Have a great time without putting your health at risk. Follow these simple steps to stay healthy and avoid illness on your gap year.
A golden tan is the goal of many travellers, but remember, exposure to the sun can be very damaging to your skin, leading to ageing and the threat of cancer. Avoid burning by covering up and using high factor sun cream. You should buy a new bottle—don’t just use the leftover dregs from last summer.
Travel involves many different experiences including for some, sexual encounters. Sexually transmitted infections are a threat worldwide. It is important to reduce the risks as much as possible by using condoms each and every time you have sex abroad.
Carry a supply of UK condoms—condoms are available in most countries, but the standards vary. If you buy condoms abroad, check their expiry date and make sure they carry a recognised quality mark such as the European kite BSEN 600; the International Standards Organisation (ISO) mark; or Food and Drink Administration (FDA) approval.
Safe hydration is extremely important especially if you become sick from food or drink. When drinking bottled water, check that it is sealed. You could also use water purification tablets or try using a Drinksafe micro purification water filter from their extensive product range at www.drinksafe-systems.co.uk which instantly remove bad bacteria, chemicals and compounds from any freshwater source, making it safe and pleasant to drink. Think also about whether food has been washed in the local water, and avoid uncooked food such as salads, ice-cream, shellfish and ice cubes; also brush teeth in safe water—often forgotten!
If you eat from street food stalls, choose a deep-fried food option as the extreme heat will kill germs. Try and wash your hands or use disinfectant hand gel before eating.
Avoid insect bites
Use insect repellent with 50% DEET content spraying, it on every day, every six hours. Although anti-malaria tablets significantly reduce the risk, it is still possible to get malaria. The only way to ensure you don’t is to not get bitten. Mosquito nets are also a must.
Always complete your course of malaria tablets—many travellers start off well and then slack off as the trip progresses. Don’t share your tablets with others.
When you go travelling you should have fun, but always be sure to think twice about your actions—would you do the same thing at home? For example, getting a tattoo in Thailand might seem like a good idea when you’re drunk, but there is a risk of Hepatitis B. If you wouldn’t do it at home, then why do these things halfway around the world, where health services might not be as advanced as in the UK.