Diseases and immunisations you should know about before you travel


1st Jan 2015 Travel

Diseases and immunisations you should know about before you travel

If you’re about to travel somewhere a little more exotic, find out how best to protect yourself against diseases to which you might not be immune


Everyone loves a good holiday; not only do you get a little time away from work, but you have the opportunity to absorb new cultures, while enjoying the odd drink and basking in the sun at every given opportunity. Unfortunately, diseases don't care too much about tourists having a good time, which is why it's important to know about those that can affect you while you travel. From malaria in Africa and South East Asia, to diarrhoea and vomiting almost everywhere else, there are plenty of pathogens you need to protect yourself against in order to ensure you have a good time.

Staying free of diarrhoea and vomiting

While most people are well used to the water systems in the UK, not everywhere meets the same standards. As such, you need to be savvy when it comes to consuming water abroad. Wherever possible, use bottled water for hydrating yourself and brushing your teeth. Try not to accept ice cubes in your drinks, and stay mindful of the fact that salads are washed with local water.

At the same time, you also need to keep an eye on the foods you eat. Shellfish and unpasteurised dairy products are the biggest culprits when it comes to diarrhoea and vomiting, so choose your menu options wisely. Only eat in restaurants that are hygienic, and try to get some recommendations from those who work at your hotel before you venture out for food. Be extra cautious when eating street food, as it may not benefit from the same rigorous storage facilities you find in restaurants.

Vaccines you may wish to opt for

Before travelling to countries outside of the European Union, make sure you're up to date with all of your childhood immunisations. Those likely to expire or be missing include tetanus, measles, mumps and rubella. In some countries, you cannot travel in or out without a yellow fever vaccination. You can check on your chosen country via the NHS Fit For Travel website, or with the World Health Organization. When travelling to the Caribbean, parts of Africa, Asia, and South America, you may want to ensure you receive a hepatitis A and typhoid vaccination. It's a two-in-one shot, which means less time spent around needles, and it keeps you safe from those nasty diseases that are transported via faecal matter. Remember, you're very reliant on other people keeping their hands clean when you eat out abroad.

Mosquito borne diseases

Everyone has heard of malaria, but are you sure you have the right anti-malarials for your travel? While some were once fit for purpose everywhere, they now only work in certain regions. To ensure you have the right kind, check with your pharmacist or GP. To stay extra safe, make sure you douse yourself in plenty of Deet. It may not smell fantastic, but it does protect you against mosquitoes, which may also carry diseases you can't protect yourself against, like dengue fever. Always educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of each disease before you step onto the plane, as some may emerge after you get back home.

As with any healthcare issue, prevention is better than cure. If you're ever unsure as to what you need to protect yourself against when you travel, just pop into your local travel health clinic and let the experts figure it out for you.