Backpacking has become an increasingly popular holiday choice for many people who are looking to experience something they never have before and wanting to take part in a trip of a lifetime. However, these adventures come hand in hand with major health risks which can potentially ruin your trip of a lifetime. Vaccines, avoiding mosquito bites, what to eat and drink and many other issues need to be covered by the travel doctor.
It is essential to ensure that your personal health will be sufficient for the trip you have planned. If you have a significant medical condition then it will be important to talk this through in great detail to make sure you are not taking unnecessary risks.
Safety & Security
Watch your belongings at all times. Do not carry any item that is of sentimental value. Do not flaunt any personal wealth. Never carry any items for another person and carry out a very careful check before you travel through any custom checkpoint. You should also always respect local customs and traditions.
Location & Duration
In many countries the facilities for backpackers are excellent - providing you stick with the 'usual' routes. Medical facilities in remote regions are usually poor or non-existent. Try to have a good basic travel plan and, where possible, stick with your itinerary. Any change may invalidate the healthcare advice you were given before leaving home (or your travel insurance).
Food & Water
Backpackers tend to travel on the cheap and the quality and amount of food they have may be quite compromised at times. Remember that your body needs fuel, good food and water. Allocate adequate funds to ensuring that these are maintained. Just because your travelling companions are keen to experiment with their food intake does not mean you should. Assume all tap water may be contaminated and use boiled or sealed bottled water at all times for drinking and brushing your teeth. Many trekkers develop various bowel parasites while abroad because of eating unwise foods.
Mosquitoes and Bites
Many backpackers will choose cheap accommodation and frequently there will be no mosquito nets over the beds, holes in the window netting and also plenty of bed bugs. Remember to bring good repellent, a net, if travelling in an area where mosquitoes may be a problem. TMB products, including TMB DEET repellents, can be purchased nationwide in select TMB clinics, Lloyds Pharmacies, Tesco, Dunnes Stores and online at www.Travelshop.ie. Treat any bites early and don't allow them fester. Rabies is a common disease in many regions where you may travel and so take care to avoid contact with all animals. Treat any bite very seriously and get competent medical attention as soon as possible.
If you are travelling in regions where malaria is a problem you probably will have been advised to take adequate prophylaxis before leaving home. Please be sensible and take care before changing the medical advice you received before leaving home. If unsure, use the contact facilities you were given to ask for further advice. While Tropical Medical Bureau provides an email advice facility for registered TMB patients, this cannot be seen as a substitute for a detailed medical consultation at any time.
The backpacker will be at higher risk of a variety of diseases while abroad and will generally require a more extensive vaccine programme. Make sure you have plenty of time to complete the necessary courses before you leave if at all possible. While it is never too late to vaccinate, it is recommended that you receive your vaccinations 6-8 weeks before you intend to travel. Sometimes the doctor may suggest carrying an emergency antibiotic in case you can't find competent medical attention.