Getting health advice before you travel outside the UK can help avoid any unwanted souvenirs impacting your health and safety. Getting ready to head overseas? You may have questions about travelling with an existing condition, where to find health advice about the area you’re visiting, or staying well during the journey.
Read our information guide for tips on staying healthy and safe whilst travelling abroad.
Check before you travel
Find foreign travel advice online to help you prepare for the area you’re visiting. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) maintain a list of travel advice for all countries and territories. This will give you an idea of what to expect during your visit, and where to go for help in an urgent situation.
Visit the Travel Health Pro website for specific health advice about each country. It details known health conditions affecting an area, as well as recommending pre-travel steps such as vaccines and tablets.
Some people experience motion sickness when travelling, such as by car, boat, or plane. Bumps or changes of direction can cause the ears and eyes to send conflicting signals to the brain, resulting in feeling unwell.
Fortunately your pharmacist can give you travel sickness tablets which will help relieve the symptoms of nausea, so you can concentrate on the journey.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Being seated on a long journey can increase the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis – a blood clot which forms in a vein and blocks the flow of blood.
Some people are more at risk of DVT than others, such as those who have heart disease, or have a history of blood clots. Speak to your doctor if you’re worried that an existing health condition increases your risk of developing DVT during your journey.
Flight socks apply gentle pressure to your leg and ankle which can help improve blood flow. It’s important to get the correct size though – so ask your pharmacist for advice! Stay hydrated with plenty of water, and try to do calf exercises or walk around where possible.
Anti-malaria tablets without seeing your GP
A single mosquito bite is all it takes to pass on malaria which, if not treated quickly, can be fatal. Taking a course of antimalarial tablets can help protect you. Your GP or pharmacist can advise you on the correct dosage and which tablets to take – speak to our pharmacy team for advice.
What injections do I need to go abroad?
Depending on where you’re be travelling to, you may need injections to help protect you against dangerous diseases such as typhoid or yellow fever. Ideally you should consult your GP at least 8 weeks before you go, as some types of vaccine need time to immunise you effectively. The NHS Fit for Travel website can advise you which vaccinations you might need.
Eating and drinking safely whilst abroad
Strict sanitation rules usually mean that eating and drinking is generally safe in the UK. Be aware though, not every country is so rigorous! Even foods which have been carefully prepared can cause an upset stomach if you’re not used to eating them.
In high risk areas avoid foods which are likely to have been prepared with tap water, such as salads. Shellfish or undercooked meats and fish can also cause illness, as can foods which have been left uncovered. Try to stick to drinks which are bottled and still have the seal intact and remember, ice cubes are usually made from local tap water!
As soon as the sun makes an appearance in the UK it’s tempting to rush outdoors to soak up some rays, and even more so when travelling. Unfortunately this can leave you vulnerable to sun damaged skin and heatstroke.
Try to avoid being out during peak hours when the sun is at its strongest. Sunglasses should have an adequate UV rating to help protect your eyes, whilst a high SPF sun cream will offer some skin protection.
Travelling with an existing condition
If you have an existing medical condition it might be worth discussing your travel plans with your GP. Whilst you might find it more difficult (or more costly) to get travel insurance, it’s still important to make sure you’re adequately protected should something serious happen.
If you have to take regular medication on prescription, ask your doctor for a letter which confirms what drugs you must take, and the dosage. This will certainly help with outbound security as well as customs at the other end but be warned, some medications which are allowed in one country are banned in others – so check before you travel!