Travel Advice for International Travellers
Don't let your holiday or travel be affected by sickness acquired while away or on return. For all travellers (regardless of destination) the following are sensible precautionary recommendations:
If hands aren't clean they can spread bacteria and viruses. But a quick rinse won't make sure they're really clean. So it's important for you to know how to wash your hands properly. You should spend at least 20 seconds washing your hands to ensure they are clean. More information on handwashing.
Eating and drinking
Only eat food that has been cooked all the way through or fruits and vegetables that have been washed and peeled. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or don't eat it.
Only drink water or other drinks from sources you trust. In some countries tap water (which may also be used for ice) is not recommended for consumption and bottled or boiled water is recommended.
Ensure you and your family are up to date with routine vaccination schedule including MMR (measles, mumps and rubella). More specific advice on travel vaccinations, depending on your destination, can be obtained from your GP or local travel health clinic.
In May 2014, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) issued temporary recommendations to EU travellers to polio-infected countries, upon request from the European Commission. These recommendations are based on the temporary recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) who recently declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on polio.
Travellers from the EU who are fully vaccinated against polio according to the national immunisation schedule where they live and plan to travel to any of the 10 polio-infected countries should receive an additional dose of IPV. In order to comply with the WHO recommendations and avoid having to be vaccinated in the polio-infected country, it is important that travellers to polio-infected countries time this additional IPV dose so that it is given within 12 months of the date when they plan to leave the polio-infected country.
Avoidance of insect bites
Depending on what part of the world you are in, mosquitoes can spread malaria, yellow fever, dengue, Japanese B encephalitis, and West Nile virus, in addition to other infections (see here on measures to take to protect yourself against mosquito bites). Sandflies spread leishmaniasis and tsetse flies spread sleeping sickness. Ticks can spread Lyme disease, as well as other infections.
If you are at risk of biting insects (e.g. mosquitoes, ticks, sandflies) remember to cover up exposed skin areas (with loose clothes) use an insect repellent, and avoid unnecessary exposures if possible.
Many travellers are familiar with the most common biting insect - mosquitoes. Mosquitos can bite at any time of day; mosquitoes that carry dengue, chikungunya tend to bite during daylight hours. Those that carry malaria tend to bite either at dawn or dusk or during the night.
- Time: Take particular care at times of day when mosquitoes are most likely to bite - check locally to see when are the danger times. tropical mosquitoes bite all year round; temperate mosquitoes tend to bite between April and October.
- Risky Areas: Avoid areas where mosquitoes are likely to be found, i.e. near water including ponds, outdoor swimming pools, lakes and marshes.
- Use Mosquito Repellents: Spray onto exposed skin whenever you are in an area where mosquitoes may be present. See here if you are pregnant.
- Dress Safely: If in areas where mosquitoes are likely, wear long sleeves, long trousers, socks and closed shoes to minimise skin exposure.
- Indoors: mosquito bites can be reduced by air conditioning, insect-proof screens on windows and doors and spraying the room with insecticide.
- Mosquito Nets: Bed nets and cot nets treated with insect repellent containing DEET or permethrin can be used if necessary.
- Day Biting: Some day-biting mosquitoes also transmit infections, so reducing bites at any time is a sensible precaution.
Taking these simple measures will also help to protect yourself and your family against mosquito-borne diseases, which are may be encountered while travelling to destinations outside of Ireland.
Other behaviours that might put you at risk:
- Casual sex. Condoms provide some protection, but not complete.
- Injection drug use. Never share needles or equipment.
- Other exposures such as ear piercing, tattooing, acupuncture, manicure and shaving with open razors should be avoided unless you are absolutely certain that the equipment being used is sterile.
Traveller's diarrhoea (TD) is one of the commonest complaints in people travelling abroad, with as many as half of travellers being affected. It is caused by consumption of food or water contaminated by human faeces. Particularly risky foods include raw or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, raw fruits and vegetables. The primary pathogens responsible for TD include E. Coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella, Rotavirus and Giardia. Viruses are another common cause. TD is a self limiting condition and symptoms generally resolve within 3 to 5 days. If diarrhoea continues longer than two weeks this suggests that the underlying cause is parasitic.
It is important to eat food that is fully cooked. Any fruit and vegetables should be peeled before eating.
Much of the time, the greatest risk comes from local water. When travelling to another country, particularly a poorer or less developed country remember that the treatment of water to make it safe to drink may well be a lot less that we are used to at home and in many instances water may not have been treated at all. Tap water therefore should avoided where possible. This means not drinking water from bathroom or bar taps in hotels and lodging houses, using bottled water to brush teeth and ensuring that you pay particular attention to children and elderly people. Safe drinks include bottled carbonated drinks (such as sodas), beer, wine, hot coffee or tea, or water boiled and appropriately treated with iodine tablets.
Since certain parts of the world are associated with particular diseases. More specific travel advice, including vaccinations, and other preventive measures, can be obtained from your GP or your local travel clinic.
Where can I get more information on this subject?
- The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website provides excellent international travel advice.
- The WHO's International Travel and Health section provides information on health risks for travellers
- The UK's National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) provides travel health information and is run by the Health Protection Agency.
- The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a portal on travellers health advice and updates on disease activity across the world.
- The EUROPA portal site of the European Union provides excellent and simple advice for travellers in Europe.
Last updated: 27 November 2015