Back home with unwanted passengers

Wonderful memories and souvenirs may not be the only things you bring back home from an overseas holiday. Unfortunately, you may also return with an unwanted passenger – a virus or bacteria.

Illness and disease associated with overseas travel are common. Up to one out of every three travellers report health problems. But sometimes symptoms only start after you come home.

The reason is that after a virus or bacteria enters the body, it takes time to develop symptoms – this is called the incubation period. Most incubation periods are brief and cause symptoms while you’re on holidays, but some take longer, even months or years.

What to look out for

For the two weeks after you get back from overseas, pay close attention to your health. If you get any of the following symptoms, see your GP as soon as possible:

  • Fever (> 37.3)
  • Unexplained skin rashes or lesions (sores)
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Persistent diarrhoea
  • Unusual bleeding from the eyes, ears, nose, mouth or anus (bottom)
  • Swollen glands in your armpits or neck
  • Prolonged loss of consciousness (not caused by alcohol, drugs or medications)
  • Persistent coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Any other worrying symptoms

Woman-with-hat-enjoying-a-healthy-holiday-at-the-beachPrevention

Of course, prevention is always the best cure. Before you travel, ensure you receive all necessary vaccinations and make plans in advance, such as knowing whether the water at your destination is safe to drink and bring insect repellent to avoid mosquito bites. Also, if you give yourself plenty of time before you fly, you can minimise stress and be less vulnerable to getting ill.

For more information: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au 1300 555135

References

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Getting sick after travel. wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/getting-sick-after-travel Accessed December 26 2013.

2. Heywood, AE et al. Self-Reported Symptoms of Infection Among Travelers Departing From Sydney and Bangkok Airports. Journal of Travel Medicine 2010;17(4):243–249

3. Department of Health, Australian Government. Travel health information. https://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-quaranti-index.htm Accessed December 26 2013.

4. Fairley JK. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. General approach to the returned traveller. wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2014/chapter-5-post-travel-evaluation/general-approach-to-the-returned-traveler#3176 Accessed December 26 2013.

5. Better Health Channel. Stress. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Stress Accessed December 26 2013.