Going off around the world on an extended vacation is so exciting, but you must remember to consider the health issues of long term travel. You’re going to be putting yourself in new situations in new countries where your body might well take exception to unusual and unknown conditions, so you have to bear this in mind. Health is very much something you should consider in your planning and preparations. Even if you are, as a rule, as fit as a fiddle, here are the key health issues of long term travel.
1. What Kind of Health Insurance Should I Get?
Sort out your travel insurance way ahead of starting your trip, and carefully consider what type of coverage you need. It’s risky to just go with the cheapest insurance you can get as it might not cover all the health issues of long term travel. Budget for the best insurance you can afford. Make sure you have coverage for local medical expenses as well as medical repatriation. Also, make sure the insurance suits you and your travel style. Do you have any existing health issues? Is your doctor against you traveling? Are you an adrenalin junkie who just can’t say no to rock climbing or offroading? You might want to invest in extra coverage.
2. How High is the Risk of Me Getting Sick?
Of course, long term traveling is not necessarily synonymous with getting sick, but depending on various factors, it can indeed show an increased risk factor when it comes to illness. For example, statistics stay that 50% of travelers that spend at least a month in resource-poor regions will be faced with significant illness. And you don’t even have to travel for long to acquire more or less troublesome conditions. That same research shows that, if you’re going to a resource-poor destination, you are most likely to be “blessed” with diarrhea during your first week there.
3. What Are the Most Common Problems I Should Be Prepared for?
As already mentioned, a queasy stomach or downright nasty diarrhea is a very likely occurrence when it comes to long term travel. What’s more, you should also be prepared to face skin problems. Besides rashes or sunburns, insect bites might also be a common problem, especially in warm regions. And, wherever there’s warm weather, grazes and cuts fester if not properly sanitized and covered.
4. Should I Stuff My Bags with Medical Supplies for the Whole Trip?
Unless you plan to spend your whole trip in the middle of Antarctica or the Amazon jungle, you can always find a doctor relatively close by wherever you may go. Should you run out of medical supplies, you can go to a clinic. If you’re venturing into resource-poor places, pack supplies for that leg of your trip. What you must make sure of during long term traveling, though, is that you know the generic name of your regular medication and that you check its availability at your destinations before getting there.
5. What about Medication That is Illegal in Certain Countries?
There are tons of medicines that are illegal in various countries – mostly those that can be addictive, such as various painkillers and sleeping pills. You can find detailed information on the legality of various medications in any country you may want to visit. And to make sure you are not featured in the next series of NG’s “Locked Up Abroad,” it would be a wise idea to travel with your medical summary, just in case border officers get suspicious about you.
6. What Can I Leave behind if I Want to Pack Light?
Food is a major part of your experience but can also give rise to some of the health issues of long term travel. Getting the vitamins and nutrients you need is as vital abroad as at home. You can easily avoid packing tons of supplements if you make a habit of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables every day during your trip. Try all the delicious cuisine from around the world, but remember you still need a balanced diet. Also, don’t bother with de-worming, and you can leave intravenous fluids or snakebite kits behind too.
7. What Are Some Key Medical Supplies I Should Take with Me?
First off, having a health guide on you is essential to learn how to cope with the most likely illnesses. Another thing I always have on me during my trips is paracetamol – it’s great for fever, sore throats, and basically all pains and aches. Also, make sure to pack a crepe bandage, a good antiseptic, and pointed tweezers.
I know it’s not much fun to think of the practical and potential downsides of your fantastic trip, but if any health issues do manifest you’ll be glad you were prepared. Have you ever fallen foul of any of the health issues of long term travel? Were you ready for it?