Common travel ailments and what to do about them

2012-04-30 11:11
 1. Jet lag

Jet lag should never be confused with the ordinary type of tiredness associated with long journeys. It specifically refers to the exhaustion experienced on arrival in a destination after traversing a number of time zones by air.

Symptoms: Headache, fatigue, grogginess, disorientation, irritation, constipation, low morale

Cause: In short, you body clock experiences an interruption and suddenly finds itself out of sync with its surroundings. Thus natural rhythms are upset until the body manages to regulate itself.

Preventions & cures:

Before - If you're worried about jet lag affecting you, especially if you have chronic prescription medication that needs to be taken at certain times of day, visit your doctor before your trip to work out a coping strategy. This may involve partially adapting to the new time zone a few days in advance.

On the plane - Dehydration makes jet lag 10 x worse, so avoid alcohol and caffeine and drink a lot of water. Also try to be disciplined by adjusting your sleeping pattern on the flight to suit the time zone of your destination.

When you get there: Force yourself to fall into routine immediately by adjusting to whatever time of day it is. If you get there in the morning, it would not be a good idea to have a nap first.

2. Sunstroke

While getting a bit sunburned is a mildly unpleasant part of most summer holidays, getting sunstroke is a whole different and very dangerous kettle of fish. Also known as heatstroke, this condition is potentially life-threatening and has to be treated very meticulously.

Symptoms: Hot and dry skin, rapid heartbeat and pulse, sweating stops, rapid breathing, increase in body temperature, muscle cramps, headaches, nausea, confusion and dizziness.

Cause: Basically the body's heat regulation system fails after prolonged exposure to the sun and/or high temperatures. E.g. working in an extremely hot environment, especially one to which you are unused; exercising too strenuously, particularly in summer; or when you have a high fever associated with illness.

Overdressing, overeating and drinking too much alcohol can be contributing factors. The primary cause of symptoms is loss of sodium and chloride (which make up salt), rather than the amount of water.

Prevention & cures:

Avoid subjecting your body to uncomfortable levels of heat, keep out of the sun - especially during the hottest parts of the day - limit vigorous activity, apply, reapply and reapply suncscreen again. Keep well-hydrated and eat properly.

If you suspect you or one of our party has sunstroke it's highly recommended to consult your doctor for medical advice. However, if it does not seem too severe, immerse the person into a tub of cool water, allow them to rest in a cool place, elevate feet to direct bloodflow to the head, encourage the person to sip cool fluids. Keep a close watch on them.

3. Blisters

Travelling often involves a whole lot of walking, which often results in a whole lot of blisters on your feet.

Symptoms: Well, umm... if you notice a painful bubble popping up on your heel, toe or sole, it's a blister. Highly uncomfortable, painful, unsightly.

Causes: Friction caused by new or uncomfortable footwear, friction caused by high workload, excessive foot sweat. Blisters do of course also appear in the wake of the skin being burned, and may be a sign of an allergic reaction.

Prevention and cure: Well, the obvious one would be to make sure your shoes are walked-in before heading on your travels. However, even the most comfortable shoes may cause blisters if you're going to be spending long hours walking. The best advice would be to act quickly when you feel the first prickle by bandaging the area or covering it with a large plaster.

Never, ever pop a blister! Once it's been opened it's a magnet for infections. If, however, your blister accidentally pops of own accord, make sure you douse it with anti-septic lotion/wash and cover it with dry gauze.

4. Motion sickness

Ever been on a really bumpy flight and almost hurled? Well, that's motion sickness for you. Practically harmless, but still rather uncomfortable. Motion sickness is a disturbance of your sense of balance and equilibrium. Seasickness, car sickness and air sickness are all types of motion sickness.

Symptoms: Diziness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, malaise, sweatiness

Causes: Motion sickness occurs when the central nervous system receives conflicting messages from the different sensory receptors (inner ear, eyes and skin).

Prevention and cure: If you're prone to this inconvenient travel ailment, try avoiding it by positioning yourself where your eyes will see the same motion as your body feels and inner ear senses i.e. at the window seat of a plane, the front seat of a car or the deck of a ship.

If you fear to be incapacitated by it, you could try using an antihistamine medicine prior to your journey. They tend to reduce stimulation of the inner ear. Ginger and mint in the form of sweets or tea are a good way to curb the nausea.

5. Traveller's diarrohea

Even if you're not planning on sampling all kinds of foreign foods, a bad batch of traveller's diarrohea may still hit due to stress, exhaustion and a new environment.

Symptoms: Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, loose stool,

Causes: Traveller's diarrhoea is caused primarily by E. coli. It most often occurs in visitors to developing countries where sanitation is poor. However, about 60% of travellers suffer from this horrible ailment even while travelling in first world countries. Even good, safely prepared food comes with bacterias which your stomach has never encountered and therefore has no natural immunity.

Prevention and cure: Drink lots of (bottled) water. This will help wash any unwanted cooties out of your system, and if you have the runs already will help keep you hydrated. Also drink energy drinks with a good dose of electrolytes to replace lost potassium and sodium.

Then, if you're dead set on sampling foreign foods, look for places that always have a large volume of people. While you may have to wait in a queue for a while, the large crowds are almost a sure sign that ingredients are fresher, food more delicious and chances of getting ill less.

Wash your hands frequently, and only take diarrohea pills if completely necessary - like while travelling on a long distance flight, because this medication could lead to the germs getting stuck in your system.

If a case of TD persists for longer than a week or two, consider going to a clinic where you will probably be treated with antibiotics.

6. Exhaustion

Travel is super exciting, but also terribly exhausting. There's all the stress connected with arrangements not always running smoothly, the hours and hours of physical travel, the walking, the sightseeing, the interaction with strangers...

Symptoms: fatigue, insomnia, irritability, depression etc.

Cause: Well, basically taking on and in too much too quickly, not getting enough rest, stress, over scheduling your days.

Prevention and cure: Although you want to squeeze as much as possible into your break, resist the temptation of filling your schedule up entirely. Make sure you have ample time to rest, that's what holidays are for after all. "Allow yourself some time each week, or even each day, which you devote to your own emotional wellbeing. This can be anything from relaxing with a book or movie, to scheduling a day to stalk friends and family on Facebook; it can even be an hour at the gym," Gap Daemon suggests.

7. Insect bites

Some are mere annoyances, while others can have much more severe implications, either way insect bites are something you want to avoid as far as possible while travelling.

Well, the symptoms and causes of ordinary insect bites are quite obvious, but if you're worried that a mosquito bite has led to something more severe like malaria or dengue fever, it may be worth checking in with a doctor. Also, make sure that it isn't a spider bite.

Prevention: Avoid bringing opened snacks into your room, as crumbs can attract all kinds of unkind critters. Make sure you turn off any unneeded lights at night, because not only moths are lured to ‘flames.' Give mosquito nets, window frames, and mesh screens for any holes and patch any that you may find up. Making use of citronella candles is also a good measure at a picnic, while camping or spending time in an area crawling with creepies. Also spray or rub yourself with an insect repellant like Tabard.

Cure: If you have been bitten by an unknown insect, the best measure is to put some antihistamine lotion on the affected area. Along with this you can take an antihistamine tablet to ward off any possible allergic reactions or rashes. Then, most importantly, NEVER SCRATCH your insect bites, as they may develop into disgusting running sores, that could get infected.

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Read more on:    travel south africa  |  travel tips

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