Volunteering in a developing country can be a tremendously exciting and rewarding experience. But travelling to countries with limited resources can be daunting when it comes to considering what health precautions to take and what advice to follow while you are away. Here are some recommendations to help anyone considering volunteering.
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
Visit your local General Practitioner (GP) and advise them of the trip you intend to take including all destinations and the duration. Your GP should be familiar with your health background and can add notes to your health record about the trip, should it be relevant for any health issues that arise after your trip.
Your GP will be able to give you a face to face consultation that will not only put your mind at ease but provide the opportunity for you to ask any questions about health care you are unsure about. You should also consider your sexual health and mental health while away. You may not think these are factors relevant to you, but both are of vital importance to be aware of and to manage properly. Always use condoms if you have sex to protect against diseases such as hepatitis A and HIV.
Education is Vital
Educate yourself on the health risks of your destination(s). There are several rich online resources for this. Alternatively you could visit a travel clinic who will advise you of the necessary vaccinations.
Get any necessary vaccinations well in advance of travelling. Occasionally there are shortages of certain vaccinations, such as with yellow fever in 2013. When this happens the cost tends to rise. Some vaccinations require two separate doses that must be administered a few weeks before you arrive. Be sure to research what you need to have and the cost of different private clinics. Some travel clinics can be very costly and offer vaccinations at a range of prices. It is worth shopping around to get the best price.
In some countries it is mandatory for you to have certain vaccinations before you enter, so be sure to have sought the most recent information about restrictions on travel to your destination.
Get Fully Comprehensive Travel Insurance
Only a fool would travel to a developing country without comprehensive travel insurance from a trusted supplier. It can be costly, but if the worst should happen you will want the security of knowing that you are covered to receive any treatment you might require.
You may already be covered by your parents insurance or through an existing bank account, so check with family members, partners and banks. Also check what your existing cover to ensure you are properly covered for all eventualities.
Wash Your Hands at Every Opportunity
Most diseases are spread through bacteria. It is a simple tip, but thoroughly washing your hands whenever possible, especially after using public transport, touching other people or visiting the toilet can dramatically decrease the likelihood of sickness.
Broadgate GP, private walk-in clinic for GP Consultations, women health service and sexual health advice in London. Visit www.broadgategp.co.uk for more details.