While You’re There

Remember a Fact:

You don’t want to get sick abroad and waste your vacation, which you planned for long time and invested a lot of money into. Travellers should take all important steps to stay healthy at their destination by not only visiting their family doctor 4-6 weeks before departure, but also by adopting best traveling practices while they are abroad. To fully enjoy your vacation, health and safety is key.

Ocean and River Hazards

Travellers who are likely to walk on the flats or wade in shallow rivers like fishermen and fisherwomen,  should not do so barefoot but should use protective footwear.

Schisotsoma (a parasite that can not be seen by the naked eye) lives in contaminated rivers and can penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream, during wading or swimming and will cause serious illness.

Stepping on a starfish or sea urchin can result in painful injury.

Both saltwater and freshwater stingrays are totally invisible when they motionlessly camouflage themselves with the bottom of the ocean floor. A sting by one of these creatures can more than ruin your trip and is best avoided by shuffling your feet during wading and using a wading staff to scan the bottom ahead. Commercially available stingray guards, although a little bit bulky, offer great protection.

Always ask the locals about potential dangerous species, they will provide good pieces of advice. Different bodies of water have different venomous species and sharp corals, and it’s important to always know your surroundings.

Box jellyfish, the most lethal living animal on earth, have a notorious sting. Beware of swimming or snorkeling near them. They are distributed mainly around the coasts of Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and Northern Australia (Indo-Pacific). First aid after a sting includes removing tentacles (stinging thread-like structures) and flushing the sting site with household vinegar, or seawater. Never remove the tentacles with bare hands nor use fresh water. The latter will cause them to release more poison even if they are separated from the jellyfish. Call for medical help immediately.

Before swimming or surfing, care should be taken that sharks aren’t present in your vicinity as they can cause serious human injuries and death.

Millions of travellers can still enjoy water sports and activities if safety precautions are properly taken.

Please Note:

The information in this page is for educational purposes only. It is not the substitute to a formal travel consult with your travel doctor.

Mosquito Bites

Avoiding mosquito bites at all travel destination should be a rule that all travellers follow. Mosquito bites are further discussed in detail in the Mosquito Avoidance section.

Sun

To escape from the winter, Canadians tend to seek out sunny destinations and resorts where they can relax on the warm sandy beaches and tan.

It’s important to avoid skin damaging UV radiation, which is a risk factor for skin cancer or melanoma.

Sunburn can occur quickly and even in cloudy weather.

The most effective way of protection is the avoidance of the sun by staying indoors or using protective clothing. Nowadays, technical sun protective clothing is available that utilizes the use of specialized UV absorbing fabric. When shopping, buy sportswear that are UPF 30 and above (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). 100% UV protective sunglasses are a must. Hats are comfortable, protective and not expensive.

All travellers, especially if sun avoidance is not practical or possible, should use sunscreens.

Apply a GOOD sunscreen PROPERLY.

A GOOD sunscreen is:

  1. At least SPF 30(Sun Protection Factor).
  2. Protective against both UVA and UVB.
  3. Waterproof or water-resistant.
  4. Does not contain both insect repellent and sunscreen. This is to avoid reapplying unnecessary insect repellent when reapplying the sunscreen.

To apply sunscreen PROPERLY:

  1. Apply enough sunscreen to cover all exposed areas of the body.
  2. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s labeling.
  3. Apply 15-30 before anticipated sun exposure.
  4. Reapply after swimming and sweating.
  5. Sunscreens should be applied to the skin before insect repellents. (Note: DEET-containing insect repellents may decrease the SPF of sunscreens by one-third. Sunscreens may increase absorption of DEET through the skin.)*
  6. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen lip balm as well. It should be a minimum of SPF 15.

For more information visit:

http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety/sun-tips

Please note:

The information in this page is for educational purposes only. It is not the substitute to a formal travel consult with your travel doctor.

Person-to-Person Protective Measures

Avoid close contact with sick people while traveling, especially in transit stations and all vessels of transportation where people are crowded.

Washing hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitizers are good practices to avoid diseases transmitted by person-to-person contact, like the flu or measles.

