Medical – Planning for a healthy adventure

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It’s all too easy to overlook the importance of medical preparation when planning a long ride. Dr Mike tells us what we should be on the lookout for.

When preparing for a trip most of us focus on our bikes and the potential for adventure.

However, all too often travellers can find themselves as passengers in situations that were never planned, and certainly never wanted to leave me and other healthcare professionals to pick up the pieces. The climate, healthcare provisions and sanitation in developing countries can be a real challenge, and if you don’t want to ruin your adventure it is essential to plan for a safe trip.

One of the first considerations to take on board is that you’re very likely to meet viruses, bacteria and single-celled parasites that you would never encounter at home. Not to mention that with higher humidity, temperatures, fatigue, and an unfamiliar diet, even the bugs we may normally deal with can have an unexpected impact on our health.

Put simply, most viral infections cannot be treated with drugs. Even anti-biotics are totally ineffective against them! Realistically your only effective defence is to have the relevant vaccinations. These can be expensive, and none are 100% effective, but it would be foolhardy not to invest in protecting yourself as a serious viral infection could easily bring your trip to an end.

Wherever you go it is best to be prepared to prevent and treat common illnesses and injuries. Some supplies and medicines may be difficult to find at your destination, or they may have different names or ingredients to those that you normally use. Ensure you take any medicines that you are regularly prescribed in the UK, such as asthma inhalers, even if you don’t usually need them. Pollution, altitude and climatic conditions can aggravate normally benign chest conditions. Anti-histamines are essential because you can never be sure when you may discover that you are allergic to certain insects, plants or other ‘allergens’.

A broad spectrum anti-biotic, such as Amoxicillin is useful when dealing with bacterial infections. Severe bouts of traveller’s diarrhoea can totally ruin your adventure and rather than taking over-the-counter drugs that simply ‘bung you up’ (undeniably useful when you need to take a long flight, train journey, or ride) it may be best to consider an antibiotic called Ciproflaxin, which may deal with the root cause of your condition. It goes without saying that if you are visiting an area where malaria is present it would be irresponsible not to take the relevant antimalarial drugs. Finally, if you use contact lenses it is strongly recommended that you use disposable lenses, or at least take small sealed sachets of contact lens fluid. It is not unknown for types of amoeba to take refuge in unsealed fluid – and these microbes can blind you!

I love to travel to remote places, and would never let anything spoil my enjoyment. Although this list looks like a real chore (and it is by no means exhaustive) it is far better to plan for a healthy trip than totally compromise your adventure by becoming seriously ill.

Useful links

Before you head off on a trip it’s worth checking the below websites. These will flag up any health-related issues in the countries you intend to visit and they can give far more up-to-date advice than the travel guides available.