If you have travelled to a foreign country for some time, it is important to consider your health both before and after your trip.
Many people travelling to exotic locations consider the importance of health precautions before departing, but often overlook the necessary follow up health check on their return. This is a common mistake that can often come at a high price in terms of your personal health.
Completing a Full Course of Prescribed Drugs
Many travellers who contract malaria do so because they have taken the anti-malarial drugs while in the malarial country or zone, but forget to complete the full prescription on their return to the UK, forgetting that the disease can be contracted up to seven days after departure from a malarial zone. Even anti-malarial drugs are not 100% effective against the disease, so a follow up health check is important, so your GP can give a comprehensive health check.
Preventing the Spread of Contagious Diseases
Recent epidemics such as MHRA and Bird Flu show the importance of health checks after travel. These epidemics also show that it is not just travel to exotic locations that can be a danger. When you travel you are confined to a small space, be it an airplane, bus, boat or train, where you share the air with fellow passengers, and are exposed to plenty of opportunities for cross contamination by touching hand rails and door handles.
In order to minimise the potential of picking up and spreading disease, it is important to check the endemic or common diseases in your destination through research before you depart, and by vaccinating yourself against these before leaving.
While away, practice a high standard of hygiene by washing your hands at every available opportunity, especially before and after meals and toilet visits. Close the loop by ensuring you visit your GP or a medical professional on return from any trip. This will minimise any health risks to you or your family, friends and local community upon your return.
Another common form of exposure to disease is through any sexual contact you may have had while travelling. If you have intercourse while travelling it is important to use protection in the form of a contraceptive, such as condoms, which offer the best protection from disease. On continents such as Africa, HIV is prevalent. This been widely publicised, but there are a variety of other viral and non-viral infections you could pick up, such as Hepatitis C. Always be conscious to practice safe sex, and be responsible about your sexual health if your contraceptive fails.
In your post-travel health appointment, be completely honest about anything you have engaged in that has health risk implications, such as drug use or sexual intercourse, so that your GP can best understand what health risks you may be subject to and prescribe the most appropriate treatment to protect your health.