Al-Musafir is grateful to Dr. Zaki Ibrahim, a medical practitioner and fellow musafir (traveller), for contributing this piece.
I have been in Malaysia since 21 April 2013. Alhamdullillah (praise to God), my family and I have settled back in Penang well. We are excited to be back in our home country although we miss our beloved adopted city, Adelaide. We miss Adelaide very much! In our first 3 weeks in Malaysia, we suffered travel related illnesses. When I look back, our preparation was minimal. I would like to share tips on how to prepare ourselves to avoid or minimise travel related illnesses. As Muslims, we are required to prepare as much as we can and then we leave it to Allah (God). This is the concept of tawakkul.
People who travel have up to a 50% chance of suffering travel related illnesses. While most travel related illnesses are minor, some very serious infectious diseases are endemic in some parts of the world. All travellers should be prepared and be aware of health issues and measures to protect themselves from sickness. The most common travel related illnesses are gastrointestinal diseases usually contracted from poorly prepared foods or untreated water. To avoid diarrhoea, stomach pains, nausea and vomiting associated with these illnesses try the following:
Precautions to Prevent Gastrointestinal Diseases
- Consume boiled or bottled water. Use purifiers or tablets to purify water.
- Avoid ice in drinks.
- Avoid unpasteurised milk and dairy products.
- Avoid fruit and vegetables that have been washed with local water.
- Eat thick-skinned fruit and vegetables that you can peel yourself such as bananas, oranges and mandarins.
- Make sure food is cooked thoroughly and eat it while it is hot.
- Avoid shellfish.
- Don’t buy food from street stalls – hotels and busy restaurants are safest.
- Maintain a high level of personal hygiene.
Some serious infectious diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever are transmitted through insect bites. While there are vaccines and drugs available to help protect against some of these diseases, travellers are advised to always take additional precautions to protect themselves as follows:
Precautions to Prevent Diseases Contracted Through Insect Bites
- Apply mosquito repellent that contains at least 30 per cent DEET.
- Stay indoors between dusk and dawn – mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite generally feed at this time.
- Apply insect repellent such as permethrin, to your clothes and bedding.
- Wear socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors.
- Use a bed net.
- Stay in air-conditioned or screened accommodation.
You may want to consider arranging to have vaccinations or take medications to protect against diseases such as hepatitis, typhoid or malaria. In fact, some countries legally require travellers to have certain vaccinations such as yellow fever. As you will need to have some vaccinations weeks or months before travel, it is best to see your doctor 6 to 8 weeks before you go. However, if you have to travel on short notice, you can still be vaccinated with certain vaccines. When you are planning to travel, be prepared and aware of the travel related health issues. Always consult a doctor and take heed of health warnings issued by credible sources such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. May you be healthy on your happy travels ahead, insha’Allah (God willing)!