Vacations And Avoidance

20th June 2012

So it’s that time of year when many of us are counting the weeks, or even days, till our summer holiday. Whether you are exploring locally or travelling to exotic climes, be prepared, be safe and be sure not to return with anything more than photos, memories and souvenirs. Here are some hints and tips to help:

Watch what you put in your mouth…

Diarrhoea is the number 1 health problem for travelers – up to 50% get it in hot countries. Make sure you are not in that 50%! There is no vaccine against this. If you are going to a country that has unsafe water:

‘Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it’

  • Water – only drink/brush your teeth with mineral water with a sealed cap or boiled/treated water (chemical or filtered). No ice unless you are sure it has been made with safe water.
  • Fruit, veg, salad – washed, dried and peeled yourself – or well cooked.
  • Eat well cooked food (at least 60?C) straight away after it has been cooked.
  • CARE! Salad, dried/raw meat, seafood, mayonnaise, ice-creams, butter, non-pasteurized milk, milkshakes, cold buffets.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water (or use hand gel) and dry. Avoid using communal towels as they carry a lot of germs.

Watch what you put on your skin…

  • Slop on the suncream (at least SPF 30), slip on a shirt and sunglasses, slap on a hat. Avoid direct sunlight between 1100 and 1500hrs.
  • Don’t wear bare feet outside, even in the water. There is a risk of minor and major infections and cuts.
  • No needles – not for acupuncture, tattooing, ear or body piercings either.
  • Think about wearing modest clothing and having an open, tolerant, respectful attitude. Remember you are a guest in a country that has their own religious and cultural rules and social norms.

If you get a minor cut or graze:

  • Stay calm, stay safe.
  • Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. You can use a piece of sterile gauze from your First Aid Kit for this. This is to remove dirt and reduce the numbers of germs in the wound.
  • Dab the wound dry with sterile gauze and apply disinfectant (wipe, liquid, spray, gel, cream). This kills the rest of the germs.
  • Cover the wound with a plaster big enough for the non-adhesive pad to completely cover the wound (so the sticky part is on undamaged skin).
  • Check the wound regularly and seek medical help if you feel unwell, have a fever or other signs of infection e.g. the area becomes hot, red, swollen, painful or pus comes out.

Seek medical attention if the wound:

  • Is more than 1cm in length, is gaping or deep.
  • Has embedded dirt, particles, glass etc.
    Continues to bleed.
  • Might cause problems healing or scarring eg face, hands, feet.
    Is on a person who isn’t vaccinated against tetanus, is diabetic or has problems with their immune system.

Further Resources

Vaccination Center in Geneva
Hôpital Cantonal
Médecine internationale et humanitaire
Médecine tropicale et des voyages (3ème étage)
6, rue Gabrielle-Perret-Gentil, 1211 Genève 14
To make an appointment: 022 372 96 15

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