Food and water, sunshine, hygiene, and being bitten. “Just everyday things” but they could well have repercussions for your health.
We inform you of the risks you will generally be exposed to and which simple measures you can take to reduce these risks with tips for travelling.
Are you planning on staying in a city that has polluted air for a short amount of time (less than a few weeks)? Then the risk for healthy people is generally low. Do you have sensitive airways and do you for example use an inhaler? You could possibly fall ill. Air pollution can have many causes: exhausts by certain industries and vehicles in combination with the weather, dry and little wind, or a lot of wind which causes desert dust or particles from nearby forest fires to cause smog.
Current air quality status
For the current air quality status of your destination, consult the Air Quality Index (AQI).
In foreign countries, animals that are infected with rabies can roam around freely. Rabies can be transmitted by being bitten or scratched by an infected animal. The disease can also be transmitted by animals licking an open wound or via mucous membranes. But it’s not just dogs that can transmit rabies. The disease can also be spread by all sorts of mammals, including cats, monkeys and bats.
If you are infected, the virus will work its way into your nervous system and then slowly to your brain. Once this process has started, it is difficult to treat and it is a disease that can have very serious consequences. If you are travelling to a country where there is a risk of contracting rabies, please let one of our travel nurses inform you about the risks and proper precautions.
Do you suffer from a chronic disease? If so, although making a long-haul journey is generally not a problem, there are a few things that you will be wise to consider prior to the trip.
A few tips
- Always discuss the plans of your trip well in advance with the treating doctor.
- Is the journey that you are planning compatible with your condition? The more “active” journeys can put a great strain on your physical endurance (if necessary you can undergo a traveller’s examination to get an idea of how physically fit- or otherwise – you really are).
- If you suffer from a chronic heart or lung condition, for example, it can have repercussions for (air) travel. Discuss the situation with your specialist and the airline in a timely manner.
- If your condition means running a bigger risk of needing medical assistance while you are abroad, research whether the help you will need is actually available in the countries you will be visiting.
- Make sure you have enough medication, a medication passport and – very important – medical insurance that provides sufficient cover for medical help abroad and repatriation.
- Have you forgotten to bring your medication with you, you can get last-minute medication at our dispensary at the airport.
In foreign countries too, parts of many big cities can be unsafe. This not only includes petty crime like pick-pocketing and robbery, but much more serious crimes too.
A few tips
- Do some proper research about the risks you will be exposed to and the areas where the risks are the greatest (visit: Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
- Do not visit high-risk areas, if not absolutely necessary.
- If you have to use a taxi, ensure you use a reputable taxi service (via your hotel for example).
- Do not enter into any transaction that you do not trust.
- If possible don’t go out alone on the street, and certainly not during evening and night time.
- Avoid aggressive people, disturbances or gatherings.
- Ensure other people know where you are and that you can be reached.
- Adjust yourself to the local customs and ways to doing things and do not provide provocation for irritation or aggression.
- Be careful when it comes to alcohol and drugs. Make sure you are not the cause of violence.
- Don’t get yourself noticed as the “rich” tourist.
- Make sure you are well insured.
Drugs while traveling
Do not use drugs. Drug use is strongly discouraged. Not only for health reasons, but also because the punishment for use or possession of drugs in some countries is much harsher than in the Netherlands.
Drugs in drink or food, devil’s breath and needle spiking
Drugging is giving a drug or medicine to someone without the other person knowing or wanting it. This usually involves someone secretly putting a drug or medicine in the victim’s drink. These drugs are also called rob or rape drugs.
A well-known example of a drug put into a drink is GHB. Stories circulate that scopolamine powder is used in South America to blow into people’s faces. This would make the victims defenseless and do anything anyone says, like a zombie. It is also called Devil’s Breath in this form. It is unclear whether these stories are true. There are no drugs that make free will disappear. Scopolamine can affect consciousness, however. It is sometimes put into drinks for that purpose in South American countries.
Needle spiking is said to be a method of drugging in which the victim is drugged with a needle. Needle spiking is very difficult in practice. It is unclear whether needle spiking really happens, or whether it is drugs put into drinks after all. Effects of drugging include nausea, feeling weak, memory loss, hallucinations, large pupils, altered heart rate, insomnia or unconsciousness.
Always be alert and avoid the possibility of being drugged:
- Never leave food or drink unattended while traveling.
- Do not accept food or drink from strangers or new acquaintances.
- Immediately seek medical attention if you think you have been drugged.
One of the most common causes of illness among travellers is the consumption of contaminated food or water. In most cases this does not have serious repercussions but just results in inconvenience, such as a short bout of diarrhoea (“traveller’s diarrhoea“).
You can get food poisoning by eating food in which bacteria have produced toxins; it is these toxins that actually cause the food poisoning. The complaints are short and sharp and usually start quite soon after you eat the contaminated food (within 12 hours). They include suddenly feeling poorly and vomiting, sometimes diarrhoea, either once or a few times, but not accompanied by a fever. Traveller’s diarrhoea usually clears up quite quickly. If it doesn’t clear up within a few days you should see a doctor. Some types of food can be susceptible to contamination if they are not prepared properly (thoroughly heated) or not correctly preserved (kept cool enough) such as meat, chicken, fish, rice, sauces and packaged and tinned food.
