Updated 03 November 2015

Travel Doc answers some interesting questions

When you plan holidays, do you think about unforeseen health emergencies in a foreign country? Health24's Travel Doc has some useful information on travel health.

The bookings have been made and the tickets paid for; all that is left to do is pack and get to the airport on time.  But have you thought about unforeseen health emergencies in a foreign country?  

Q:  Bacteria in food

I have been reading about the people dying in Germany from bacteria in cucumbers. I travel overseas at least once a year and I have never worried about this, but how do I protect myself?

A:  This is about the best time to visit Europe as all the Authorities are so health conscious after the outbreak in Hamburg. Bean sprouts are the latest to be implicated, but nothing has been proven to date.  Hamburg is serving all their salads hot!

As they say in Cruising, the best time to sail is after the Norovirus has struck a vessel as everything will be disinfected and the crew will have put best health practices in place!

Q:  Boy can't sit still when flying

I just need some advice:  my son is almost 3-years-old, he is not ADD, but he just can't SIT still for longer than 10 minutes.  The last time we flew from Cape Town it was a horror - he did not want to sit down, he threw up etc.  Next week I am flying alone with my two kids, and I am terrified as to how I will handle him.  And all painkillers and medications make him hyperactive and not drowsy, so 5ml Stopayne won't do the job. Do you have any advice for me please?

A:  For regional flights little ones should take on board their own suitcases filled with surprises to keep them occupied, including one or two treats.

Meal times are usually a distraction but remember no one should have hot drinks on either side of the child. There over 5 000 cases of coffee and tea burns per year in children flying in the US. You can also take their favourite book to read to them while flying. You'll need a bit of imagination and discipline. Vomiting can be a sign of motion sickness and getting a window seat over the wing may also help slightly.

For international flights do all of the above and, depending on time of departure, a Valoid Paediatric Suppository and a dose of Aterax syrup helps with sleep!  It's important to keep your sense of humour and involve the children in where they are going and what is happening as this all adds to the sense of adventure!

Q:  Maputo

I am going on holiday to Maputo in December and I hear it is very hot there at that time of year. I have a problem where I battle to breathe properly when its too hot, so what can I do?  My sister says my breathing issues are all in my mind - can that be true or is it a health problem?

A:  Getting yourself physically fit helps to improve your heat tolerance! Exercising one hour per day in the heat back home helps you to acclimatise. It is a good idea to have a siesta (sleep) in the hottest part of the day which is a good Mediterranean custom.

Q:  Serbia

Do I need to take any precautionary injections/tablets when travelling to Serbia this year? I am also a diabetic. Would there be any problems taking insulin with me into Serbia? Should I need any prescribed medication whilst over there, would it be possible to get?

A:  Adacel Quadra vaccination, combination of Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis and Polio: Hepatitis A would be a strong recommendation. Having the influenza and pneumonia vaccinations would also be a smart move to keep you healthy. Being a diabetic, taking medication to treat traveller's diarrhoea and vomiting is very important. A general antibiotic to treat chest infections should be part of your first aid kit. 

Please note:  a letter of authority from your Travel Clinic allowing you to take syringe and needles on the plane is essential.  This letter should document all the medications you are taking with you, and the letter must state the period of time that the medications cover and that it is for personal use.   All medications must be in their original packaging. Take your Insulin with you in your carry on luggage.

You should be able to get medical assistance but language can be a barrier. Travel Insurance allowing for evacuation is essential. You will be in the same time zone so no insulin adjustments should be required.

Q:  Sierra Leone

Please can you tell me what the risks are for my 3-year-old son if we go to Sierra Leone? What preventative measures can I take for malaria and any other disease he may get?

A:  Firstly, taking a 3-year-old into a malaria area is not recommended. If there is no alternative, then all preventative measures to stop mosquito bites must be put in place, as well as prescribing either Malanil Paediatric or Larium according to weight.

He will have to have the Yellow fever vaccination unless allergic to eggs or chicken. He should be up to date with all his EPI vaccinations. A Hep A vaccination and MMR should be considered.  If it is long term, then Rabies vaccination should be contemplated as the little ones are the most susceptible to animal bites.

Read: How to identify rabies

Q:  Sea Sickness

Please advise on the best way to prevent sea sickness.

A:  You travel doctor or pharmacy can help you with specific medications that help with motion sickness – be sure to let them know the age of the traveller and ask about side effects like drowsiness.  

There are also natural methods such as accupressure:  applying pressure approximately two finger-widths below the inside of the wrist has been suggested to provide relief. Several elastic wristbands are commercially available that stimulate these points when worn. Ginger [Zingiber officinalis] and Peppermint have shown effectiveness in alleviating the symptoms of Motion Sickness.  Studies have shown that controlled breathing is all that is necessary to treat mild forms of motion sickness. 

However, once nausea and vomiting have become established then it would be better to get medical advice or visit a pharmacy.  Also remember:  with prolonged vomiting, IV fluids and electroylytes may be required for replacement and maintenance.

Q:  Vaccines for Mauritius

My husband and I with my six-year-old son will be traveling to Mauritius in August 2011. I would like to know what vaccinations we need to take, if any?

A:  There are no specific requirements for Mauritius. Hepatitis A is always advised for travellers. The single vaccine gives immediate cover and lasts for 6-8 months and second booster at this interval would give life long cover. This is not part of your son's EPI.  The Tetanus vaccine is also advocated if no booster given in last 10 years. Your son would be fully covered if he is up to date with his EP1's!

Q:  Travelling to China

I'll be traveling to China and Hong Kong with a 2-year-old boy. Are there any vaccines that I need to have administered before our travels?  Also, what are the rules surrounding traveling with medication for him? (Just the usual stuff in the event of a cold or runny tummy)

A:  For you Typhoid, Tetanus and Hep A are the standard vaccines, and Azathioprin to treat both diarrhoea and bronchitis is useful to take along. Your son should be fully covered with EP1 vaccines. Take Electropak along for any diarrhoea. A general antibiotic for respiratory infection would be useful. No medicine containing Codiene must be taken along, and all medicines must be in their original containers.

Read more:

Visit the Travel Health Centre

See this First Aid kit checklist

Other questions? Send them to us at and we'll get them answered for you.


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Lifestyle »

E-cigarettes: Here are five things to know

E-cigarettes have become hugely popular in the past decade, but a rash of vaping-linked deaths and illnesses in the US is feeding caution about a product that's already banned in some places.

Allergy »

Ditch the itch: Researchers find new drug to fight hives

A new drug works by targeting an immune system antibody called immunoglobulin E, which is responsible for the allergic reaction that causes hives.