When you cough, always cover your mouth. A better option is using a mask, which will protect you and others at the same time.

These measures are very important during mass gathering events like Hajj.

Please note:

The information in this page is for educational purposes only. It is not the substitute to a formal travel consult with your travel doctor.

Injuries and Travel

Injuries during travel are far more common than other travel related health risks and are the most common cause of death among travellers. Yet travellers are more afraid of infections than injuries!

Road traffic accidents (especially pedestrians, bicycles and motorcycles accidents) and drowning occupy the top of the list.

Injuries are the most important things to be considered by travellers in terms of prevention.

Travellers should bear in mind that driving in some countries is chaotic and expectations should not be compared to Canadian standards. In such countries, drivers do not abide by standard rules and regulations of operating motor vehicles. Examples include drivers that may not stop at pedestrian crossing lines or stop signs.

Hyper-vigilance and extreme carefulness should be employed when walking in the streets.

Children should never be left unattended walking in the streets or while riding on bicycles.

The following table lists important injuries reduction strategies*:

Recommended Strategies to Reduce Injuries While Abroad
MECHANISM OR TYPE OF INJURY PREVENTION STRATEGIES
Seat belts and child safety seats Always use safety belts and child safety seats. Rent vehicles with seat belts; when possible, ride in taxis with seat belts and sit in the rear seat; bring child safety seats and booster seats from home for children to ride properly restrained.
Driving hazards When possible, avoid driving at night in low and middle-income countries; always pay close attention to the correct side of the road when driving in countries that drive on the left.
Country-specific driving hazards Check the Association for Safe International Road Travel website for driving hazards or risks by country (www.asirt.org).
Motorcycles, motor bikes, and bicycles Always wear helmets (bring a helmet from home, if needed). When possible, avoid driving or riding on motorcycles or motorbikes, including motorcycle and motorbike taxis. Traveling overseas is a bad time to learn to drive a motorcycle or motorbike.
Alcohol-impaired driving Alcohol increases the risk for all causes of injury. Do not drive after consuming alcohol, and avoid riding with someone who has been drinking.
Cellular telephones Do not use a cellular telephone or text while driving. Many countries have enacted laws banning cellular telephone use while driving, and some countries have made using any kind of telephone, including hands-free, illegal while driving.
Taxis or hired drivers Ride only in marked taxis, and try to ride in those that have safety belts accessible. Hire drivers familiar with the area.
Bus travel Avoid riding in overcrowded, overweight, or top-heavy buses and minivans.
Pedestrians Be alert when crossing streets, especially in countries where motorists drive on the left side of the road. Walk with a companion or someone from the host country.
Other Tips
Airplane travel Avoid using local, unscheduled aircraft. If possible, fly on larger planes (>30 seats), in good weather, during the daylight hours, and with experienced pilots. Children <2 years should sit in a child safety seat, not on a parent’s lap. Whenever possible, parents should travel with a safety seat for use before, during, and after a plane ride.
Drowning Avoid swimming alone or in unfamiliar waters. Wear life jackets while boating or during water recreation activities.
Burns Reside below the sixth floor to maximize rescue in case of a fire. Bring your own smoke alarm.
Violence
Assault When in low and middle-income countries or high-poverty areas, avoid traveling at night in unfamiliar environments. Use alcohol in moderation, and do not travel alone. If confronted, give up all valuables, and do not resist attackers.

 

For country specific travel advice see the Country-Specific Travel Advisories in our Before You Go section.

Purchasing evacuation insurance prior to your trip can be life-saving if you sustain an injury abroad. (See: Before You Go – Travel Insurance). This is especially true if your itinerary includes adventure activities like mountain climbing, hiking and whitewater rafting, or if it’s in a remote place like the jungle.

Learning basic first aid and CPR are valuable pre-trip checklist items.

Please Note:

The information in this page is for educational purposes only. It is not the substitute to a formal travel consult with your travel doctor.

Scuba Diving

Millions of travellers seek out scuba diving destinations in the beautiful tropical and Indo-Pacific waters. Those divers have different levels of diving expertise, ranging from novice to lifetime divers.

