Travelling Health Issues Uncovered!

A holiday, weekend away, gap year travels or an epic around-the-world adventure can all be ruined by illness. Don’t let it happen to you by not protecting yourself from some of the most common traveller’s illnesses.


Malaria is the world’s most deadly disease. It kills roughly 1.2 million people every year. That’s one person every 30 seconds. It’s a parasite spread by certain types of mosquito, and a single bite is enough to infect you.

Mosquito bite!

Mosquito bite!

The plasmodium parasites that cause malaria get into the blood stream when an infected mosquito bites to feed. The parasites are injected into our bodies from the mosquito’s saliva glands.

Once they’ve entered the body, the parasites make their way to the liver where they colonise the organ and reproduce, before spreading out into the circulatory system, where they invade red blood cells.

The parasites burrow into individual cells and then begin to devour the cell from the inside out, using the material to multiply. Every so often an infected red blood cell will burst; freeing even more parasites and a cloud of toxins into the body.

It’s when these blood cells burst that someone with the parasite will feel the classic symptoms of malaria including a fever, bouts of chills and sweating.

Malaria kills by destroying too many red blood cells, preventing the transport of oxygen, which can result in organ failure. It’s also possible for malaria to cause the small blood vessels in the brain to become blocked; that causes strokes, seizures, brain damage and eventually death.

Between 1000 & 2000 people are diagnosed with malaria in British hospitals every year. These people have returned from malarial danger zones in tropical areas such as Latin America, Africa, and areas of southern Asia. Every year some of those people die.

Even a relatively mild case of malaria which doesn’t kill you, it has the potential to ruin your trip, leaving you weak, ill and bed bound for a long time.

If you are planning on visiting a country – check whether it’s a malaria danger-zone, and be sure to consider the available malaria tablets to prevent you from becoming infected.

You should protect yourself in other ways too: use insect repellent, and sleep under a treated mosquito net which is in good condition.


This is a particularly prevalent condition among travellers. It can be caused by any number of things including unfamiliar food, exposure to different bacteria than you’re immune system is used to, and less hygienic food preparation or handling standards.

Whatever the cause, diarrhoea is a debilitating and humiliating illness to suffer, especially when you’re travelling and trying to get out and experience the world.

As many as 60% of travellers and holiday makers report experiencing diarrhoea at some point during their trip, so it’s a good idea to take some medication with you that will allow you to recover quickly and go on to enjoy yourself.


Jet lag

Jet lag

Jet Lag

Crossing time zones can leave travellers disorientated and out of sync with the world around them. Jet lag can lose you precious days off a holiday as you struggle to acclimatise and get yourself back into a rhythm suitable to your new environment.

It’s also often particularly troublesome for business travellers; who can find themselves unable to keep their eyes open in a meeting with international partners, but wide awake at 3am. Frequent travellers, including airline cabin crew and pilots are also susceptible.

Other symptoms associated with jet lag include headaches, extreme fatigue, disorientation, irritability or aggression, mild depression and even constipation.

Some tactics for dealing with jet lag are to attempt to adjust your sleeping and living patterns to your destination’s time zone before travelling and making sure that you get plenty of sun light during the day when you arrive at your destination.

There is also a hormone treatment that can help you to adjust more quickly – speak with a doctor about this.


If you’re travelling outside of your own country, you may need to be vaccinated against any number of serious diseases that are prevalent in other parts of the world.

Speak with a doctor about where you’re planning to travel and how long you’ll be staying in various countries to make sure that you’re immunised against the relevant illnesses.

Drinking Water

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that many sicknesses are spread by tainted drinking water, so it’s always a good idea to drink bottled water and watch out for fresh seafood or salads that may have been washed in tap water. Be wary of having ice in your drink because it’s usually just frozen tap water.

I’ve done my fair share of travelling, and I promise you that you will be glad that you thought to take care of all of these medical considerations before you left home!

Author Bio: James Armstrong is an experienced journalist, broadcaster and traveller. He’s currently writing for Dr Thom – the online doctor that can prescribe medication for travellers.