More serious infections that can be contracted via contaminated food and drinking and swimming water include typhoid fever and cholera, salmonella and shigella, amoebic dysentery and hepatitis A (inflammation of the liver). Any form of diarrhoea that does not clear up after a few ways or is accompanied by fever or blood/mucous discharge should always be taken seriously; see a doctor in those cases.
With diarrhoea that lasts longer there is always the risk of dehydration because the body loses a lot of fluids. This is particularly true in the case of small children because they can dehydrate very quickly. It is important to ensure that someone with diarrhoea drinks enough fluids.
With the right vaccinations many diseases can be avoided, but unfortunately not all of them. However, by taking a few simple precautionary measures you can avoid a lot of problems.
- If you don’t trust the drinking water, only drink water that comes in sealed bottles.
- Always drink “bottled water” or boil the water before you drink it. This also applies to milk.
- In a restaurant do not accept a bottle that has already been opened.
- Bear in mind that ice cubes have been made from water and that salad will have been rinsed in water.
- Eat as little fish and/or molluscs as possible.
- Do not eat raw meat and make sure that meat has been properly cooked before you eat it.
- Make sure that what you eat has not spent too much time out of the fridge and that it is not kept for too long before you eat it.
- Be careful with salads and other raw-food products.
- Eat only pre-packaged ice cream and not the homemade (scooped) variety.
- Never eat food from roadside stalls
- Take ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) with you. This is a water-soluble mixture that helps you avoid dehydration.
- The most important tip is also the simplest: always wash your hands, before going to the toilet, after going to the toilet, and always before you eat.
The bite of a mosquito, flea or tick can lead to an irritating itch or swelling, but it can also lead to diseases like dengue of malaria.
There is a vaccine against dengue available. You can read all about it on the page about dengue. In all regions in which malaria and dengue are endemic, it is important that you do as much as possible to avoid being bitten by these insects. Please look at our mosquito repellent measures.
Do you use regular medication? Make sure that you take enough with you to your holiday destination, because you cannot rely on being able to get medication quickly wherever you might be.
A few tips
- Make sure you arrange to take sufficient medication for the complete duration of your journey, well in advance of your departure.
- Ask your dispensing chemist for a “medication passport”. This will ensure that if you lose or end up not having enough medication, you will easily be able to get replacement medication. This can also make things much easier for you if you have to take medication abroad, because it mentions your use and dosage.
- If you are a diabetic or if you have to inject yourself with insulin, consult with your diabetes advisor on your travel plans before your departure.
- Consider whether it’s necessary to take a customized travel first-aid kit with you. Feel free to check out our range of travel accessories for first aid medication.
- Take an ample supply of medication with you on the flight, just in case your baggage arrives later.
- Bear in mind that for some medicines you will need an international declaration if you want to take them with you. This pertains to medicines that might fall under opium or drugs legislation. Be sure to discuss the situation with your family doctor or specialist in good time to establish whether or not it applies to you. Or check out the CAK website.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) occur all over the world but are more common in some areas than Western Europe. If you expect to have sexual relations with fellow travellers or the local people take the necessary precautions with you.
A few tips
- Consider whether it’s really wise to have sexual relations.
- If you do have sexual relations, always use a condom.
- If you think you might have been infected with an STD, always get a doctor to examine you.
- For more information see diseases.
One of the nicest things about a holiday is enjoying the sunshine. But, in more ways than one, there is a dark side to the sun: its power.
Tips to enjoy the sun:
- Don’t go out into strong sunshine between 11.00 AM and 15.00 PM.
- Adjust your activities to the sun, temperature and climate.
- Make sure you drink enough.
- When exposed to sunshine for a long time, wear long clothes and cover your head.
- Take good sun-barriers with you, and make sure they have a high protection factor when it comes to children (SPF 50+).
- Don’t walk on bare feet; you’ll burn them.
- Use a good sunscreen, with a high protection factor, even if you spend most of your time in the shade.
By far the most common cause of life-threatening situations in foreign countries is not disease, but traffic accidents. This is why we want you to be aware of the potential hazards of driving while you are abroad.
A few tips
- Consider whether it’s really necessary to drive yourself.
- If you decide to drive, make sure you drive a roadworthy vehicle.
- If possible, don’t drive alone, and preferably not during the evening and night hours.
- Ensure that you are always reachable (mobile phone) and that other people know where you are.
- Make sure you are well insured.
- Carry an international driver’s license and your passport with you.
- Avoid alcohol, drugs and other substances that can influence your ability to drive.
Travel advice Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Sometimes, certain safety risks exist. Please take extra care or only travel to a country when absolutely necessary. With a travel advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, you can prepare for travel risks during a stay abroad.