When in Rome (or Wagga or Phuket…) travel health tips

travel health tips

When embarking on your next adventure – be it to lie on a deserted beach; long distance driving with kids and the dog in tow; or trekking through a rainforest in 100% humidity – the only things you want bring home from any holiday are fond memories and souvenirs. While our tips below wont stop unexpected and unwanted in-law visits or an over-booked flight from ruining your holiday, it should certainly help ensure that illness doesn’t.

Before you set off


  • If travelling overseas, make an appointment with your GP to ensure you have the correct vaccinations for your trip and any booster doses of childhood vaccinations you may need, at least eight weeks before you depart
  • Some vaccines require a long period to take effect and more than one dose may be needed
  • Vaccinations may be also an entry requirement of some countries. Check with the embassy or consulate of the countries you are intending to visit or transit

Travelling Overseas with Medication:

  • If you need to take medication with you, carry a letter from your doctor detailing what the medication is, how much you’re carrying, stating that it’s for your own personal use
  • Leave medication in its original packaging clearly labelled with your name and dosage instructions
  • Take enough medication to cover the length of your trip. When purchasing medication overseas, be careful to avoid imitation or counterfeit medications and prescription drugs
  • Carry your own needles and syringes (if permissible). If you must buy needles and syringes overseas, ensure they are sealed and sterile
  • Keep a supply of important medication in your hand luggage in case your checked-in luggage goes missing

Helpful Tips:

  • Make up a small medical kit, including items such as headache tablets, antacids, antiseptic lotion, hand sanitiser, band-aids, Imodium, safety pins, SPF 30+ sunscreen, re-hydration tablets (such as Gastrolyte) and an appropriate insect repellent
  • If you’re travelling to locations at high altitudes (>2,500 m) see your GP prior to travel for advice. Altitude sickness can affect anyone, even the physically fit
  • In some countries supplies of feminine hygiene products, nappies and contraceptives, can be unreliable or unavailable, so stock up before you leave

While you’re away

Protect yourself from insects – in Australia we all know insects are annoying and potentially very dangerous, but additional precautions are sometimes necessary:

  • Mosquito-borne diseases can affect travellers visiting warm climates (including malaria, dengue & yellow fever, and Japanese encephalitis).
  • To avoid insect bites use an insect repellent containing DEET at all times and re-apply as needed
  • Wear long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • Ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof

Mosquito-borne diseases don’t occur in all countries so talk to your GP about what vaccinations or preventative medications you might need to take.

Think before you eat & drink
 –you’re on holiday and this is usually the LAST thing you want to do! However, food-borne illness is a major cause of sickness while overseas and includes ‘traveller’s diarrhoea’ as well as more serious diseases such as hepatitis A or cholera. Where local tap water is not safe:

  • only use bottled water to drink and brush your teeth and always check the seal
  • don’t put ice in drinks — freezing preserves germs, it doesn’t kill them
  • avoid uncooked food, including salads or fruit that you cannot peel
  • Always wash your hands before eating and carry a small bottle of hand sanitiser with you

Know your limits
 – you want to make the most of each an every minute of precious holiday time, but overdoing it can leave you feeling ‘wiped out’ or worse.

  • Factor in the effects of jet lag – include rest time in your travel to help recover from fatigue.
  • Exercise within your limits — especially in hot climates.
  • Dehydration –sweating is unpleasant, but can also be dangerous when excessive, especially in children. Rehydration tablets (such as Gastrolyte or Hydrolyte) will help
  • Slip, slop slap! Remember a hat and sunscreen at all times when in the sun to avoid sunburn & heatstroke
  • Drive safely, wear a seat belt.
  • If you’ve been scuba diving, don’t travel in an aircraft for at least 24 hours after your final dive

Now you’re home

Your holiday is over, but for some germs and viruses, they’re just getting started. If exposed to an infectious disease it can take time for you to feel unwell – this is the incubation period. For two weeks after you return from overseas, pay close attention to your health and watch for any of the below symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Unexplained skin rashes or lesions
  • Persistent vomiting and/or diarrhoea
  • Unusual bleeding from the eyes, ears, nose, mouth or anus
  • Swollen glands in your armpits or neck
  • Persistent coughing or difficulty breathing

If you experience any of the above symptoms, or if you are feeling unwell upon your return from overseas, see your GP as soon as possible, or call 13 SICK (13 7425) for an afterhours, bulk billed* doctor to come to your home.
* if eligible for Medicare rebates

While most diseases acquired by travellers aren’t serious, it is important to detect infectious diseases early. This allows them to be treated as soon as possible and immediate steps to be taken to avoid transmitting the disease to others.

Remember: tell your doctor that you have been overseas and what countries you have visited or travelled through