How do you stay healthy during a trip to the tropics? The most important rules – Zdrowie Wprost

In recent years we have seen an increased interest from Poles in traveling to the tropics. According to the Central Statistical Office, Poles most often go to Kenya, Tanzania and Mexico, as well as to the countries of Southeast Asia. Everywhere there is a high risk of contamination with pathogens that are absent or rare in our latitude. Better to protect yourself from them.

50 malaria patients per year in Poland

More travel to the tropics means an increase in the number of people returning home with various health problems. The most common tropical disease is malaria. According to the head of the sanitation inspectorate, we have about 50 cases of malaria in Poland every year – all cases since the 1960s have been imported from endemic countries.

However, there are cases of other dangerous diseases typical of the tropics, such as dengue fever, ie hemorrhagic fever, yellow fever and parasitic gastrointestinal infections, such as, for example, amoebic dysentery.

– Malaria is a potentially vector-deadly disease, ie it is transmitted by mosquitoes. It can take place in very different ways: resemble flu-like infections with fever, muscle and joint pain, but also with numerous organ complications. People with reduced immunity are most exposed to it, ie the elderly and children under 5 years of age who have not developed this immunity to the end – says Dr. Szymon Nowak, MD, PhD of the Clinics of Tropical and Parasitic Diseases of the Clinical Hospital. Heliodor Święcicki at the Medical University of Pozna.

Preparing for a trip to the tropics

We should start early enough with a trip to another climate and sanitation zone – preferably about 6-8 weeks before departure. – This is long enough to discuss with a doctor what type of malaria prophylaxis is indicated for a particular patient, to be able to complete all vaccinations and learn about the rules to follow during our stay in the tropics – says the specialist .

Detailed information will be provided by a physician of appropriate competence – it is worth seeking out a facility that offers tropical medicine services. They are not financed from public funds. Such services are often provided by SANEPID stations or clinics in infectious disease hospitals, as well as a number of private entities.

Also, don’t forget to get appropriate medical insurance. It is also worth paying attention to the cost of possible medical transport from a particular place and whether our policy will cover this type of cost.

How to behave in exotic countries?

The most important rule, to which there are no exceptions, if we want to avoid health problems, is hand and food hygiene.

– Avoid drinking water from unreliable sources, only use bottled water. Experts even recommend brushing your teeth with such water. We also have to be careful not to drink drinks that have been cooled with ice cubes, because we never know how they are formed – if the water is from an unreliable source, it could contain invasive forms of the protozoa responsible for amoebiasis. In Southeast Asia, street food is a popular part of the tradition, which is a risk factor for the European traveler (e.g. diarrhea). The second element is protection against insect bites, so the use of repellents, wearing long clothes in the dark – Dr. Szymon Nowak op.

If you are on holiday in the tropics, it is also better not to eat raw vegetables and fruits that cannot be peeled.

Before departure, it is good to check the possibilities of getting medical help on the spot: where is the nearest hospital, doctor, laboratory that can diagnose malaria or the so-called traveler’s diarrhea, which is very common among European tourists in the tropics. It is also worth taking care of the correct equipment of the travel kit – it is best to prepare it together with the doctor who consults the patient before leaving.

What to remember after returning from vacation?

If you have upper gastrointestinal problems, disturbing symptoms such as abdominal pain or diarrhea or a high fever after returning from warm climate countries, you should go to a center that is experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases imported from the tropics.

– If, based on the interview and the test results, there is a suspicion of a tropical disease, the attending physician usually contacts the reference center (Poznań, Gdynia, Warsaw) about the possible transmission of such a patient and further diagnosis or implementation of the right treatment – says the doctor.

The main principles of tropical disease prevention

Get vaccinated before you travel, and remember the most important rules while traveling that will help protect you from health problems.

How to protect yourself from malaria:

  • sleeping under a mosquito net;
  • use insect repellent (with a minimum concentration of 50% of the agent);
  • wear clothes for the whole body in the dark;
  • taking chemoprophylaxis (ask your doctor).


  • mandatory vaccinations: against yellow fever (list of countries is available on the websites of WHO and CDC)
  1. against hepatitis A and B,
  2. against typhoid fever,
  3. against cholera,
  4. against rabies,
  5. against tetanus.

Talk to your doctor about the choice of vaccinations.

The main principles of travel prevention in the tropics

  • only use bottled water, even to brush your teeth,
  • eat and drink only from proven sources (beware of ice cubes),
  • wash your hands under running water before each meal and after contact with the environment,
  • protect yourself from insect bites.

Also read:
Do you eat ice cream and fruit in the summer? Be careful not to get listeriosis

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