Gap Year Travel Health
Travel health is a major priority when planning your gap year. Researching your travel destination beforehand is essential to find out the vaccination requirements as well as health advice regarding safe drinking, food, STDs, insect borne diseases and other travel related health issues.
Before setting off on your gap year travels, it's worth spending some time getting fit by walking, running, swimming and any number of
different sports. Although travelling will make you fit and walking for long distances will seem quite normal after some time, exercising and eating healthily before you go will help prepare you for the journey ahead.
Ensure that you leave plenty of time to obtain all the necessary vaccinations before setting off on your travels. This could be a few months in advance in some cases. Travel health issues will vary from country to country but some of the things to look out for include:
This is transmitted by the female Anopheline mosquito usually during the period from dusk to dawn. Malaria can kill and early symptoms include chills, fever, body aches and sweating. For the prevention of malaria, travellers are advised to:
- wear light coloured long sleeve tops and trousers
- take the appropriate malaria prophylaxis before, during and after the period of travel.
- apply insect repellent. Both DEET based products and natural insect repellents such as those based on oil of eucalyptus and citronella are available.
- Use a mosquito net or stay in a room with mosquito netting on the windows.
This is transmitted mainly by the Aedes mosquito which tends to bite during the day. Symptoms include muscle aches, fever, vomiting and nausea. There is no treatment available for dengue fever but many people do recover after a few days. In a small number of cases, dengue can be fatal especially for children suffering from a second bout of the fever. Prevention involves wearing long sleeve tops and trousers during the day and applying insect repellent in dengue infested areas.
Too much sun
Heat stroke, sunburn, skin cancer and a variety of ill effects can all result from too much sun exposure. Babies, children and fair skinned people are at greater risk especially in tropical areas. The general advice here is to use a good sunscreen, drink lots of water, avoid over exertion, avoid alcohol, wear a hat, stay out of the mid day sun and minimise time spent on tanning.
Water and food
There are a large number of diseases which can be contracted from infected water and food including Escherichia coli, dysentery, giardiasis and hepatitis A. Less common diseases for travellers include typhoid and cholera. The general rule here is to drink bottled water (where the top has not been tampered with) and to use bottled water for brushing teeth. Water can also be treated by boiling, chemical disinfection through a tincture of iodine and through the use of portable water filters.
With regards to food poisoning, travellers must be cautious when travelling in areas of poor hygiene and sanitation. Milk products, salads, uncooked or undercooked vegetables and meat must be avoided. Fruit which can be peeled and piping hot food is generally safe.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea and AIDS are commonly contracted through casual sex. Symptoms vary but early treatment is often essential to avoid long term complications. Prevention is through abstinence, using water based lubricants and through the use of latex condoms. Condoms can vary in quality and if in doubt, always try to purchase well known brands or buy them from home before travel.
If you have any concerns regarding a condition you may have or a travel health issue, consult your doctor before going and also ensure that you take out a good travel insurance policy.