ONE in two Australian travellers get sick on overseas holidays – and India, Vietnam and Thailand are clocking up the highest number of holiday casualties.
Of those struck down by illness, most lost at least two days of their holiday.
And many of those wasted sick days could have been avoided, with travellers admitting to being slack when it comes to basic preventive measures.
“It’s an expensive way to spend time in bed,” said Dr Tony Gherardin from The Travel Doctor, which conducted a survey of about 3000 Australians who travelled overseas between January and March.
Tummy troubles like diarrhoea and gastro were the major afflictions.
Diarrhoea stoppers were the No.1 medications travellers turned to, followed by rehydration salts, pain killers and antibiotics for gastro.
Travellers risk illness if they don’t avoid tap water, eat only properly cooked food and avoid mosquito bites, Dr Gherardin said.
Almost half of the travellers surveyed revealed they’d consumed ice in a developing country, brushed their teeth with tap water and eaten raw or uncooked food, while more than 50 per cent were bitten by mosquitos while overseas.
South-East Asia accounted for seven of the top 20 countries where travellers fell ill, while India, Nepal, Peru and Chile ranked among the top 10.
Dr Gherardin predicted South American countries – which accounted for five of the top 20 – would rise to dominate the list in the coming months, as tourists flock to Brazil and beyond over the World Cup period.
“Areas like the Amazon and the Andes are big attractions that also have special health risks, so it’s important to be prepared,” he said. He said protecting against mosquito borne diseases including yellow fever was key for travellers to South America, while rabies was also a risk in some areas.
Dr Gherardin warned that while countries like Vietnam and Thailand tend to be viewed as safe, travellers still need to be on guard when it comes to health.
“In India, Delhi Belly is well known and we know that these sorts of problems will affect more than 50 per cent of travellers to developing countries,” he said.
“But in countries like Vietnam and Thailand people think there might be less risk, because otherwise people think of these countries as quite safe places to travel generally. But when it comes to health, even on resort holidays, there is a risk.”
A range of detailed fact sheets covering recommended preparation for travel are available at the Travel Doctor website.
The top 10 countries where Australian travellers got sick:
14. South Africa
19. Cruise ships
Dr Tony Gherardin’s top tips for travel health:
1. Take care with eating and drinking
Opt for freshly cooked foods. “If it comes off a sizzling hotplate or out of a bubbling pot, it’s much safer than if it’s been prepared a couple of weeks earlier.” Wash your hands before eating and stick to boiled or bottled water. Avoid drinking any tap water – even when brushing teeth or in the shower.
2. Avoid insect bites
Mosquitoes are one of the biggest transporters of diseases. Dengue fever – for which there is no vaccine – is on the upswing in the region. Other serious mosquito-borne diseases include malaria and chikungunya virus. Avoid insects if possible and use insect repellent and mosquito nets.
3. Steer clear of animals
In many countries, especially developing countries, dogs can have rabies. Be careful while visiting, or avoid, monkey forests. Even birds can be dangerous as possible carriers of avian flu.
4. Remember your vaccinations
Seek medical advice early in preparations for a trip to allow enough time for shots or preventive medicines you may need.
5. Pack a medical kit
Having the right medicines and first aid items on hand will make sure tummy troubles and easily treatable complaints don’t ruin your holiday.
Source: The Daily Telegraph