Tips for Healthy Travel
The following list gives some basic tips regarding the most common health problems faced during travel to any destination. You can find destination specific travel advice in our Destination section.
• Travellers are more likely to be harmed through accidental injury or violence than by infectious disease. See our Accident Prevention and Personal Safety pages for information on how to reduce risks.
• Travellers may be exposed to the organisms that can cause travellers' diarrhoea. These organisms are all spread by human/animal faecal contamination of food, and water or hand to mouth contact after touching contaminated surfaces.
• The risk of travellers' diarrhoea can be reduced by practising good food, water and hand hygiene.
• See our Food and Water Precautions page for information on how to reduce risks.
Respiratory tract infections, including flu, are common during travel and often associated with crowded areas such as busy hotels, cruise ships and tour groups. Travellers should practice good respiratory hygiene, especially during and after being in overcrowded/busy areas:
• Wash hands with soap and water or alcohol hand gel.
• Avoid hand contact with the eyes, nose and mouth.
• Avoid direct contact with people who appear unwell, or use of their personal gadgets.
• Maintain good personal hygiene and use disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing and dispose of them appropriately.
Insects and ticks can transmit infectious diseases between humans or from animals to humans. When feeding on human blood, vectors such as mosquitoes, ticks, sandflies, fleas, blackflies, tsetse flies and reduviid bugs can transmit dangerous disease causing parasites, viruses and bacteria.
• Insect and tick bite avoidance should always be considered as the first line of defence against these vector-borne diseases.
• See our Insect Bite Avoidance page for information on how to reduce risks.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) occur as a result of unprotected sexual intercourse.
• Exercise caution with alcohol and recreational drugs: these can impair judgement and can increase the chance of unprotected sex.
• Condoms should be used for all forms of sexual activity with new/casual partners, they provide good protection against most STIs, including HIV and Hepatitis B/C if used correctly.
• Sex during travel is often unplanned, so take UK kite-marked condoms on your trip.
• See our Sexual Health Risks page for information on how to reduce risks.
• Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV are the 3 main blood borne viruses. They are transmitted through exposure of broken skin, mucous membranes and blood to infected blood and body fluids, for example during treatment with reused medical/dental/surgical equipment, body piercings and tattoos performed with non-sterile equipment or sharing of drug injecting equipment. They are also transmitted sexually.
• See our Blood Borne Virus Infections page for information on how to reduce risks.
• Sun exposure below the level that leads to sunburn can be beneficial, helping our bodies create vitamin D and promoting feelings of general well being. However, sun exposure can lead to skin cancers, this is usually when exposure is long term, or after short periods of intense exposure and burning.
• The safest way to enjoy the sun and protect skin from sunburn is to use a combination of shade, clothing and sunscreen.
• See our Sun Exposure page for information on how to reduce risks.
• Comprehensive travel insurance is essential; ensure cover for accidents, emergency medical treatment, medical evacuation and repatriation is included.
• Check insurance coverage covers all intended destinations and planned activities.
• Always declare any underlying medical conditions that you may have and any medications that you take (including over-the-counter) to your travel insurer. Failure to do so may nullify insurance cover.
• See our Travel Insurance page for information on purchasing the correct travel insurance.
Bites and scratches from an animal can result in serious infection. Bacteria and viruses in animal saliva can be transmitted. Wounds may become secondarily infected with skin bacteria, especially in hot humid climates.
• Exercise caution around domestic animals, especially those that are stray, during travel to reduce the chances of bites and scratches. Maintain distance from wild animals, including monkeys – remember they are likely to be aggressive if under threat.
• Be rabies aware - this fatal infection can be transmitted through a bite, lick or scratch. Always seek urgent medical attention after potential exposure.
• See our Rabies page for information on how to reduce risks, including the benefits of pre-exposure vaccine.
• Tetanus is a serious bacterial infection affecting the nervous system and can result from an animal bite. See our Tetanus page for further information.