Fusion Medical Health Series 1Travel Health and
- 1. Introduction
- The world is now a global village. With increasing travel between countries and
the different disease patterns in different countries, it becomes very
important to prepare well for your trip to reduce the risk of falling ill and
spoiling your well-deserved vacation.
This article will focus on the basics of preparation for your travel,
and touch on travel vaccinations as well.
- 2. The
Have an Essential Medical Travel Kit prepared
for your all trips. This should consist
of a mixture of medications and first aid-related items. Below are my recommendations.
- First aid
- i. Band
aids/Plasters and non-woven gauzes for simple dressings
- ii. Antiseptic
solution for cleaning wounds
- iii. Antiseptic
ointment for wounds
- iv. Thermometer
- i. Fever
and pain medications like Paracetamol or Ibuprofen
- ii. Antihistamines
for allergy and flu-like symptoms like Cetirizine or Loratadine
- iii. Throat
- iv. Diarrhoea
medications like Charcoal and Loperamide
- v. Motion
sickness medications like Dimenhydrinate
- vi. One’s
usual chronic medications like blood pressure and cholesterol medications
- Protection from environmental elements
- i. Mosquito
- ii. Water
purifying tablets (as required)
This is something essential but often overlooked. Protection from harmful UV radiation is
important, especially if outdoor activities are expected.
- Choose a sunscreen with SPF of at least 30. This protects from UVB radiation that causes
sunburn and is a risk factor for skin cancer.
- Choose a sunscreen with broad spectrum coverage
and a PA of ++ or above. This protects
from UVA radiation that causes ageing of the skin and is a risk factor for skin
- Oral sunblocks are a fairly new way of sun
protection but a very useful form of added sun protection as they last longer
and help to protect the whole body which sometimes topical sunscreens may miss
out. Polypodium Leucotomos and
Phytoflorals are 2 very effective and medically proven supplements that help to
reduce the harmful effects of UV Radiation.
- 3. Travel
- I divide travel vaccinations into routine vaccinations,
which ALL travellers should have, and country specific vaccines, depending on
where you are visiting.
Vaccines for ALL travellers
- Routine vaccines refer to vaccines within
our childhood immunisation program like MMR, dPT, Hepatitis B, etc. It also includes influenza which is
recommended to be taken every year for all individuals, especially travellers. Over time, some of these vaccines lose their
immunity and hence, it is important to ensure these vaccines are updated prior
travel to reduce your risk of catching these diseases.
- Country specific vaccines are further
subdivided into those for most travellers and those for some travellers.
Vaccines for MOST travellers
- Hepatitis A and Typhoid are 2 diseases that
are easily transmitted through contaminated water and food and hence, for most
travellers travelling to endemic countries, especially “adventurous eaters”, it
is highly recommended to have these 2 vaccines taken before travel. Hepatitis A vaccine lasts for at least 15 to
20 years, while it is recommended to have a typhoid vaccine booster every 2
Vaccines for SOME travellers
- Speak to your doctor or check the WHO or
CDC websites for updated information on required vaccines or medications in
- Malaria is a mosquito-transmitted disease which has been eradicated in
Singapore since 1982. Sporadic cases of
malaria reported in Singapore are imported cases of malaria by travellers. Malaria is still endemic in neighbouring countries
of Singapore and around the world and can be a deadly disease. There is no vaccine available for malaria but
there are preventive medications “chemoprophylaxis” to prevent one from getting
malaria and these usually have to be taken between 1 day to 1 week before
- Yellow Fever is a virus spread through mosquito bites as well and is
present in certain parts of South America and Africa. It causes fever, headaches and muscle aches
usually. 15% of patients who contract
Yellow Fever can develop serious complications.
It is mandatory for travellers going to these countries to get
vaccinated against Yellow Fever which lasts generally for at least 10 years and
obtain a stamped International Certificate of Vaccination before being allowed
to enter the country.
- Singapore dogs are rabies free but rabies is still present in many other
parts of the world and is spread by the saliva of infected animals. All mammals can get rabies, and is not just
restricted to dogs. This is a deadly
disease and if travel activities include getting in frequent contact with
animals, it is recommended to consider the rabies vaccines which consists of a
3 injection series at days 0, 7, and 21 or 28.
- This disease causes profuse diarrhoea and is spread by contaminated water
usually in limited outbreaks in certain countries. Travellers are rarely affected unless
travelling to these limited outbreak areas.
- This disease is spread by mosquitoes and endemic in certain parts of
Asia. It causes fever, headache and can
cause serious complications such as brain swelling and eventually death. The risk of contracting this disease is
fairly low unless rural travel and prolonged outdoor activities are expected.
- 4. Conclusion
- Different countries have different health
risks and they evolve regularly with time as well. It is important to prepare well for your trip
and a visit to your Family Physician 6 weeks prior to travel to discuss the
required vaccinations and medications is highly recommended as most vaccines
take at least 2 weeks for full immunity to be present.
- Be healthy and have an enjoyable trip.