The enormous increase in air travel has thrown light on specific health problems, especially those connected with "long-haul" flights.
The problems encountered are those of tiredness, sleep disorders and inability to concentrate.
These disorders are more serious when travelling eastwards than westwards.
It is not advisable to use medication: sleeping tablets can sometimes worsen the situation and increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT); melatonin is beset with commercialization problems and little is known about its side effects. Alcohol increases the effects of jet lag.
On the other hand, simple recommendations are effective in reducing the effects of jet lag:
- the journey and arrival at one’s destination should be well organized (tickets, visas, various documents and so on).
- on takeoff, set your watch to the time of your destination
- consume dietary fiber (apples), drink plenty of water and fruit juice rather than tea or coffee
- on arrival, take a shower, have a non-alcoholic drink and take a nap.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
A relationship exists between DVT and long-haul flights, although there is little specific data as to their incidence which remains low.
These precautions are to be taken to reduce the risk:
- maintain a high fluid intake
- avoid sedatives and alcohol
- wear loose-fitting clothes (avoid belts, jeans, close-fitting underwear)
- do mild physical exercise in your seat (contraction and massaging of calves)
- take occasional walks along the aisles, bearing safety measures in mind.
If you are in a high-risk group (personal or family history of phlebitis or pulmonary embolism; chronic degenerative disease; recent or post-partum surgery), we advise you to consult a doctor to envisage possible preventive steps (wearing of elastic stockings, preventive anticoagulation treatment).
TRAVELLING AND NUTRITION
Travelling or living in a foreign country exposes one to the risk of digestive problems, all the more so when the traveler leaves a region with high standards of hygiene for a country with lower standards.
The most common problem is travelers' diarrhoea. It has a wide variety of causes, but is most often due to infection (bacteria, viruses, parasites) from contaminated food and drinks.
A number of rules should be observed in order to reduce the risks:
- Drinks: choose drinks in sealed bottles or that have been sterilized (a variety of methods are possible: boiling, filtering, disinfectant tablets). Teeth should preferably be brushed with decontaminated water.
- Food: choose cooked food, to be eaten hot, dry products (bread, biscuits and so on), fruit with skin, peeled by you. Avoid shellfish, undercooked meat, raw vegetables and fruit.
In case of severe diarrhoea, it is vitally important to have a very regular intake of fluids in order to avoid dehydration.
The Medical Service can provide additional advice and a prescription to treat or, at least, lessen the severity of such digestive problems.
PREVENTION OF MALARIA
Malaria is a parasitic disease spread by mosquito bites. It is widespread in many tropical countries. Some forms of the disease can be serious, and preventive treatment and early curative treatment are, therefore, of vital importance.
Preventive treatment is based on protection against mosquito bites and the taking of preventive doses of medication.
Protective measures against mosquito bites include the wearing of protective clothing (long trousers, long-sleeved shirts), the use of mosquito nets during sleep and the application of insect repellent sprays or creams on exposed skin. (Commercial leaflets on all these measures are available in the Medical Service.)
Preventive medical treatment exists in many forms, with the choice of treatment depending on many factors:
- The destination country (some anti-malarial medicines are ineffective in certain countries).
- The length of stay in the country concerned.
- One's personal medical history (possible contraindication against certain medicines).
It is of fundamental importance that all these preventive medical treatments begin a few days before departure and continue for several weeks, sometimes, even after the return home.
For all these reasons, it is imperative to visit the Medical Service, if possible one week before departure, for a personalized prescription. (This period of time can also be used to renew whatever important vaccination(s) may be necessary.)
Important point: consult a doctor without delay if you develop high fever during your stay in a foreign country.
The type of vaccinations proposed to a traveler depends on several criteria:
1. The administrative obligation to comply with the vaccination requirements of a country that wishes to protect itself against a particular risk of infection.
2. The actual risk incurred by the traveler of contracting certain diseases in the country visited. This second criterion can vary, depending on:
- The health status of the destination country;
- The conditions and length of the stay;
- The individual characteristics of the traveler, such as age and vaccination history.
1. Irrespective of destination and conditions of stay: validity of diphtheria, tetanus and polio vaccinations.
2. Travel to the inter-tropical zones of Africa and South America: Mandatory yellow fever vaccination.
3. Travel to a developing country: Hepatitis B, at present strongly recommended to travelers if their stays are frequent and prolonged.
4. Stays in conditions of poor hygiene and long stays: Hepatitis A, Typhoid fever.
5. Stays in a region under threat of a meningitis epidemic: Meningitis through meningococcal disease types A+C, this vaccination is mandatory for the pilgrimage to Mecca.
6. Long stays and stays in conditions of risk: Rabies
7. Travel to countries where diphtheria is endemic: Diphtheria: DTP for adults