There are many steps you can take to avoid problems and inconvenience while you are traveling. In some countries, hygiene and unsafe drinking water can be an issue. So as well as making the right preparations, it is also important to remember the following when you are in the tropics.
Infections are usually caused by poor hygiene. The main rule of thumb is the simplest: always wash your hands after using the toilet and also before preparing or eating food. Ensure you have antibacterial soap and/or hand gel and clean, dry towels. Your body will also be exposed to external factors. So never walk barefoot or through long grass. We also recommend that you wear close-fitting clothing and do not swim in stagnant or slow-flowing water.
The most common health problems suffered by travelers are intestinal infections and diarrhea. In most cases, contaminated food, drinking water, and beverages are the cause. The most important tips to prevent infection are:
The way in which locals in an area prepare food will determine whether or not it is safe to eat and drink there. The likelihood of travelers getting diarrhea is much higher in countries with poor food hygiene standards. Poor infrastructure and poor-quality drinking water play an important role in this risk. In countries where such conditions exist, it is always advisable to take extra precautions when it comes to hygiene - even in more expensive hotels and restaurants. The general rule of thumb is: Cook it, peel it, boil it, or forget it!
Hepatitis A and E, cholera, giardia, and typhoid are diseases spread by contaminated drinking water. Various viruses, bacteria, and parasites can also cause traveler’s diarrhea. Up to 80 percent of people traveling to areas with unclean drinking water will contract diarrhea. Toxins in seafood and fish are also known pathogens.
Keep in mind that swimming and showering water will not always be safe. Bacteria and viruses that can cause intestinal infections can be spread through water. We therefore always recommend that you find out about how clean the water is before you go swimming, and avoid locations where sewage is discharged nearby. You should also avoid swallowing water while swimming.
There are a number of infectious diseases that are common among travelers to distant places. It is important that you are aware that you could contract one of these diseases while traveling overseas. Additional information on the various diseases that are common overseas can be found under the heading ‘Travel and Health’.
If you are traveling in a tropical or subtropical country, you run the risk of contracting diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. These include diseases such as malaria, dengue, Japanese encephalitis, and yellow fever. In many areas ticks also pose a risk; they can carry diseases such as tick-borne encephalitis. Some of these diseases can progress rapidly and be very serious. It is therefore important that people traveling to tropical and subtropical regions take precautions to avoid being bitten by insects and ticks:
Other animals can also transmit diseases, be poisonous, or cause allergic reactions. In many countries, rabies is common in wild animals and sometimes also in domestic animals. Mammal bites or scratches can transmit the virus. To prevent this happening we recommend that you:
Poisonous animals include certain types of jellyfish, spiders, scorpions, and snakes. You cannot be vaccinated against these toxins, but antidotes are often available. It is important that you go to the nearest physician or hospital immediately.