Seasoned globetrotter and medical professional Anna King has very generously given us the ultimate guide to staying healthy on your horse riding holiday. In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about preparing for your travels, from vaccinations to first aid kits.
Many travel medicine clinics and pharmacies will provide you with…
First Aid Kit
These are essential for every traveller. Never underestimate the benefit of having a First Aid Kit on hand. They should aim to effectively treat:
- Splinters, cuts, scratches and gashes
- Sprains and strains
- Burns and scalds
This is suitable for travelling on the beaten track, e.g. Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and should cover:
- Sinus and chest infections, bronchitis
- Sore throats, runny noses, colds
- Mild diarrhoea or constipation
- Pain, headaches
- Minor cuts and scratches
In addition to the Tour Kit, the Travel Kit prepares you for travelling off the beaten track, e.g. Asia, Africa and South America, and should aim to cover:
- Severe or prolonged diarrhoea, dysentery, giardia and other gut infections
- Eye and ear infections
Note: If travelling to an area that has a high prevalence of HIV or Hepatitis B or C, it is highly recommended that you travel with your own sharps.
A must-have, this kit should treat:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhoea or gut infection
The Pre-travel Health Checklist
Health is a vital element to include when you are first setting out your initial budget. Costs can quickly add up without you realising. Before you ask if it is really worth it, IT IS! Getting sick whilst overseas can have far bigger and costlier ramifications than you can imagine. Allow for the costs of vaccinations, medications and travel insurance.
- See your GP
Make an appointment 6-12 months prior to your departure (especially for international travel) to discuss your trip with your GP. You should go through any concerns you may have about travelling and, most importantly, what vaccinations or malarial prophylaxis you will need before you travel.
Prior to your departure, even if it is only domestic travel, obtain a letter from you GP to carry with you describing any active medical problems, past medical or surgical history, allergies and a list of current medications. This is important if you are in an accident and unable to communicate your own history adequately. It will save vital time in an emergency.
Get enough prescriptions to cover your entire trip plus an extra few days in case of delays. Some medications may require a medical authority. If this is the case, medications should remain in their original packaging with the letter of authority alongside them for ease at checkpoints and customs.
- Organise Travel Insurance
Travel insurance covers you for travel inconveniences but most importantly, it is your health insurance policy whilst you are overseas. Accidents and illnesses happen, even on holidays. Medical bills quickly add up and unless you want to spend your holiday stressing about how you are going to pay thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of dollars worth of medical bills, it is best to make sure you are covered before you leave the country.
Make sure your travel insurance covers the activities you intend to pursue whilst overseas (ahem – horse riding). Read the fine print, as some policies won’t cover you if you aren’t wearing a helmet or have been drinking alcohol, etc. You will also need to read the fine print to check whether it simply covers medical transfers to the nearest reputable centre or if it covers full medical retrieval to your country of origin. This becomes important if an accident or illness happens that prevents you from travelling on a commercial flight but requires longer term medical treatment. If your policy does not cover full medical retrieval, you may need to remain in an overseas hospital for a prolonged period of time.
- Get Vaccinated
Some vaccinations are compulsory for entry into certain countries and you will be required to provide an original vaccination record. Some vaccinations also require follow up injections for long-term immunity, so you may need to allow at least 6 months for the full schedule to be completed. The Yellow Fever vaccine is compulsory for parts of Africa and South America, and the Meningitis vaccine is compulsory for Saudi Arabia.
Make sure all childhood vaccinations are up to date: Tetanus, Diptheria, Pertussis (Whooping Cough), Measles, Polio, Hepatitis A and B. Australia has relatively low rates of these diseases and generally people can rely on herd immunity to cover them if they are a bit out of date or aren’t vaccinated. In other countries, rates of the diseases are much higher and vaccination rates may be much lower. Therefore, there is not enough herd immunity to protect you if your antibodies are low or you aren’t fully immunised.
Rabies occurs throughout much of the world and there is no cure. Vaccination and prompt post exposure treatment are highly recommended. ANY animal bites, licks over broken skin, scratches or puncture wounds are considered a risk, especially from dogs, cats and monkeys.
Tetanus: “Lockjaw” is worth a special mention, as even a tiny scratch can lead to infection and the disease can be fatal. At the very least, it will require treatment in an intensive care unit. After the initial vaccinations in childhood, Adult Diptheria Pertussis and Tetanus is needed at the age of 15 and 50 in Australia. However, travellers are advised to update their vaccinations if it is more than 10 years since their last booster. The newer vaccines also have the additional inclusion of Pertussis (Whooping Cough).
Consider getting the current influenza vaccination. This, as well as the pneumonia vaccination, is particularly recommended if you are over 65 years old or pregnant.
Depending on where you are travelling, recommended vaccinations may also include: Hepatitis A and B, Cholera, Typhoid, Meningitis, Rabies, Japanese Encephalitis and TB.
Hot Tip: The Cholera oral vaccination can have the added benefit of protecting against E. Coli, one of the most common causes of Traveller’s Diarrhoea!!!
NB: Live vaccines are not suitable during pregnancy. Travelling to less well-developed countries is generally not recommended while pregnant. It is important to seek further medical advice.
- Malaria Medications
Malaria is a parasitic infection that affects the red blood cells and is transmitted by female anopheles mosquitoes. At its most severe, it can cause cerebral disease and kill quickly. The risk is greatest in sub-Saharan Africa, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Indian subcontinent, remote rural areas of Southeast Asia and the Amazon Basin. Due to local patterns of antibiotic resistance, Malarial prophylaxis varies from area to area. You will need expert and individual advice, usually from a travel doctor, to decide which medication is most suitable for you. These include Doxycycline, Malarone, Mefloquine, Chloroquine and Proguanil. Each of these medications has different timings, side effects, risks and dosages, so it’s important to ensure you get the right medication for your body and your itinerary – especially as most need to be started before you leave home!
- Pack Your Bags
Speak to your pharmacist and get enough medications dispensed to cover your entire trip and an extra few days in case of delays.
Medications should be stored in a cool, dry place and always kept out of reach of children.
Pack your GP letter with your medications and give a copy to the tour operators or have an easily accessible extra copy in a safe place.
If you need to travel with a CPAP machine or any other medical equipment that requires electricity, pack an extension cord and the correct adaptor.
Your medications should be packed in your hand luggage. You can quickly and easily replace clothes etc if your bags are lost or delayed, but medications are much more problematic to replace in a timely manner.
And there you have it, Globetrotters! Now you have no excuse not to be totally prepared for a healthy, safe holiday, and we can’t wait to see you on the trail!