It is again that time of the year when most of us are taking a train or bus or flight somewhere. Living out of suitcases, eating and drinking from outside your kitchen and sleeping in beds that are far from your own are more common this season-a reason why staying watchful of your health is essential to enjoy a holiday.

The World Health Organisation cites sudden and significant changes in altitude, humidity, microbes, temperature, poor quality of accommodation, inadequate hygiene and sanitation, lack of clean water and well-developed medical services as potential health hazards while travelling. Children, elderly, pregnant women, and persons with disabilities are often advised to take extra care while travelling.

It is better to avoid travelling with infants below one year unless warranted, says D.Saminathan, head, Department of Paediatrics, Annal Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital, as parents are unaware of how to manage various reactions including diarrhoea or fits that may manifest initially within first year of birth. Uninterrupted long journeys to crowded places can cause irritability in children. “It is best that parents with small children avoid point-to -point long journeys. Breaks in the journey with adequate eight hours of sleep or 12 in case of infants are essential,” Dr.Saminathan adds.

Children are also prone to return with viral fever, vomiting and indigestion from pilgrimages, hill stations and long travel , notes the child specialist. “Parents must take the child's health condition into account while planning a trip. Travel plans should not result in missing out on immunization schedule,” he cautions.

Food safety

Diarrhoea is the most common health consequence of travel, particularly in children as it may cause dehydration note medicos. This is often caused by consumption of unhygienic food and consumption of water from any available source, says Dr.Saminathan. “While we may be careful about consuming boiled or bottled water, we are unmindful that fruit juices or ice creams prepared with unclean water can lead to food and water borne diseases including typhoid and jaundice.”

The importance of hand washing should not be underestimated. When proper hand washing facilities are not available, an alcohol-based sanitizer can be used. Wearing loose cotton clothes and ensuring skin hygiene can keep away from skin rashes and allergies common in summer. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services, defines an ill traveller as a person who has one or more of the following symptoms: appearing obviously sick with symptoms like severe headache, weakness, skin or eyes turning yellow, fever of 100F or more, skin rash, shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing, bruising or bleeding without previous injury, severe cough, diarrhoea or vomiting that does not go away. Consulting a physician is advised before embarking on a long journey.

A kit with medicines for common ailments, first-aid requirements, medication for pre-existing conditions, spare eyeglasses or contact lens, dental care, eye care, skin care, and personal hygiene items are recommended for travellers by WHO.