Gloucestershire Echo - - HEALTH & LIFESTYLE -

GET­TING ready for that long-awaited sum­mer hol­i­day? Don’t for­get to pack im­por­tant health essentials too – but while a packet of painkiller­s and plas­ters might just about do for trips to the Med, those trav­el­ling fur­ther afield might have some more in-depth prepa­ra­tion to do.

If you’re vis­it­ing a coun­try where there’s a risk of se­ri­ous ill­ness, such as malaria, yel­low fever and ra­bies, you’ll cer­tainly want to have con­sid­ered these and taken any nec­es­sary pre­cau­tion­ary steps be­fore jet­ting off.

The num­ber of Bri­tish peo­ple ven­tur­ing be­yond Europe and North Amer­ica on hol­i­day has more than tripled in the last 30 years – yet a new sur­vey by global vac­ci­na­tion pro­ducer Sanofi Pas­teur sug­gests only 17% of UK hol­i­day­mak­ers get a travel health risk as­sess­ment be­fore go­ing abroad, de­spite these be­ing eas­ily avail­able from GP surg­eries, pri­vate health clin­ics and even some phar­ma­cies. Fur­ther­more, 43% don’t check if travel vac­ci­na­tions are rec­om­mended for the des­ti­na­tion they’re vis­it­ing.

“From my ex­pe­ri­ence, peo­ple con­sider travel health when it’s too late – ei­ther they don’t leave enough time be­fore their trip to take the rec­om­mended pre­cau­tions, or they only think about it hav­ing re­turned with a travel-re­lated ill­ness,” says TV GP Dr Chris­tian Jessen, who, along with ad­ven­turer Ben Fogle has teamed up with Sanofi Pas­teur on a cam­paign to en­cour­age ev­ery­body to seek travel health ad­vice while plan­ning their trips.

“Talk through any po­ten­tial health risks your hol­i­day and any ac­tiv­i­ties may pose with a health­care pro­fes­sional be­fore you travel,” Dr Jessen adds. “By re­duc­ing your chances of get­ting sick, you’ll be more likely to en­joy your trip to the fullest.”

Fa­ther-of-two Ben once con­tracted leish­ma­ni­a­sis – a dis­ease caused by par­a­sites and spread by sand­flies – while abroad, so knows how real the risks can be. “I now al­ways make sure I speak to a health­care pro­fes­sional be­fore I travel about the risks to which I might be ex­posed,” says Ben. “When we go on a fam­ily trip, of course we want to re­lax but we also want to ex­plore the lo­cal sur­round­ings. We like tast­ing lo­cal food, tak­ing trips into na­ture and see­ing the lo­cal wildlife, so it’s im­por­tant we take our travel health se­ri­ously.”

Un­sure where to start? You can al­ways ask whether your GP surgery pro­vides the ser­vice, and use­ful in­for­ma­tion sources in­clude Travel Health Pro (trav­el­health­, NHS Fit for Travel (fit­for­travel.nhs. uk) and Smarter Trav­eller (smarter­trav­

Here, Dr Jessen out­lines six rea­sons for tak­ing travel health ad­vice be­fore you head off on hol­i­day...

1. You don’t want to be ill abroad

NO one wants to be ill on hol­i­day – it’s un­pleas­ant, can cut your trip short, and can be ex­pen­sive. Peo­ple can spend a lot of time plan­ning their trips and lots of money too, so mak­ing sure you take your travel health se­ri­ously is re­ally im­por­tant.

There are plenty of things you can do to re­duce the risk of be­com­ing ill when abroad. I’d en­cour­age ev­ery­one to visit a GP or phar­ma­cist for a travel health risk as­sess­ment well be­fore you travel, check you’ve had the cor­rect vac­ci­na­tions for your des­ti­na­tion, be sen­si­ble about your sun ex­po­sure, and con­sider what you eat and drink while abroad.

2. Some dis­eases have no treat­ment and can be fa­tal

DIS­EASES such as malaria, sadly, kill mil­lions of peo­ple around the world ev­ery year. Even a bad case of gas­troen­teri­tis, di­ar­rhoea and vom­it­ing can leave you de­hy­drated and sus­cep­ti­ble to other ill­nesses. Wher­ever you choose to visit, your travel health needs to be taken very se­ri­ously, es­pe­cially if you’re trav­el­ling to a coun­try with a poor in­fra­struc­ture, or ac­cess to health­care is lim­ited. Again, I’d en­cour­age ev­ery­one to get a travel health risk as­sess­ment be­fore travel, so you’re aware of all the po­ten­tial risks and how you can mit­i­gate them.

3. You could in­fect friends and fam­ily when you re­turn

WHEN you’re ill, ob­vi­ously the first place you want to be is at home among your comforts. How­ever, it’s ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal to re­mem­ber your ill­ness may be con­ta­gious, and you may be putting your fam­ily and your­self at fur­ther risk.

If you think you might have an in­fec­tious ill­ness, like di­ar­rhoea, it’s para­mount you main­tain high stan­dards of hy­giene, such as con­sis­tent hand-wash­ing and en­sur­ing you have clean tow­els.

4. Even in posh ho­tels, you could be at risk of get­ting sick

ILL­NESSES don’t care about the star rat­ing of your ho­tel. Ice is still made from lo­cal wa­ter, food is im­ported into the re­sorts, and mos­qui­toes can

I now al­ways make sure I speak to a health­care pro­fes­sional be­fore I travel about the risks to which I might be ex­posed. Ad­ven­turer Ben Fogle, right, echoes Dr Jessen’s call for Bri­tish hol­i­day­mak­ers to talk to a doc­tor be­fore trav­el­ling

fly – so quite hon­estly, the stan­dard of your ac­com­mo­da­tion makes no dif­fer­ence to your risk of trav­el­re­lated ill­ness.

Granted, when a health­care pro­fes­sional car­ries out a travel health risk as­sess­ment, they may ask whether you’re stay­ing in a tent in the wilder­ness or in a five-star ho­tel, as the ac­tiv­i­ties you choose to un­der­take while abroad do im­pact the travel health ad­vice you’ll re­ceive. This doesn’t mean you’re risk-free if you stay in a posh ho­tel.

5. Never as­sume that you don’t need vac­ci­na­tions

I’M a huge ad­vo­cate for vac­ci­na­tions. When you see chil­dren dy­ing of pre­ventable dis­eases, it re­ally does give you per­spec­tive. If sci­ence has a way of al­low­ing us to help avoid dis­eases that can kill thou­sands ev­ery year, it’d be fool­ish to not take ad­van­tage of that. I’d rec­om­mend seek­ing the lat­est travel ad­vice to en­sure you’re fully pro­tected, as ar­eas of risk and travel health ad­vice can of­ten change.

6. You might need proof of vac­ci­na­tion

IT’S some­times a le­gal re­quire­ment to en­sure you have cer­tain vac­ci­na­tions be­fore en­ter­ing coun­tries. If you’re un­sure, book a travel health risk as­sess­ment to help pro­tect you against travel-re­lated ill­nesses.

Celebrity GP doc­tor Chris­tian Jessen

Check which jabs you need early

Ev­i­dence of vac­ci­na­tions may be needed be­fore you can travel

The ac­tiv­i­ties you plan to take part in will af­fect your GP’S ad­vice

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