Other health considerations if travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic
03 Aug 2021
During the current pandemic, It is important to remember that you may be exposed during travel to many different illnesses and health risks, not just COVID-19.
Many travel-related diseases begin with vague or generalised 'flu-like' symptoms, often accompanied with a high temperature (fever). These symptoms can make it tricky to decide if the illness is COVID-19 or something else.
Health professionals in the UK might not consider a travel-related or tropical disease, such as malaria, to be causing your symptoms unless they are aware that you have recently travelled to a country where such diseases exist.
It is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible if you become unwell and/or develop a high temperature (fever) either during your trip, or once you return home, even if it's up to one month after travel.
- Always make sure you tell the health professional that you have recently travelled abroad, especially if you have been to a country where malaria is a risk.
A reminder of some of the different health risks you may need to be aware of during travel:
- Malaria can quickly become serious if it is not diagnosed and treated quickly.
- Protecting yourself against mosquito bites and taking anti-malarial medications, if recommended for the country you are visiting, can help to reduce your risk of catching malaria.
- Make sure you know what the symptoms of malaria are, so you can seek help quickly if they occur.
- Always remember to seek medical advice quickly on your return to the UK if you become unwell, and mention that you have been in a country where malaria is present.
Mosquito and other insect bites
- Mosquitoes can transmit many other diseases including yellow fever, dengue fever and zika virus infection.
- Fleas, bugs, ticks and flies carry a wide variety of diseases which they can transmit to humans if they bite you.
- You should always try to protect yourself against mosquito bites and other insect bites when travelling to a country where these diseases exist.
Food and water precautions
- Some illnesses are transmitted to humans from eating or drinking food and water which has been contaminated by germs (such as viruses or bacteria) or harmful chemicals.
- Illnesses such as travellers' diarrhoea, hepatitis A, typhoid and cyclosporiasis are transmitted in this way.
- You should always take safe food and water precautions and practice effective hand hygiene when you travel.
- Common cold, chest infections, flu (influenza) and COVID-19 are some of the many diseases which are transmitted when you breathe in infected droplets in the air released by people with the infection, or by touching surfaces which have been contaminated with these infected droplets and you then touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
- You can reduce your risk of catching airborne infections by regularly washing your hands and practicing respiratory hygiene measures whilst travelling.
Diseases from blood and body fluids
- You may become infected with blood borne virus infections (including HIV) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) if you come into close contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person without taking safe precautions.
- Being up to date with vaccinations such as hepatitis B, being aware of how to avoid blood borne viruses and practicing safe sex during travel will help to reduce your risk.
Risks from the environment
- Accidents such as drowning or car accidents, sunburn, heat stroke, altitude sickness or animal bites are examples of how you might become injured or unwell from the environment during travel.
- Always make sure you carefully research the risks at your destination, get the relevant vaccinations and take out a comprehensive travel insurance to cover you whilst you are abroad.
Advice for travellers
Before booking any travel, you should review the fitfortravel country page relevant to your destination(s) to find:
- up to date travel health recommendations for that country
- advice on health risks you need to be aware of at your destination
- if you may need to consider receiving any vaccinations, boosters or purchasing antimalarial tablets before you travel
Try to see a travel health professional at least 6 to 8 weeks in advance of your trip whenever possible to allow plenty of time for advice, vaccinations and boosters to be given.
- Even if you are travelling at short notice, you should still try and see a travel health professional as they may still be able to offer you useful advice.
After you return home, always seek medical advice if you develop a high temperature and you have recently travelled abroad, telling them about your recent travel history.