Travel Health

When going to a third world country or any tropical region preparation, care and common sense are the most important factors for staying healthy. Here is a list of points to consider.

General Medication and Prescriptions

  • Teeth
    Make sure your teeth are in order. Visit the Dentist before a long trip.
  • Glasses and Contact Lenses
    If you wear either take a spare pair or the prescription. Keep a copy of your prescription somewhere on the internet for easy access.
  • Medication
    If you need special medication i.e. prescription drugs take a good supply and a doctors letter. Its also worth taking the part of packaging with the contents of the drug to show a Doctor. I also recommend keeping the medication in its original packaging in case the Police or Border guards ask questions.
  • Health Insurance
    This is a wise precaution to take. I couldn't afford it and luckily nothing severe happened to me but I met a few people who did take this precaution and were glad they did. All policies vary so read the small print carefully as some don't cover 'Dangerous Activities' which includes Scuba Diving and Trekking. Also consider that some policies require the receipts for repayment afterwards so keep them safe or send them home.

Medical Kit

It's a good idea to take a basic kit with you in case an illness hits while your off the beaten track or in a place where medication are limited.

  • Aspirin or Paracetamol
    For fevers or pain.
  • Antiseptic liquid/ cream
    For cuts and grazes that easily get infected in the tropics.
  • Malaria tablets (prevention and cure)
    This is a sensitive area for me. I took Malaria tablets as well as insect repellent for all the time I was trekking and still contracted Malaria. Also there are two schools of thought on taking tablets regularly and Traveling for a long time. Some people prefer to risk it and just use an insect repellent as the regular intake of Malaria tablets could be harmful. A lot of them do have side-effects so it's definitely worth talking to your GP about it. But the fact remains Malaria is deadly if not treated.
  • Antihistamine cream and tablets
    For serious insect bites or allergies.
  • Iodine drops (for water purification and cuts)
    To purify water I used 2 drops in each litre of water and had no problems until I ran out. It's not a good idea to use this long-term.
  • Water purifying tablets
    Makes it taste like swimming pool water and smells like piss but effective. Very important. I ran out and ended up getting all sorts of stomach bugs. I've heard that using them over too long a period can be damaging. Check with your GP first.
  • Sun block
    I used a high factor stick just for the face.
  • Condoms
    As many as you can imagine using and buy quality/ branded ones.
  • Mosquito Repellent
    The sticks seem to be the more practical and effective method. Mosquito coils can also be bought where you are.
  • Diarriah tablets
    Almost guaranteed to happen. If it's not too severe just drink lots of liquids with a re-hydration sachet. (For a home made re-hydration kit add 2 table spoons of sugar and 1 tea spoon of salt to 1 litre of water...or drink flat Coke with salt in it.
  • Mosquito net
    the framed, free-standing ones are best. A bit bulkier, but can be used as a tent in hot places.
  • Re-hydration mixture
    You can buy sachets that can be added to water or for a home made re-hydration kit add 2 table spoons of sugar and 1 tea spoon of salt to 1 litre of water...or drink flat Coke with salt in it.
  • Mosquito net
    the framed, free-standing ones are best. A bit bulkier, but can be used as a tent in hot places.
  • Multivitamins
    It Helps loads with keeping the immune system strong and the body healthy.
  • Plasters and bandages
    Some basic plasters to keep a cut from getting infected and a very small roll of bandage was enough for me.
  • Tweezers and safety pins
    For splinters, removing unwanted insects and keeping a bandage in place or even repairing damaged clothes
  • Syringes/ Needles
    Very important if your being treated in a hospital with suspect hygiene. I took two sizes: small and medium.
  • Antibiotics
    Useful if far from a Doctor/Hospital. Prescription needed.


Talk to your GP about the Countries your going to visit to get a good idea of what jabs are needed. You're going to need at least 3 months prior to leaving as some of them need a booster (second jab) and some cannot be done together. Make sure all jabs are recorded on an International Health Certificate show at Borders or Hospitals. Oh, and don't let the diseases listed below put you off travel. It's just something that a traveler needs to be aware of a prepare against. 

  • Cholera
    Even though it offers little or no protection it is still needed as a legal requirement to enter some countries. Recommend asking your GP or Health Centre contact to just stamp it as done.
  • Hepatitis A and B
    Now comes in a combined jab. Needs to be done at least 3 months before travel.
  • Meninogococcal Meningitis
    A nasty disease carried by healthy people and transmitted like a cold. It can cause death within hours. This is recommended for certain countries in Africa and is one injection.
  • Tuberculosis
    There isn't a high risk of contracting this but if working in Africa or in close contact with a lot of people it is recommended.
  • Polio
    A seriously nasty and easily transmitted disease. One jab needed and boosted every 10 years.
  • Rabies
    Needed for some Countries where it is common. Three injections needed.
  • Tetanus and Diphtheria
    Fatal wound and throat diseases. Three jabs needed and boosters every 10 years.
  • Typhoid
    A hygiene contracted disease. Can be prevented with either a jab or capsules.
  • Yellow fever
    Legally required in most of Africa. Jab lasts 10 years.

Health On The Road

Much of this is common sense really and if you follow a good hygiene and health regime the risk of catching anything is already halved.  

    • Tap water
      Avoid if possible. Most of the big cities and towns have a good water supply but if in doubt use the water purifiers. Remember, even if the water's good you might still get Diarriah as the body adjusts to the difference.
    • Personal Hygiene
      Wash regularly. You might think a coating of sweat and smell will keep the bugs away but its more likely to just keep people away. If there is a limited water supply just wipe.
    • Foot care
      Take care of those feet. You'll be using them at least half the day. At night inspect them for blisters, calluses and cuts and treat them. Wash them and cut those toenails regularly.
    • Sex
      Be extra careful and wear those willy warmers or make sure your partner does every time.
    • Boosters and pills
      Remember to take those tablets regularly and make sure your jabs are up to date.
    • Food
      In general its best to stay away from food that needs to be washed in restaurants i.e. salad, fruit or raw meat. Also ice cubes are a no no because it could be from contaminated water. If you buy fresh fruit, vegetables or meat in the market always wash it with bottled water.