite or sting don’t scratch it, as secondary infections are frequent. Antihistamine can help reduce the itch.
If you do need to use local medical services, seek advice on the best place to go for help. The local British Embassy or Consul should be able to provide a list of local doctors or clinics. Many travel insurance companies also offer a 24 hour advice line.
If you have access to a sterile medical equipment pack take it with you to the doctor’s surgery or hospital. If you do not have one, try and ensure they use only sterile equipment on you - ask to see the packs for any equipment used being opened if possible.
Contact your travel insurance company as soon as you can, and keep any receipts relating to treatment and related expenses.
For serious injuries / accidents contact your insurance company as soon as you can. Delay blood transfusion if possible, if there is any doubt that the blood may not be adequately screened for viruses such as hepatitis and HIV. In many cases other fluids can be given initially until the injured person is repatriated or a safe blood supply arranged.