Travelling can often turn out to be a threat to your health and well-being. There are various risks and medical issues for world travelers that they need to know and comprehend before starting their venture, particularly to foreign or remote areas. Travelers who are planning to tour should seek advice about potential medical risks in their chosen destinations. Taking proper precautions can lessen the chances of any mishaps and ensure you know the right way to handle the situation in case you suffer from any severe health condition when away from home. Forward planning, relevant preparation, and careful anticipations can guarantee your wellness and minimize the chances of acquiring any disease.
Although your medical experts can present extensive help and sound advice, it is always the traveler’s responsibility to look for all accessible information and take the needed precautions to safeguard their health while traveling.
General health risks associated with traveling
Remote places where it is hard to find proper accommodation, inadequate hygiene and sanitation, poor medical care, and scarcity of clean water are the most dangerous areas with relatively high serious risks to the medical issues of travelers. Not just that, these are the places where you have to consider and look after your pre-existing illness the most.
In these settings, travelers must take stringent precautions to avoid illness. Travelers should be conscious of the diseases and illnesses prone to their purposed countries. They need to consider and know the travel warnings, insurance, and implications from governmental sources.
Other fundamentals that need to be considered for avoiding medical issues for world travelers are that they should choose a safe mode of transport as well as duration and time of visit. This can influence your exposure to infectious diseases and impact arrangements on the requirement for various vaccinations or medications. The visit duration may assist you in determining whether you are subjected to any shifts in altitude, temperature, humidity, or continued vulnerability to atmospheric pollution.
Comprehending the goal of the visit and the type of travel proposed is also significant concerning the associated health risks. Not just that, the traveler’s behavior can play a crucial role in the process. For instance, wandering outdoors in the dusk in any malaria-endemic place may infect the traveler with malaria if they do not take proper precautions to evade mosquito bites.
Whatever your destination or mode of travel is, your primary concern should always be to be aware of the medical risks you are prone to.
The danger of infectious diseases
There are many factors that influence the degree of exposure of a world traveler to various infectious diseases. From the travel destination to the medical condition of the place, travelers need to consider a lot of things that can contribute to their openness to a number of contagious diseases. However, always remember that your risk of becoming infected varies on the purpose of the tour, hygiene, sanitation, the itinerary within the area, the quality of accommodation, and your behavior while traveling. Often, you can avoid some communicable diseases by vaccination; however, there are many infectious and deadly diseases that do not have any vaccine.
Taking the right precaution, depending on your destination, can immensely reduce the risk of your exposure to infectious agents. Hence, most experienced world travelers recommend collecting all the information related to the diseases prone to the area and its remedies prior to your visit, regardless of whether any medication or vaccinations have been administered.
Modes of transmission of infectious diseases
Experts state that there are some general modes of transmission for different infectious diseases. World travelers need to know about these to be prepared and planned to avoid medical issues.
- Foodborne and waterborne diseases
- Zoonoses (diseases carried by animals)
- Bloodborne diseases
- Vector-borne diseases
- Airborne diseases
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Diseases transmitted via soil
Dangers for people with special medical conditions
Health risks associated with traveling are more remarkable for travelers with special medical conditions. It is important for them to seek advice from specialists for travel health advice prior to their voyage. This group of people includes pregnant women, infants & young children, the aged, the immunocompromised, the disabled, and individuals having pre-existing health problems.
Below are some of the factors that are important to consider while traveling to disease-prone areas –
Travel is not too dangerous for pregnant women until it is close to the expected date of delivery. It is most harmless for them to travel till the second trimester. Also, it is important to consider that there need to be no complications in the pregnancy, and the woman’s health is good. Remember that traveling to sleeping altitudes over 3000m or to remote areas is not advisable.
Airlines impose various travel limitations in late pregnancy and in the neonatal period. Hence, it is advisable for travelers to know about the restrictions directly with their airline to avoid any future complexities. Thromboembolic issues are more common during pregnancy.
Besides that, there are some restrictions on vaccination during pregnancy. There are serious risks and complications if pregnant women get in contact with malaria or viral hepatitis E. Therefore, visiting areas endemic to these diseases ought to be strictly avoided during pregnancy, if possible.
