Visiting friends and relatives

Travel health advice for visiting friends and relatives overseas

Christmas is a very popular time to travel with many expats returning home to celebrate with loved ones. Such travel has never been easier or more affordable, thanks to the multitude of low-fare airlines on the market and cheap international flights. There are many perks to this ‘global village’ – who doesn’t want to spend the festive period with their nearest and dearest? Unfortunately this easy accessibility has increased the risk of diseases moving from country to country. Many travellers visiting friends and relatives overseas do not consider the potential health risks involved. They may not get the same vaccinations they would if they were jetting off on a beach break, trekking adventure or volunteering stint.


Health risks for expats

What many don’t realise is that the personal protection against many diseases gained by living in an area for many years is frequently lost when an individual moves to a new region where the disease is not prevalent. Individuals returning home need to think long and hard about the diseases they may no longer be immune to.
So, for example, if you’re originally from West Africa but have been living in Europe for the last few years, you will not have the same number of antibodies to fight against malaria as those who still live in West Africa, friends and family included. It is recommended that you take regular adequate malaria prophylaxis if your planned travel includes a return to West Africa to protect against this potentially fatal disease.


Visiting friends and relatives overseas - Recommended vaccinations

Vaccinations protect the body against illnesses such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies and meningitis. If you are visiting friends and relatives overseas in a country where these illnesses are prevalent, such as Thailand, Brazil or India, it is recommended that you get the vaccinations offered to the Western European traveller. Your body only maintains protective antibodies against some common diseases as long as it is exposed to that disease.

Travelling with children.

Heading back to your home country with your little ones this Christmas? Extra care is needed to ensure they can enjoy themselves without falling ill. Children who have been brought up in Western Europe have no natural protection against many of the diseases that are present in Asia, South America and Africa.
As part of their National Immunisation Programme, all children born in Ireland since 2008 should be covered against hepatitis B. It’s worth talking with your GP or calling into a TMB clinic to get advice about the other recommended vaccinations for children. In some cases, the child may be so young that they are unable to receive the recommended vaccinations – it’s best to talk with an expert to get all the information you need and access the situation properly.


Sun exposure and dehydration

The sun’s rays in Africa, Asia and South America tend to be a lot stronger than they are here in Ireland. It’s important to protect your skin from sun damage, which is the biggest contributor to dehydration and increases the risk of skin cancer in the future. Bring high-factor sun cream on your travels and seek the shade during the hours when the sun is at its highest. Protect yourself further with a wide-brimmed hat and high-quality sunglasses.

Post-exposure screening

The incubation period for tropical illnesses can be a lot longer than you’d think! If an individual falls ill a few months after travelling, it could still be from their time abroad. Put your health first and consider a post-exposure medical screening after your travels to rule out potentially fatal illnesses. This peace of mind really is priceless!
Who wouldn’t want to spend Christmas with their closest friends and family? It’s easy to understand the need to return to ones homeland - to share stories and create new memories. Adults and children visiting friends and relatives overseas where serious diseases prevail need special care. Take heed of our travel health advice to ensure you remain healthy and safe on your festive break.