Prepare for medical issues on travels

Many of us do not prepare well for medical emergencies when we travel.

High-altitude sickness happens when one ascends too quickly ("Quick acting tour leader treats man for altitude sickness"; Aug 27).

Our body needs time to adjust to the different oxygen level and air pressure at different altitudes.

The early and mild symptoms of altitude sickness include fatigue, yawning and generalised weakness.

As the condition worsens, one will experience nausea, giddiness, fainting spells and coma.

It is potentially a fatal condition and anyone can get it.

Fortunately, it can be prevented.

One can take prescription medicine to prevent it. If time permits, one should also ascend gradually, letting the body adjust.

Besides these measures, it is good advice for all to buy travel insurance. Besides the payout, travel insurance companies usually offer timely useful advice on site.

This service alone is well worth the cost.

It is also very common for Singaporeans to travel without vaccinations. The influenza vaccine is important, as the virus mutates regularly.

Adventure travel, mission trips and school exchanges usually take us to more exotic locations.

It is prudent to make sure that our tetanus, pertussis and diphtheria vaccines are updated.

In addition to observing universal precautions on food and drink, one should consider being vaccinated against Hepatitis A and typhoid.

Many places we travel to require malaria prophylaxis.

For those who have chronic conditions such as bronchial asthma, hypertension, hypercholesterolaemia and diabetes, it is important for them not to forget to take along their regular medication.

Most countries will allow travellers to take in medicine for their own use.

If we are not sure, we can always consult our family doctors. We can also request a memo detailing our conditions and their treatment.

This is useful at Customs borders, and when we see doctors in our place of travel during emergencies.

Usually, most general practitioners will charge a small fee for this service, but this will help us enjoy our trip better.

Finally, it is useful to prepare a simple first-aid kit.

This should include items such as plasters, self-adhesive bandages, antiseptic creams, sunscreen and simple medication.

We travel for rest and recreation, and a hassle-free holiday is one where we are most prepared.

Leong Choon Kit (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2015, with the headline 'Prepare for medical issues on travels'. Print Edition | Subscribe