If you are thinking of taking medication as a precaution, then it is crucial that it should only be taken in accordance with medical advice.
For infants, air travel is an inconvenient way to commute because of the changes in the cabin air pressure. This is why it is not advised for infants under 48 hours old to travel in planes as they are especially sensitive to unexpected changes in elevation and to ultraviolet radiation. They have special necessities with respect to vaccinations and antimalarial safety measures. Also, infants can become dehydrated a lot more easily compared to grown-ups. On the other hand, aged individuals should look for medical advice prior to arranging a long-distance journey.
When it comes to physical disability, it does not usually happen to be a contraindication for travel only when the overall health state of the traveler is good. However, airlines have several ordinances concerning travel for disabled passengers. You need to collect all the information prior to traveling from the relevant airline.
It is very important that people with underlying chronic diseases seek medical advice from a reliable source before enduring any journey. If you have any such illness, you need to look after your condition, or else the situation might get worse. Medical issues for world travelers that increase health risks are:
- Cardiovascular disorders
- Chronic inflammatory bowel disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- Chronic renal disease requiring dialysis
- Immunosuppression because of medication or HIV infection
- Chronic respiratory diseases
- Severe anemia
- Chronic hepatitis
- Severe mental disorders
- Previous thromboembolic disease
- Oncological conditions
- Chronic hematological conditions
- Any chronic condition requiring frequent medical intervention
World travelers with a chronic illness should carry all required prescribed medications and necessary items with details of medication as well as prescribed doses for their journey duration.
Also, most airlines demand travelers to carry the physician’s name and contact details with other travel documents with complete details about their medical condition and treatment.
Things to do before you head for your travel
You need to be extremely concerned about medical issues for world travelers, particularly if you are planning to visit any developing country, as these places usually lack the necessary resources. For this, you need to start your planning several months in advance so that you do not miss out on anything.
Below is a list that can help you get started with your preparation:
- Research health concerns – You can find your information and resources from the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. They also have data about recent outbreaks and immunizations needed.
- Check for first-aid skills – If you are traveling to remote areas or places where there are chances of mishaps, then have a look at a complete guide to using a first-aid kit.
- Have a complete checkup from your doctors – See your doctor, dentist, and optometrist, and have a complete checkup. This way, you will be able to address minor health issues.
- Get immunized – You need to get immunizations administered a few months before you travel to another place. There are some medications also that need to be taken earlier, during, and later your tour. Make sure to have an international health certificate from your doctor that mentions your immunizations.
- Choose travel insurance – Your travel insurance preference depends on your destination, personal insurance policies, and your planned activities.
How to avoid some of the medical issues?
The best way you can gather a great deal of information and advice for the prevention of health-related problems is from medical and travel industry professionals. However, being a conscientious traveler, you are responsible for your health and well-being while traveling to various places. Apart from that, you need to be extremely conscious that you prevent the transmission of communicable diseases to others after you return.
Below we have mentioned some of the main responsibilities that you need to consider to restrict the commutability of medical issues for world travelers –
- the decision to travel;
- recognizing and understand the risks involved;
- inquiring health advice, preferably 4–8 weeks before travel;
- complying with suggested vaccinations, prescribed medications, and health measures;
- carrying a medical kit and understanding its uses;
- careful preparation before departure;
- receiving adequate insurance coverage;
- getting a physician’s attestation for any prescribed medicines, syringes, etc. that needs to be carried;
- the well-being of accompanying children;
- practicing precautions to avoid spreading any infectious disease to others during and after your journey;
- considering health precautions before, during, and after the course;
- full reporting to a medical expert of any illness on return;
- practicing accountable sexual behavior and avoiding unprotected sexual contact; and
- being respectful of the host country and its population.
The Bottom Line
Traveling the world may enable you to get in contact with many tropical or other travel‐associated diseases. This can often turn out to be a deadly scenario for people with prior health issues or with other medical conditions. For efficiently lessening exposure and increasing awareness of health risks, there needs to appropriate research on medical issues for world travelers. This includes appropriate pre‐travel consultation for your voyage with data about the things that you should do!