Health: You're A Human Pincushion & Other Items Of Import
Tue 4 Aug 09
I've been sitting at this keyboard for a while now, wondering just how to start this blog entry. I've actually edited it 5 or 6 times, because it's not easy to write about something as important as one's health. I'm not here to tell you exactly what to do for your specific destinations, but rather to offer up guidelines to help you help yourself as you explore your chosen corners of the world. So, with that, here goes...
The First And Only Lesson To Learn
Okay, that's an exaggeration as there will be mondo (like big and huge and gigantic) lessons you will learn as you plan your travels--many of them useful, to boot. But, reading through the forums daily, I am constantly reminded of the number of soon-to-be travelers who struggle with the decision between protecting their own health and purchasing that new sleeping bag or pair of hiking boots. No, you may not need all the vaccinations and/or medications recommended for your specific destination(s), but there's a lesson to be learned here: You are NOT immortal, either. (If someone reading this is truly immortal, please contact me because I would love to meet you in person.) As if that weren't blunt enough--your health is the most precious thing you own--protect it. (Here endeth my lecture on lessons.)
The Human Pincushion Effect
Yup - we're going to discuss vaccinations. Regardless of your travel plans--whether they revolve around visiting the most metropolitan areas of Europe or the farthest reaches of Africa or South America--some inoculations are not a bad thing. No matter where your travels take you, Tetanus, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B should be at the top of your vaccination list. Whereas Rabies, Typhoid Fever, Yellow Fever, Cholera, etc. will all depend on your travel choices and the requirements of those countries. (If you choose to read to the end of this blog, you will find links to important sites and articles regarding vaccinations. Hey, it's a good reason to keep reading...)
In some countries these vaccinations can be obtained for free or a small fee, depending on the health-care system. (I'm sorry I can't provide more info on this as I live in the US and nothing is free when it comes to health care. But, I digress.)
Other Items Of Import
I'm going to start this one by addressing Malaria, because it's always a "big ticket" item in the forums. The areas of most concern are Asia, Africa and Central/South America. This one always comes down to your destinations, your own comfort level, your ability to remember to use the insect repellant regularly (no disrespect intended but I never remember to use it), and what advice you accept from other travelers.
The most effective way to guard against malaria is to have a good idea of the areas you plan to visit in relation to the country itself. Basically, ask yourself "will I be east of this area or west of that, etc.", so you can look at the maps (connected with the links below) to see if you will be at risk. As always, if unsure, check the Travel Guide and/or post in the appropriate forum for that region.
Rabies is the second "big ticket" item. (I love this one because I've had my share of (pre-exposure) rabies inoculations! They aren't as bad as they used to be--really.) This is one of the gray areas for most travelers. Do you need them? Probably not, if you are the average backpacker/traveler. (Don't mean to classify things, but stick with me for a few minutes.) Though rabies is a threat around the world, those most at risk either: 1) work in the veterinary field, 2) work on farms, 3) travel mainly in rural areas, 4) can't stop petting stray dogs, skunks, monkeys, and/or other wild animals. Again, rabies vaccinations fall under the "comfort level" heading and your itinerary. When it comes to this disease, only you can decide if your travel plans put you at risk.
There are many other issues that could be addressed in this particular blog. But, since there will be a "table of contents" for you to peruse at your leisure, I will end here and add more information as time goes. Until then, if you have questions/doubts, please check some of the following links:
TP Travel Guide - Travel Health
CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention - US)
WHO (World Health Organization)
NHS (National Health Service - UK)
Global Health (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare)
Until next time... happy travels!!!!!!!!
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