Vacations are supposed to be full of relaxation and good times, but all that can be derailed if people do not take the proper precautions to prevent illnesses. Sometimes, all it takes is a vaccination, while other times people will need to be careful with what they are doing during their trip.
Here are just some of the diseases and health issues travelers may face, from the most common to the more unusual:
This is normally the most common illness that travelers have on vacation and it is commonly experienced by people who travel internationally to countries in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa. To avoid this health issue, travelers will want to make sure that they avoid raw or undercooked food, including fruits and vegetables, and always drink water from a sealed bottle. Remember that ice or food prepared with local water can send you running, too.
Anyone that is planning on staying at a location that is quite a bit higher in elevation than what they are used to might experience altitude sickness during their trip. You don’t have to go super high, just higher than your body is used to. This illness is caused by the lower oxygen levels that are present at higher elevations and it can cause a person to have a headache, muscle pain, and shortness of breath. For mild altitude sickness, all you really need is to rest, stay hydrated, and allow your body time to adjust. There are also medicines available to relieve symptoms, if needed.
Motion sickness is caused when the inner ears detect motion, but a person’s eyes don’t and the mixed signals cause dizziness, vomiting, and nausea. This is common and normally happens to people whether they are traveling by car, boat, or plane. There are a few solutions that can help with motion sickness, but everyone needs to find the one that works best for them. Keeping your focus on the horizon on a boat or on the road ahead when riding in a car can help by giving you visual cues. Some people swear by rubber bracelets that push on certain pressure points in your wrist. Over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl can be taken before travel as a precaution, while you may want to use a scopolamine patch if you are going on a cruise.
A painful sunburn can end a perfectly good vacation, because a person will not be able to move, let alone enjoy themselves. Sunscreen is a must on vacation, but if sunburn does begin to occur, cool wet cloths will help with the pain as will moisturizer or aloe and drinking lots of water. Visitors to tropical climes should be aware that it is possible to get a severe sunburn even if it’s cloudy. The sun is much harsher in Florida than in Minnesota. Reapply sunscreen much more often than normal, especially if you swim or sweat. If you experience nausea, chills or fever, you may need to see a doctor.
Tropical waters look quite inviting, but every once in a while there are jelly fish in there waiting to sting. And, of course, where there’s one, there are often hundreds. Pay attention if there are warnings posted on the beach; they aren’t kidding. Getting stung by a jellyfish can be painful and the stinger should be removed immediately as the area is being cleaned. Most stings are not fatal, but some are, so if anyone feels shortness of breath, chest pain, or intense pain where they were stung, they will need to go to the emergency room immediately.
Anyone going to South America or Africa will want to get a vaccination for yellow fever, so that they do not get this disease that is spread through mosquito bites. The vaccine should be received at least ten days before leaving for vacation for it to be effective. The symptoms of yellow fever include fever, chills, headache, backache, and muscle aches, and some people can go into shock and organ failure. A single dose of the yellow fever vaccine offers protection from the virus.
Malaria can occur in Central America, South America, Africa, and parts of Asia, Eastern Europe, the South Pacific, and the Caribbean. It is spread through mosquito bites and while the symptoms of high fevers, chills, and flu-like illness can occur within seven to thirty days, it can take up to one year to develop. There is prescription medication that people can take to prevent malaria as well as other precautions to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes. Travelers can check which countries are at risk for malaria and decide whether a preventative drug is needed. In any case, travelers should try to avoid mosquito bites through repellents, wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants, and using bedding nets, if necessary. There are a multitude of diseases spread by mosquitoes, so avoiding bites is the safest strategy.
Typhoid is most prevalent in areas like Asia, Latin America, and Africa, but it is almost everywhere in the world except the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and Japan. This disease is spread by contaminated food and water, and symptoms include high fevers, stomach pains, weakness, loss of appetite, and headache. A typhoid vaccine is available, in either pill or shot form, but it is not one hundred percent effective, so everyone should still be careful of what they are ingesting.
The plague is quite rare, but it is still seen in certain areas of Africa, central Asia, India, South America, and Madagascar. There are three types of plague that include bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic. The first two are spread by flea bites or handling an animal that has been infected, while the third one is spread by coming in contact with a person or animal that has the plague pneumonia and cough. There is no vaccination or medication available to prevent this disease. Luckily, modern medicine has found antibiotics to be effective in treating the plague.
This disease is caused by an infestation of a parasitic flatworm, commonly found in snails, that affects the urinary and digestive tracts. People are at risk when exposed to contaminated freshwater in Africa, the Middle East, South America, Asia, and the Caribbean. The earlier symptoms can include a rash, itchy skin, fever, cough, chills, and muscle aches. However, some people never have any symptoms at all. It this disease is not treated, it can cause serious health issues later on. There are no vaccinations for schistosomiasis and if anyone believes that their skin was exposed, they will want to talk to their doctor when they return home.
There are other health issues and diseases that can affect travelers on their vacations as well, but none of them should stop people from seeing the world. A little planning, a few vaccinations, and a few precautions can have everyone staying safe while they explore new places.