Treating Common Travel Illnesses

Becoming ill while travelling is no fun, to be sure, but a large percentage of people who travel experience at least one of the illnesses covered here. We’ll identify the most common ones to watch for and tell you what you can do to treat them.

Traveller’s Diarrhoea

This form of diarrhoea is caused by foodborne bacteria. It usually causes diarrhoeal symptoms when you eat food that isn’t handled properly, is not washed thoroughly or isn’t fully cooked. These carry microorganisms that can affect your digestive system in a way they wouldn’t affect other people who live in the area, since they have likely built up some immunity to these organisms.

You can treat this with some Pepto-Bismol or ginger tea and ensure that you drink plenty of water to make up for the liquid you lose while you have this condition. More severe cases may require a prescription for antibiotics. To avoid the problem entirely, just be careful about what you eat. Order your meat cooked medium well and wash all fruits and veggies that you plan to eat. You also want to be careful about the water you drink, and try to stick to name-brand bottled water whenever possible.

Influenza

The flu is the second most common traveller’s illness. You know the symptoms already- sneezing, coughing, runny nose, sore throat- and it’s easily preventable with a flu shot. You should have the flu vaccine administered once a year, regardless of whether you are travelling or not. Even if you do get this shot, you can still be infected by the virus. That’s because there are so many different influenza strains all over the world, and you might not be protected against all of them.

Drinking hot tea, getting plenty of rest and taking multivitamins, especially vitamin C, are the best remedies for this illness.

West Nile Virus

Anytime you are visiting warm, humid areas, such as the Caribbean, East Africa or Latin America, you need to be prepared for dealing with the West Nile Virus. It’s best to use preventative measures and take a vaccine for this virus specifically, if you plan to visit any of these areas. You can protect yourself against the mosquitos that carry the virus by wearing long-sleeved clothes and long pants and by applying insect repellent.

If you notice any for the symptoms for this virus- swollen lymph glands, headache, fever, fatigue, a chest rash or nausea- then you should seek medical help. Hospitals in the area should be equipped to deal with people who have contracted the virus.

Malaria

This one is carried by mosquitos as well, and it shows up in much the same areas of the world. It’s a bit more common though, as you can find it in Eastern Europe, most of Africa and much of South America, as well as parts of Asia. An anti-malarial pill is your best protection, and you should know ahead of time whether you are going into an area where malaria is common.

The symptoms include chills, fever and nausea, and if you think you have contracted the illness, then you need to get medical help right away.

Tuberculosis

This illness is incredibly contagious, and it can be spread by sneezing, coughing or even speaking. You’ll know you have tuberculosis if you suffer from a persistent cough for longer than three weeks. It can also be associated with chest pain, weakness, coughing up blood, chills and fever. You should get medical help if you notice these symptoms, and the sooner you catch the problem and treat it, the more effective treatment will be.

Simply getting the BCG vaccine is enough for most people to avoid contracting this illness, and it is especially important that children receive the inoculation, as they are at greater risk for contracting it.