Travel-Induced Health Conditions: A Quick Guide

Travelling to other countries is probably one of the best and most unforgettable experiences one can ever have. I mean, who doesn’t want to go and explore the most beautiful spots in the world aside from their own land.

Travelling is definitely fun but there are a number of things we need to consider before setting sail to some far off place – from flying to the health risks like infectious diseases which you can get once you land on your destination. Like they say, we can never be too cautious when it comes to our health.

AIRPORT TRAVEL

People with inner ear balance problems such as Meniere’s disease and labyrinthitis may be reluctant to travel by airplane, fearing that the atmospheric changes and resulting pressure in their ears may worsen their symptoms.

Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear. It affects each person in a different way, but commonly its symptoms include vertigo, tinnitus, hearing loss and a feeling of fullness in the ear. People with Meniere’s disease can fly safely as long as they’re guided by their physician.

Labyrinthitis is also an inner ear infection usually caused by a virus or bacteria which causes acute inflammation of the labyrinth, which affects a person’s hearing and balance.

Meniere’s disease and Labyrinthitis have similarities but are dissimilar disorders. Both are conditions which affect the inner ear, both can cause vertigo and affect a person’s balance. Both also have similar symptoms and risk factors. The main difference is that Labyrinthitis is curable, whilst Meniere’s disease is incurable.

Many people regardless of Meniere’s disease or Labyrinthitis experience ear pain during takeoff and landing, this is because of a difference between the air pressure in the ‘middle ear’ and the atmospheric pressure of the plane.

TRAVEL-INDUCED HEALTH CONDITIONS

A lot of infectious diseases are transmitted through contaminated food and water, as well as insect bites. We’ve gathered some of the most common travel diseases which you should avoid when stepping foot into other territories. This can serve as your simple guide to health precautions when travelling abroad.

Typhoid

Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection caused by the Gram-negative bacillus Salmonella typhi. It is acquired through contaminated food or water and is endemic to areas with poor sanitation. Vaccination is highly recommended before traveling to countries where the risk of typhoid is high. It’s most commonly contracted in developing countries such as India and parts of Asia, Africa and South America.

Symptoms: high fever, fatigue, severe headache, weakness, nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, rash, constipation or diarrhea

Treatment: Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection and is typically treated effectively with a course of antibiotic medication. If not treated, typhoid fever can be fatal.

Malaria

Malaria is a serious disease spread by female mosquitoes carrying a parasite called plasmodium. The disease progresses quickly, and can be fatal. Malaria is prevalent in tropical countries. These days, you can contract malaria from at least a hundred countries around the world.

Symptoms: fever, headache, chills, nausea, vomiting

Treatment: There is no approved vaccine for malaria but there are preventative anti-malarial tablets prescribed by physicians for travelers going to high risk destinations but these tablets are also known to have unpleasant side effects. If infected, treatment can include a run of antiviral medication.

Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is potentially a deadly disease which is transmitted by a bite from infected mosquitoes most commonly found in the tropical regions of Africa and South America. This disease is characterized by a high fever and jaundice or the yellowing of the skin and eyes, hence, yellow fever. This viral disease can be potentially fatal as it can damage the liver and other internal organs. Yellow fever can be prevented through vaccination but it needs to be administered at least two weeks prior to travel.

Symptoms: high fever, headache, muscle aches, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting

Treatment: There is no antiviral medication or specific treatment for yellow fever, but supportive care in a hospital is critical and patients should be treated in an intensive care setting.

Travellers’ diarrhea (TD)

Traveler’s diarrhea is the most common of all travel illnesses. Food and water contaminated by the bacteria called E.coli is the primary culprit of this disease. The unsanitary handling of food, as well as food that has not been thoroughly heated or has been exposed to flies can result to TD. Fortunately, traveller’s diarrhea is rarely life-threatening and usually lasts a few days. Developing countries, including some parts of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia are high-risk destinations.

Symptoms: urgent need to have a bowel movement, abrupt onset of passage of three or more loose stools a day, nausea and vomiting, explosive and painful gas, cramps, loss of appetite

Treatment: The most effective treatment for TD is usually a sequence of an antibiotic and an antimotility agent. It’s also important to stay well hydrated as dehydration is the most likely complication of TD.

Dengue Fever

Dengue is a virus spread by an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito, that habitually bites during the day. Dengue fever is a risk in tropical and subtropical areas including parts of Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, Africa and Latin America the Western Pacific Islands. The best way to avoid infection is to avoid mosquito bites. Protect yourself by covering up, using nets and applying mosquito repellent on your clothes or exposed skin.

Symptoms: fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, rashes

Treatment: Currently, there is no particular anti-viral treatment for dengue. Usually, dengue clears up in a few weeks and serious complications are uncommon, but there are also severe cases which sometimes results in death.