It’s possible to avoid health problems when travelling simply by taking a few precautions. Just follow these easy tips and don’t forget your sunscreen!
Watch what you drink
If you’re travelling abroad, you may be visiting countries where the standards of hygiene are quite different from those in Canada. Water can contain bacteria, parasites and viruses that can cause digestive problems like travellers’ diarrhea, among others. Always drink commercially bottled water with intact seals, or boiled or treated water. Bottled or canned soft drinks with intact seals as well as hot drinks made with boiled water, like coffee and tea, are generally safe. It is also recommended to avoid ice cubes unless they are made with purified water. Finally, it’s best to also use bottled water to brush your teeth.
Choose your food with care
When travelling in foreign countries, food, like water, can be contaminated. To reduce your risk of illness, eat only food that has been cooked and is still hot, or fruits and vegetables that have been washed in safe water or that you have peeled yourself. Avoid dairy products, unpasteurized fruit juice as well as street food. And absolutely forget rare meats, fish and seafood, as well as salads made with fresh fruits and vegetables that may have been washed in untreated water. Finally, always wash your hands with soap or use a bacterial gel before meals and after using the washroom.
Protect yourself from insects
Insects can transmit diseases like malaria, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, yellow fever or the chikungunya virus. If you are travelling to high-risk areas, you may need the appropriate medications or vaccines. Protect yourself from insect bites by applying insect repellent containing 30% DEET on exposed skin (for adults) and ask your pharmacist about the recommended concentration for children or to help you choose the right insect repellent. Also, wear light-coloured clothing, avoid using scented products or perfume and always sleep under a mosquito net or in a room protected by screens or windows.
Avoid swimming in fresh water
In many developing countries, fresh water can be infested with larvae and parasites. These parasites can penetrate your skin and cause serious illnesses. Avoid swimming, wading or walking in fresh water lakes, rivers or stagnant waters where parasites are found. To be safe, swim only in the ocean or in chlorine-treated pools. If you can’t avoid contact with fresh water, dry yourself quickly to prevent parasites from getting into your skin.
Visit a travel clinic!
It is highly recommended to visit a travel clinic at least six weeks before departure. Also, ask your pharmacist about medications and vaccinations for the places you’ll be visiting.