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Health tips for overseas travellers

A woman sits on a row of seats at an airport, passport and ticket in hand, ready to board her plane.
Thinking ahead about staying healthy can make your holiday a whole lot more enjoyable.

Just like we enjoy exploring the great outdoors in our own backyard, each year many Queenslanders hop on planes and boats bound for adventure in overseas destinations. Whether you’re planning to hit the ski slopes, escape it all on a tropical beach or visit family and friends, follow these tips for staying healthy while you enjoy your holiday.

Sun safety applies everywhere

Just because Australia has a particularly high rate of skin cancer, doesn’t mean you can slack off on your slip, slop, slap, seek and slide-ing when you head overseas.

Heading to a tropical beach? Hitting the snow? Melanoma isn’t a great souvenir, so be mindful of sun safety whenever you’re outdoors while travelling. Check the UV index level in your area and if it’s above a 3, it’s time to think about sun protection.

A woman stands in snowy mountains, putting sunscreen on her face.

What vaccinations do I need?

Talk to your GP about what vaccinations you might need a few months before your travel date, remembering that some vaccines require multiple doses and most take a few weeks after injection to become effective.

The Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website has general information about vaccinations for travellers.

Food and water

Remember that not all countries have the same sanitation infrastructure as Australia. Get advice on what foods and drinks are safe to consume in the country that you’re visiting.  

Even though it might be common for travellers to experience diarrhoea or vomiting on a trip – think “Bali Belly” – food poisoning can be serious and even deadly. Treat stomach upsets seriously and if you think someone is becoming dehydrated, seek medical advice.

A market stall full of woks and frying pans holding various Asian dishes.

Alcohol and drugs

Holidays are a time to kick back and relax, and for many people that includes enjoying a drink or two. If you’re planning on drinking alcohol or taking drugs at your destination keep these pointers in mind:

  • know the laws about possession and consumption of alcohol, illicit and pharmaceutical drugs in the country you are visiting – some countries have very different and very strict laws around alcohol and other drugs
  • the safest option is to not take any illicit drugs
  • if you consume alcohol or other drugs that you are not familiar with, start with a small amount and monitor the effects before you consume more
  • stay safe – be with people you trust and look after your mates
  • practice usual precautions to avoid drink spiking – don’t leave your drink unattended
  • and make sure you know what your travel insurance covers – you may not be covered for an accident if under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

General hygiene

Paying particular attention to general hygiene while you’re travelling might help prevent you from becoming unwell on your holiday.

Make sure to wash your hands properly after using the toilet and before eating. If hand washing facilities aren’t available, use a wet wipe to remove any dirt, followed by hand sanitiser.

Mosquitoes

Like Australia, some countries have mosquitoes which carry mosquito borne diseases. Read the Queensland Government’s advice about protecting yourself form mosquitoes when travelling, and check Smart Traveller’s country-specific travel advice for information on the areas you are traveling to and precautions you should take against mosquitoes.

Our guide to properly applying mosquito repellent can be found here.

Carrying medicine

Ensure you’re carrying any prescription medicine you may need while travelling and that you have enough to see you through your entire trip. Ask your doctor for a letter with the details of all medicines you will be carrying with you during your trip.

Check the Smart Traveller website for information about any restrictions on the kinds of medicines travellers can bring into the countries you will be visiting.

A tired young woman sits in an airport next to her suitcase, her head in her hands.

Once you’re home

The holiday come-down can be brutal when you return home. But if you’re feeling unwell and don’t just have a case of the return-to-work sads, visit your doctor and let them know where you’ve been when you book the appointment.

It can take time to become unwell after being exposed to an infectious disease. Keep an eye on your health for the two weeks following your return and if you get sick, visit your doctor.

Some diseases, like measles, which are not common in Australia, can be very contagious and cause outbreaks if infected people return to Australia. Seeing your doctor if you become ill after travelling also protects those around you.

More information

Proper planning can help you stay healthy and well while you travel. More information about looking after your health while travelling can be found at these links:

Queensland Government – Travelling overseas: health info and precautions

Smart Traveller

The Department of Health – Travel Health Information

Last updated: 26 March 2018