Health tips for travellers

PHOTO: Health tips for travellers

Singapore residents are now travelling abroad more, with over seven million departures in 2010, up from five million in 2005.

Whether you are travelling for a short business trip or for an extended vacation with your family, it pays to take steps to protect your health. Here are a few pointers to take note of before and during your trip.

Be prepared

Always make sure that you obtain travel insurance prior to the trip. This is not only to ensure that your baggage is taken care of, but also to ensure that medical bills which might be incurred during your trip are covered. If you are traveling for work, check if your company is providing adequate insurance coverage for you.

If you need to take prescription medicine regularly, pay a trip to your doctor at least a week before your trip so that you can stock up on medication if necessary. Depending on your destination, you might also wish to pack anti-diarrhea pills, as well as standard medication for runny noses, coughs and gastric problems.

A checklist on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website recommends getting a prescription from your doctor specifying which medications you are taking. Other advisories recommend leaving the medication in its original packaging. The last thing you want at the end of a long flight is to be questioned by Customs because your unlabelled pills look like illicit drugs.

Last but not least, get the necessary vaccinations, be it for influenza, malaria, yellow fever or meningitis. Infectious disease physician Dr Wong Sin Yew advises travelers to "seek pre-travel health advice and vaccinations before their year-end holidays, if the countries they are visiting have a high incidence of contagious diseases like flu and hepatitis."

On board

On board

Singapore's humidity is about 70 per cent, while that within an airplane cabin is about 5 to 20 per cent. This can cause problems for people with dry skin or eyes.

To keep your eyes moist, instill lubricant eye drops regularly. This is particularly important for people who already suffer from dry eyes or other eye conditions. Dr Lee Sao Bing, medical director of Shinagawa Lasik Centre, suggests reducing the use of the inflight entertainment system. People tend to blink less when they are staring at a screen, and this can aggravate dry eyes.

Those with dry skin may benefit from applying a body lotion before the flight. On board, a sheet mask for the face can also help to restore moisture to the skin. Cindy Cheong, a beauty consultant trainer for SK-II, says that putting on a sheet mask for ten minutes towards the end of the flight can rehydrate and refresh parched skin.

One should also make the effort to walk around the plane during the flight, even if it is only to the washroom and back. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), otherwise known as Economy Class Syndrome, can set in if one is stuck in a seated position for hours on end.

While you're there

Depending on your destination and the activities you'll be doing, it may be wise to bring along a good pair of wraparound sunglasses. This is particularly important if you are going for a beach holiday or to somewhere with lots of snow. UV light is reflected by the sea as well as by snow, and can actually cause sunburn on one's eyes.

To protect your eyes, Dr Lee recommends using sunglasses that provide 100 per cent UV protection, are polarised, and wrap around the face so that light striking the side of the face is filtered before reaching the eyes.

As many people know, UV rays can damage the skin and even increase the risk of skin cancer. Apply sunblock generously to exposed parts of the skin and reapply it every two hours to maintain its effectiveness. Consider wearing a cap to shield face and eyes from the sun as well.

If you intend to take part in water sports such as diving or swimming, make sure that you do not wear contact lenses but use powered goggles instead, says Dr Lee. This will greatly reduce the risk of eye infections. Contact lens wearers should also follow the instructions of their contact lens practitioner and not wear their lenses beyond their recommended duration.