Safeguarding Your Health Overseas
We often casually acknowledge the importance of health –“if you haven’t got your health then you haven’t got anything” as Count Rugen said in The Princess Bride movie. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s not until I’m on a hospital bed with people taking repeated vials of blood for testing that I really appreciate that truism.
Don’t worry - it wasn’t fatal. After a work trip to Papua New Guinea, a reaction to drugs I was taking to avoid malaria resulted in hospitalization in New Zealand while on holiday. I certainly needed some time out to recover and still feel a bit cheated out of my holiday. (You may also have noticed the gap in the newsletters and belated posting of the saved webinar –my apologies.) I was lucky it was over the summer break here in Australia and I didn’t have too many work commitments.
International travellers and expats often face a higher risk of ill health. The illnesses are different than those at home. Our immunity to infections from other regions tends to be low, as we may not have faced them before. The environment can bring different risks that we hadn’t anticipated. The water, the food, the heat or cold can all cause stress on our bodies. For frequent travellers the time zone changes can place our bodies and brains under stress. And, as I can attest, we may react in unexpected ways to the medicines we take to combat the infections or protect against the risks.
What can we do to protect ourselves?
Do your research. Monitor yourself. Get a check-up when needed.
Websites such as government sponsored traveller websites often provide information about health risks alongside security risks. Australia has the Smart Traveller website.
The US Centers for Disease Control also has great resources with up-to-date information on many topics.
Generic information can only go so far though, as we all have unique health and well-being conditions that will give us an advantage or put us at risk in different locations. We need to visit our own personal Health Advisers and make decisions in light of their advice and our own circumstances.
Recommendations about first aid kits and things to equip us, as we travel, can also be obtained by seeking out good advice before leaving. Don’t assume that you will be able to find a pharmacy /drug-store /chemist to sell your favourite brand of across the counter or prescription medication if you need it. Stock up before you go and keep your doctors letter / prescription handy in case you are asked at customs
Research, prepare and if something does knock you about, take action quickly. Hopefully you won’t have to make that hospital visit!