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3 Health Issues Travelers Must Be Aware of

Traveling can prove to be an effective method of recreation if you stay safe from diseases that often bombard travelers from different countries. Developing countries that still don’t associate hygiene with their name are particularly vulnerable to travelers. 

If you are a traveler who loves to be included in the local culture, your chances of contracting diseases like hepatitis and malaria increase rapidly. Here are 3 health issues that are most common among travelers visiting different countries. 

Travelers’ Diarrhea

Did you know that 40 to 60% of travelers are affected by travelers’ diarrhea when visiting countries with limited resources? Which makes it the most common travel-associated condition among frequent travelers. Travelers’ diarrhea can be caused by viral, parasitic, and bacterial infections. But the most common pathogen responsible is Escherichia coli or E. Coli. 


In general, the symptoms include: 

  • Dehydration
  • Prolonged loose watery stool
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Malabsorption
  • Reactive arthritides
  • Sepsis

More often than not, the symptoms aren’t fatal and are only responsible for severe discomfort. But, in patients with high fever and hematochezia, stool cultures like fecal leukocytes and lactoferrin can be performed. 

Treatment and Prevention

Prevention is the best course of action for travelers that are visiting developing countries. The critical elements that can be avoided are tap water and ice. If you’re traveling to a new place, don’t automatically assume that you can drink water that the locals are using. 

Bismuth subsalicylate can reduce the incidents of travelers’ diarrhea by half if taken two tablets four times a day. However, avoid using salicylate if you are pregnant. 

As diarrhea dehydrates your body through watery stools, replenishing water is the best course of action if the condition has already occurred. Avoid milk and juices to rehydrate yourself as these are known to increase the severity of diarrhea. Antibiotics like azithromycin may also be used.

Additionally, oral or IV supplements can be another alternative for you. However, oral supplements require a long time of regular consumption to affect your body after some time, while IV fluids, which are healthy liquids full of vitamins and minerals, go directly to your body. Different types of fluids consist of different vitamins, so medical advice is a must before trying any IV treatments. For example, there is an IV fluid called Banana Bag IV, which is mainly used for rehydration purposes. To know more about what is in a banana bag IV or find other fluids more suitable for you. Even though Intravenous rehydration is a simple, safe, and common procedure with a low risk of complications, medical consultation is a must.


Viral hepatitis is a condition that affects the liver and causes liver inflammation and damage. In simple words, the hepatitis virus makes the liver swell to an extent where the normal liver functions are disturbed. Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E  are the most commonly known hepatitis that occurs due to different hepatitis viruses. 

Among those, hepatitis A and E spreads mostly through unhygienic food and water that has come in contact with the stool of an infected person. And hepatitis B, C, and D spread through blood and other body fluids. You may fail to see that as a possibility, but 296 million people living with hepatitis B may disagree.

Hepatitis A and E mostly cause acute infections that your body can drive away on its own or with help of vaccines. But in the case of hepatitis B, C, and D, the infections mostly pivot to being chronic and can’t be eradicated by your body. Major complexities relating to hepatitis are :

  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Liver cancer
  • Liver failure

Your doctor may run tests to find out the type of hepatitis virus you have.  


Symptoms, if present, vary among the type of hepatitis you’ve conducted. The most ones include: 

  • Yellowing of eyes, skin, and nails (jaundice)
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Dark urine
  • Pale stool
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting

If you’re living with hepatitis B and C, you may not present symptoms until severe damage has been done. 

Travelers who visit developing countries and indulge in local practices are most affected by the hepatitis virus of almost all types. Followed by individuals having unprotected sex and doing drugs in risky circumstances. 

Treatment and Prevention

If your hepatitis isn’t chronic, doctors may not start treating your condition. Even if it’s chronic but isn’t affecting the liver, you may not receive treatment immediately. Antiviral medications like entecavir, tenofovir, and peginterferon alfa-2a may be prescribed by your doctor in case of chronic hepatitis B. 

If you develop complexities like liver cirrhosis, your doctor may administer medicines, surgery, or minor procedures depending on the severity. 

Prevention techniques for hepatitis include: 

  • Vaccines. Hepatitis vaccines are widely available and are safe for children. Generally, three shots are given over 6 months to make you fully protected from the virus. However, if you’re visiting countries where hepatitis is common, your doctor may administer a faster dosage. 
  • If you’ve contacted the virus, take hepatitis vaccines within 24 hours of exposure. 
  • Use and ensure the usage of sterile needles and blades. 
  • Don’t share needles with others in case you find solace in drugs
  • Use a condom while having sex. Condoms not only help you stay safe from hepatitis but prevent the spreading of diseases like herpes and AIDS. Herpes treatments relieve the symptoms, but herpes itself isn’t curable. To avoid any sex related problems it is better to take probiotics for vaginal health incase of women and other certified probiotics for men’s health. 


Although rare in developed countries, malaria is still prevalent in countries that still have mosquito and water problems. If we must understand the severity, there were 241 million cases of malaria worldwide with a death count of 627K in 2020 alone. 

Most (95%) of which originated in African countries. Nigeria, Congo, Tanzania, and Mozambique account for more than half of malaria incidents worldwide

Malaria is mostly caused by Plasmodium parasites that spread through female Anopheles mosquitoes. P. falciparum is the most fatal member of the Plasmodium family of parasites that cause malaria and are most prevalent in African countries. 

Malaria parasites end up in the liver and the bloodstreams of the victim where it lays dormant for days or weeks to come. After the parasites are matured, they infect the red blood cells to develop symptoms. 

If you are a traveler wishing to visit Africa, knowing the symptoms and treatments is critical.


Common malaria symptoms occur only after 15-20 days following a vector (mosquito) biting you. The symptoms may include: 

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle pain
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Breathing trouble

Malaria symptoms often occur in intervals in the form of “attacks” in the form of high fever and chills. Although the symptoms generally occur after a few weeks, the pathogen can stay dormant for months or even years.  

Treatment and Prevention

Rapid antigen tests are the most practical line of tests in developing countries and can be practiced with the smallest amount of blood samples. A highly accurate test is a polymerase chain reaction, which can detect the presence of very low numbers of parasites. 

Falciparum malaria is a fatal condition and requires rapid action including hospitalization on your part. If your healthcare provider is yet to detect the species of the parasite, they must start treatment assuming it is falciparum. 

Depending on the complexity of falciparum malaria, an oral dosage of chloroquine and atovaquone may be administered. Doxycycline, mefloquine, and quinidine are sensitive drugs that can present side effects like photosensitivity, arrhythmia, and hypoglycemia. 

As malaria is a vector-borne disease, it can be prevented through precautionary practices like: 

  • Avoiding outdoor activity after dark
  • Using long-sleeve shirts and pants
  • Use insect repellents that contain a maximum of 50% DEET
  • Seeking medical attention in case of a fever

With the rise of Covid-19, although subtle, the fatality and treatment information has changed for malaria. If you are traveling to a new place, consider pre-travel counseling from a qualified healthcare provider. 

The Bottomline

Most health issues associated with travel can be prevented with enough knowledge and precautions taken yourself. Taking vaccines, consulting medical professionals, and only drinking packaged water can be the determining factor between a pleasant vacation and a hurtful one.

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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