Travel has become integral part of modern lifestyle, mostly because of the advent of fast transit and quick communication. Rapid travelling modes associated with quickly changing time zones and environments put human body under tremendous stress and predispose it to an array of illnesses. Chances of contracting an illness during travel depend on where it has been started off from, mode of travel, destination, purpose of travel, environmental factors at destination such as temperature, hygiene, food, water and precautions such as vaccinations against high risk diseases.
Infections are the most common problems for the travelers and among infections diarrhea is not only the most common but also most bothering infection. Traveler’s diarrhea is defined as three or more episodes of unformed stools during a 24-hour period. It occurs when dirty food that has been in contact with human feces is consumed. Food usually does not come in direct contact with feces. It gets infected when it is handled with contaminated hands, which in turn occurs most frequently in hotels and restaurants. Food from street vendors is also not safe, safest source of food while traveling is from private homes.
The affected person should be kept well hydrated by replacing all the lost fluid and salts. If the symptoms become more aggressive then antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin and metronidazole can be used, which are usually easily available. Loperamide is an antidiarrheal that controls the symptoms by controlling the gut motility, which in turn reduces the frequency of loose stools. However this should be used only when absolutely necessary because it holds back all the infective agents, which in turn cause even more damage in the intestine.
2. Motion Sickness:
Motion sickness occurs when human body is in motion and perception of movement by your body is different than perception of movement by the part of your internal ear, which is responsible for the body balance. Motion sickness causes nausea, vomiting and dizziness. This problem can affect anybody but is particularly common among pregnant women and children.
It can be prevented by travelling in the front seat of the car or preferably driving it, sitting at the wing in an aeroplane and asking for a cabin in the middle on a ship.
Aromatherapy with mint or lavender and flavored lozenges such as ginger candy can help in preventing the motion sickness.
There are few medications that can be used to prevent and treat it. These medicines include diphenhydramine, dimenhydrinate and scopolamine.
There is a long list of infections other than diarrhea that people can suffer from during their travel. During travel people are exposed to other infected people while they are traveling in a closed space such as plane, bus or train. Remaining in closed crowded spaces for prolonged periods of time, such as in an aeroplane with other passengers, predisposes to airborne/droplet infections from others. It has been observed and proven through various studies that travel is a very effective mode of infection transfers. Not only simple upper respiratory infection results from these travels but it is very common to contract severe acute respiratory syndrome too. These can be avoided by using masks, frequent gargles and steam inhalation. Pseudoephedrine spray is very effective in controlling the stuffy nose while paracetamol is used for headache and body aches and pains.
Tuberculosis is the most dreaded disease that you can get by airborne transmission.
Other bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections that can affect you include worm infestations, which can be addressed by deworming at the end of your travel.
Mosquitoes can transmit quite a few types of scary viral and parasitic diseases. The top three include Dengue fever, Malaria and Yellow fever. While there is effective treatment available for Malaria, there is no vaccine or treatment against Dengue and Yellow fever and only option is supportive treatment. Thats why it is said, prevention is better than cure, so avoid the mosquitoes by applying insect repellents on your body and by using insecticide treated mosquito nets.
Other than traveler’s diarrhea, Typhoid fever and Hepatitis A and E are the diseases, which spread by orofecal route hence washing your hands before eating is very important as is choosing a clean place to eat.
While travelling is mostly about discovering and experiencing new things one has to be careful and methodical about testing and tasting any new cuisine. It is preferable that you first eat just to taste when experiencing any new kind of food then give it a chance to assimilate, if there is no untoward effect of this food on you then you can eat it to satiety. Hygiene of the eating place and personal hygiene are also very important in prevention of communicable diseases.