Diving is associated with complex and serious disorders.

Knowledge of symptoms and prevention is of paramount importance to divers.

One of the most common diving disorders or injuries is barotrauma. This can involve the air-containing middle ear and sinuses. The injury results from the failure of pressure to equalize mainly during descent (diving). Pre-existing congenital or acquired illnesses of those structures makes the person more prone to barotraumas. If you have a deviated nasal septum or congestion due to common cold resulting in Eustachian canal dysfunction, you will be more susceptible to barotraumas. Symptoms include pain, decreased hearing and sensation of fullness or pressure in ears and sinuses. A sense of imbalance or spinning (vertigo) and ear ringing or buzzing may also occur.

Barotraumas can more seriously involve the lungs resulting in over-inflating and rupturing of lung tissue. The resulting escaped air can go to the pleural or mediastinal cavities causing pneumothorax,  restricting the lungs and heart. Symptoms may include chest pain and breathlessness where prompt medical care is required.

Rupture of the lungs can also force air into the blood stream causing what is called Arterial Gas Embolism (AGE). If you feel dizzy and weak with numbness in the hands or feet you may have AGE. These symptoms my progress to personality changes, seizures and loss of consciousness. Again emergency medical care is required.

High pressure during descent will cause nitrogen mixed with the air divers breathe to dissolve in tissues and blood. Upon rapid ascent the dissolved nitrogen will decompress and form bubbles in the tissues and blood causing Decompression Sickness (DCS) characterized by itchy, mottled skin, body and joint aches, breathlessness, dizziness and numbness. Fatigue and weakness can also occur. Divers who suffer DCS may exhibit personality changes; lose control over their bowel and bladder and collapse to the ground after surfacing.

Travellers who want to scuba dive should not do so without the supervision of an expert diving instructor and should always seek prompt medical advice when symptomatic.

Please Note:

The information in this page is for educational purposes only. It is not the substitute to a formal travel consult with your travel doctor.

Safe Sex

Travellers should practice safe sex through the use of condoms.

Condoms should be in your travel kit (See: Packing List and Travel Health Kit in our Before You Go section).

Travellers should bear in mind that condoms offer a great deal of protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), however, they are not 100% protective. Sex abstinence is 100% protective.

Please Note:

The information in this page is for educational purposes only. It is not the substitute to a formal travel consult with your travel doctor.

Blood-Borne Pathogens and Exchange of Body Fluids

Activities that involve exchanging body fluids, even in tiny amounts, should always be avoided.

These include, but are not limited to, tattooing, piercing, sharing needles, blood transfusion, pedicures and dental procedures.

Please Note:

The information in this page is for educational purposes only. It is not the substitute to a formal travel consult with your travel doctor.

Registration of Canadians Abroad

Canadian travellers abroad are encouraged to register through the free service offered by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada to stay connected to home should an emergency happen while abroad.

For more information on how to register, please visit:

http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/registration

Choosing Accommodations Abroad

Accommodation standards are different from country to country. Travellers are advised to keep valuables in a safe place and never unattended.

“Bed Bugs” have always been a concern for travellers, regardless of the accommodation type and duration of travel.

For more information about Bed Bugs, please visit:

http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety/bed-bugs

Please Note:

The information in this page is for educational purposes only. It is not the substitute to a formal travel consult with your travel doctor.

Alcohol, Drugs and Travel

It is very important that travellers understand the health and legal risks associated with drugs and alcohol use abroad.

Thousands of travellers become physically injured or imprisoned because of drug and alcohol use abroad.

Valuable information for travellers can be found on the government of Canada website (travel.gc.ca)

For more information regarding alcohol, drugs and travel, please visit:

http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety/drugs

Please Note:

The information in this page is for educational purposes only. It is not the substitute to a formal travel consult with your travel doctor.

Air Travel

As a traveller you should familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of air travel to avoid spending extra time at airports and make your travel more efficient.

For information on air travel, please visit:

http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/air

 

*Adapted from: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Health Information for International Travel 2014. New York: Oxford University Press; 2014.

 

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