As borders slowly reopen following the COVID-19 pandemic, some families may be cautious about the health risks associated with travel. PIPPA STRICKLAND reveals how can you avoid getting sick on holidays and enjoy a memorable trip.
1. Maintain good personal hygiene
In the wake of recent global events, the importance of hand hygiene when travelling cannot be overstated! It’s a simple, preventative measure in stopping the spread of infectious diseases and can reduce your chances of contracting not only coronavirus and the flu, but also short-lived bugs that may lead to vomiting and diarrhoea. healthdirect Australia recommends that both kids and adults wash their hands with soap and water for at least 30 seconds before preparing or eating food and after using the toilet (or helping a little one go to the toilet). Having a small bottle of hand sanitiser is a good backup plan in situations where running water is not available.
2. Research your destination
Every destination is slightly different when it comes to the health risks you may face. The best way you can prepare is by being informed and putting in place preventative measures before your departure. A good first port of call is Smartraveller, a website operated by the Australian government that provides the latest information and advice for staying safe overseas. It includes travel warnings and recommendations regarding personal safety, and has a dedicated health section for each destination. Here you’ll find information about infectious diseases that exist in the country, as well as the level of health care and quality of medical facilities you can expect in a worst-case scenario.
3. Talk to your doctor
It’s important that you chat with your doctor at least six to eight weeks before your departure date and follow their advice regarding health precautions and vaccinations. Some vaccinations require several courses over a period of weeks, while others (such as yellow fever) are mandatory for entry into select countries, which may also require you to carry a vaccination certificate as proof.
During your appointment your doctor may also prescribe other preventative medication (such as antimalarials) and recommend practical steps for reducing your risk of exposure to common diseases.
4. Be savvy about your food choices
One of the great joys of travelling is discovering the local cuisine, but many families may be wary about the risks of food poisoning due to the lack of food preparation regulations in some countries. If possible, stick with food that has been freshly cooked and avoid dishes that have been sitting in a bain-marie for who knows how long. Some travellers steer clear of street food, thinking that a restaurant is a safer option. But if you can see the cleanliness of the cooking environment, how the food is being prepared and the hygiene practices employed, then it may be less risky than eating food that’s dished up behind closed doors. If you’re not sure where to eat, follow the locals. They will know all the insider secrets about where the most delicious (and safest) food is available!
5. Take out comprehensive travel insurance
While it might not prevent you from getting sick, travel insurance can be worth its weight in gold if you do end up in hospital abroad. Some countries have reciprocal health agreements with Australia, meaning you will be eligible for their equivalent of Medicare benefits for some treatments. But in other destinations, you’ll be paying out-of-pocket for a hospital bed, or even footing the bill for a costly evacuation in serious medical situations. In addition to the loss of personal valuables and costs associated with travel cancellations/delays, a comprehensive travel insurance policy will cover you for overseas medical and hospital expenses, as well as repatriation if required. However, the Insurance Council of Australia warns that most companies will have exclusions for ‘known events’ and won’t cover claims caused by an epidemic, pandemic or outbreak of infectious disease.