Scared of getting sick next holiday? This is all you need to know about travel illnesses

You feel your stomach lurch as the plan hits turbulence, the seat belt sign is still on and you realise that your only option is to vomit into the undersized bag provided. The lady beside you, short of throwing you out of the plane, gives you a disgusted look as you contemplate what on Earth has caused this to happen to you. Have you developed a sudden on set of motion sickness? Was it the foreign food? Did you drink the wrong water? Was there a vaccination you missed? Whether you’re on a plane, bus or boat, travelling to a foreign country or simply exploring your own back yard here are some of the most common travel illnesses and how to avoid them.

Motion sickness

Motion sickness is probably the most common type of illness experienced by travellers. The usual tricks to prevent motion sickness include:

  • Staying hydrated
  • Eating light meals
  • Getting a good night’s sleep before travelling
  • Taking over-the-counter medication, such as tablets containing hyoscine hydrobromide.
  • Whether you’re on a train, boat, plane or bus it is important to face the direction of travel and to try and keep your eyes on the horizon or a stable object.

One trick is to drink Coca Cola or ginger beer, specifically if it is flat. Ginger has properties that is wonderful for preventing nausea. On the positive side, motion sickness normally stops as soon as the movement does so keep your chin up – literally.

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Food poisoning and diarrhoea

Food poisoning is a more difficult illness to prevent. In Australia and other first world countries you are generally pretty safe as unclean water is often the cause of food poisoning and diarrhoea. If you are travelling to a third world country or somewhere where the water is questionable, the biggest rule is to drink from bottled or filtered water at all times.

Some other tips for avoiding vomiting and diarrhoea include:

  • Don’t open your mouth in the shower
  • Don’t eat ice and
  • Don’t brush your teeth with tap water.

As far as actual food goes, be cautious of street vendors. If you are buying from a street vendor or a market stall eat hot, cooked food or raw food that can be peeled. The heat from thoroughly cooking the food or the skin of an unpeeled item protects the food from bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

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Heat stroke

Heat stroke can be very dangerous and can have severe health implications. Travelling, especially in Australia, can mean long days outdoors that could put you at risk of heat stroke.

To keep yourself safe:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Limit outdoor activities to the coolest part of the day and
  • Protect yourself from the sun with sunscreen, hats and appropriate clothing.


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Malaria can be found in over 100 countries that more than 125 million international travellers visit every year. It is transmitted by certain types of mosquito. Malaria is a potentially fatal disease and protecting yourself properly against it is vital.

Before you travel:

Know whether or not the country you are visiting is malarious. If so, seek the advice of a healthcare professional at least eight weeks before travelling. The healthcare professional should be able to advice you as to any immunisations or medication that you will need.

During travel

Use insect repellent, keep arms and legs covered at at night and sleep under mosquito nets. If you were prescribed medication make sure you continue to take it as instructed.

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After you return home

You must complete any prescribed courses recommended by your healthcare professional as parasites can lay dormant for some time.

We hope this has helped you have the most enjoyable holiday possible.

Have you ever been sick while travelling and have some advice to share?