With the school term break approaching and many residents making travel plans, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) gives the public some very important tips to avoid travel-related illnesses.

Dr Mohamed Abu Khattab

Dr Mohamed Abu Khattab, Consultant at the Communicable Diseases and Travel Medicine at HMC, is advising residents who plan to travel anytime soon to consider visiting the Travel Clinic at the HMC Communicable Diseases Centre, or any other health centre providing travel medicine services.

Visiting a travel clinic and meeting with a travel medicine expert should be part of your vacation planning process. Travellers should visit a travel clinic at least four to six weeks prior to their scheduled travel date to receive appropriate vaccinations.

This advice is especially important for individuals with pre-existing health conditions, and in particular, chronic diseases. These patients need to discuss potential modifications or changes to medication routines and will also need to ensure they have enough medication for the duration of their vacation. This is very important for diabetics using insulin.’

He said that recommended vaccines and drugs can vary from one country to another, depending on the type of prevalent diseases, and highlighted the importance of obtaining health insurance to cover any medical treatment expenses that could be incurred abroad.

He advised travellers to research the road conditions and traffic laws in the country they are visiting, and to limit their exposure to theft by not carrying valuable belongings or walking in remote areas. He also caution against food and drink consumption.

It is important to drink plenty of water and other liquids, especially in hot weather. To avoid Diarrhoea and infections such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid, travellers should take care when making food and beverage choices.

Carbonated water is considered a better replacement for juices because it contains anti-bacterial gases and bottled water is generally considered safer than tap water. It is important to be vigilant and avoid eating uncooked food or drinking water that may be contaminated. Also ensure that vegetables and fruits are properly washed.’

Travellers are advised to dress properly to avoid communicable diseases such as Malaria, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, and Zika Virus, which are all transmitted through mosquito stings.

Experts recommend wearing colourful long-sleeved clothing, anti-insect creams (containing a 30-50% DEET concentration), and using anti-mosquito nets during sleep. Exposure to Influenza and Meningitis can be limited by avoiding overcrowded areas.

Travellers who experience abnormal symptoms within one month of returning from their trip are advised to visit the Travel Clinic at the Communicable Diseases Centre. Symptoms or signs of certain diseases can develop weeks after travel and some travel diseases may have an incubation period of one month.

Assessments will vary from patient to patient and depend on the traveller’s age, the nature of the diseases enquired about, the destination country, purpose of travel, planned activities, and the provision of necessary vaccinations.

Travellers may be provided with certain medications such as travel-related Diarrhoea drugs and anti-Malaria drugs, if needed. To book an appointment for a travel assessment, the Travel Clinic can be contacted through 4025 4003.

Visit the HMC website for more information about the Travel Clinic.