Travel Health Tips
Staying Healthy When Traveling to the Philippines
It’s always important to keep health a top priority, no matter what activity a person engages his or herself in. Traveling is no exception.
It’s easier to suffer from sickness when one is in a new, unfamiliar place where the body will be required to adapt to the locally available food, water, and air, as well as the new environment.
The stress and excitement of travel usually result to lack of sleep and a poor diet, and may contribute to possible health problems.
Here are some tips that could be helpful in ensuring a healthy travel:
-Some of the most common problems that trouble travelers are jet lag, altitude sickness, and diarrhea.
Flying across time zones and the differing amounts of light can have direct effects in one’s body clock. The term for this condition is jet lag. Jet lag causes upset stomach, insomnia, and tiredness among those affected.
Fortunately, ways have been discovered to counter the undesirable effects of jet lag. Staying out of the sun until the day after one’s arrival may help if one is traveling from west to east. After a flight from east to west, going for a brisk walk during arrival may provide comfort.
Altitude sickness is another undesirable problem that a traveler may encounter. It is caused by flight factors like dry air, a decrease in oxygen, and low barometric pressure during travel to higher altitudes than what the body is used to.
The results could be experiences of headaches, dehydration, and shortness of breath. There are people who get affected at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), and there are others who may not experience the effects until they reach altitudes of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) or more. Knowing the flight attitude that one is traveling to before the flight may allow one to consult a physician for medical advice, and prepare for the possibility of altitude sickness by engaging in activities that gets the body to adapt to higher altitudes.
This is the best suggested method of prevention, although a drug known as acetazolamide may also be helpful in relieving and even preventing the symptoms of altitude sickness.
-Diarrhea can pose extreme discomfort and major problems for travelers. It can also lead to dehydration. There is a term called “traveler’s diarrhea,” which often takes place when a foreign type of bacteria that the immune system is unfamiliar with manages to enter the digestive tract.
Being very cautious and paying attention to the food and water one is consuming also helps prevent occurrences of diarrhea. The bacterium that causes it is usually from contaminated food or water.
-Obtaining a health insurance before the travel is essential.
-Finding the vaccinations that may be necessary in the place that one is visiting may also pay off later, since there are vaccines that require more than one dose and may take a lot of time of preparation. Different countries call for different requirements.
In the Philippines, vaccinations for the following are highly recommended: Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Malaria, Rabies, Tetanus, and Typhoid
Water Safety When Traveling
It is a known fact that water supply in many developing countries is not of the same quality and do not receive similar treatment process as the water supply in more developed countries. As a result of compensated treatment, the presence of various unwanted contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites may be more common in the water supply of less developed countries.
In accordance to travelers’ health safety, it is highly suggested that tourists consume bottled (distilled or mineral) water as these are more reliable when it comes to being health friendly. It is important to make sure that these bottled waters are sealed in tamper-proof containers. If unsure about what brand to choose, one can ask for suggestions from the store selling these bottled waters.
Tap water available in the local areas may also be purified when an iodine tablet is added, or if water is boiled. Prolonged exposure to higher temperatures will kill many kinds of bacteria and unwanted parasites, and this would make the water slightly safer. The heated water can be used for preparing ice cubes later on, rather than proceeding to freeze water directly, as the process of freezing or cooling do not kill bacteria.
In addition, it is important to pay attention to the water source that one is using – be it the faucet that supplies tap water for brushing teeth or the water in the drum for taking a bath. There are water districts or private operators that regulate and maintain water supply in most localities, and these institutions could be of assistance in providing information, and giving pointers to ensure water safety. They may also help address related concerns of tourists.
Training one’s body to adapt to the situation can also be beneficial. This may be done in situations where one is expecting to be staying in his or her current location for at least a month or longer. It is important to keep in mind however that this course of action should be done with precaution.
If the locals are able to use tap water without experiencing illness or recorded occurrences of giardasis, then it is safe to train the body to adjust to the less harmful local microbes by starting to consume minimal amounts of tap water. By gradually increasing the quantities of the tap water consumed as the time of stay progresses, the body will be able to fully adjust and get some passive immunity from the microbes.
In case of sickness or contamination, the acknowledged symptoms of water-borne illness according to World Health Organization (WHO) are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, fever, aches and/or chills. Oral rehydration salts and anti-diarrheal medications may be taken for relief, and most of these symptoms will usually disappear after a few days. If the condition worsens instead of disappearing, seeking medical attention would be the wisest course of action. Keeping one’s self hydrated with sports drinks or bottled water is also recommended. Alcohol and caffeinated beverages can cause dehydration to worsen, and are discouraged.
Important Information on Dengue
Traveling in the Philippines can post some health problems if one isn’t cautious enough. It pays to be updated and to have fair amount of knowledge in the health problems that one may be encountering during his/her visit.
There are government agencies such as the Department of Health that disseminate information that may be essential in preventing health risks such as epidemics, and seasonal diseases.
Just last June 2009, Dengue Awareness Month was declared in the country as a preventive measure by promoting public awareness against the threat known as Dengue.
The mosquito-borne Dengue has grown common in the Philippines due to it being a tropical country, which is unfortunately an ideal environment towards the growth of mosquito population.
Striped Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the agents of the disease, which spread it after biting people. These mosquitoes tend to multiply in unkempt water reserves and during the rainy season (mostly). Faced with the garbage problems that one may find in the Philippines, containers such as flower pots, drums, scrap tires, and other things that may hold stagnant water increases the odds of a growing mosquito population.
This illness is very dangerous and lethal, as in most cases victims have the symptoms confused with some other sickness and have it passed off as something less health threatening instead of seeking medical attention.
One should assume that it is Dengue when fever, low blood pressure, headache, exhaustion, skin rashes, severe muscle pain, rapid pulse, enlarged liver, swollen glands that is frequently accompanied by sore throat, dizziness, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea manifest. There is also bleeding that may lead to abnormal bruising, blood spots in the skin, spitting of blood, blood in the stool, gum bleeding and nose bleeding.
Dengue is caused by a virus, and thus cannot be treated by any specific medications and vaccines for now. There are available treatments to relieve patients suffering from it – specifically the symptoms that occur. In case one finds his or herself infected by the disease, it would be very important to take excessive amounts of rest, as well as asking for professional medical assistance as soon as possible. Symptoms like dehydration and electrolyte imbalances may be countered by administering intravenous fluids and electrolytes. For the bleeding, blood transfusions may be required. These treatments need to be given as soon as possible, which is why it is important for the infected to seek medical help immediately.
Preventive measures can be taken to guard one’s self against this wide-spreading disease.
There are mosquito repellants available for purchase in different stores all over the country. These come in different forms, ranging from skin lotions to aerial sprays, to suit the needs of the buyer.
Keeping healthy is also important as dengue often manifests in people with weak immune systems. A healthy lifestyle with balanced diet, exercise and supplements can be very helpful.
Maintaining a clean environment or staying away from dirty areas may play a part as well, as mosquitoes tend to reproduce and live in dirty places.
by Kristof Tiongson