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Debunking travel health myths

Travel health myths might sound persuasive, but they could put your health at risk. Read on to discover some of the most common.

“If you take antimalarial tablets, you don’t need to avoid insect bites”

No antimalarial medicine provides 100% protection, so you should always avoid insect bites.1 Mosquitos and other insects can give you other diseases too, such as yellow fever, dengue or Zika virus.

Insect repellents are a must – especially when travelling to tropical countries and countries at risk. Be sure to seek advice on how to correctly apply insect repellent from a pharmacist. Additionally, always seek advice from your GP on vaccinations and preventative measures for before, during and after your travels.

Read more about malaria and see our travel map for the latest travel health information about your destination.

“Rabies can only be caused by dogs”

Rabies is a serious viral disease that can be given to humans through a bite or scratch from an infected animal. Dogs are the main source of rabies transmissions to humans – making up 99% of cases – but other wild and domesticated warm-blooded animals can catch and carry rabies too.2 Vaccination can help prevent rabies. If you’re bitten, post-exposure treatment is also available. Receiving a full pre-exposure vaccination course may provide you with additional protection but still requires urgent medical attention. If you have not received a full pre-exposure vaccination course, you will require a full course of post-exposure vaccination which may be challenging to source in more remote locations.

Consult your GP for advice before you travel and seek immediate medical assistance if you’re bitten. Learn more about rabies and how to protect yourself when travelling

“You can remove a tick by burning it”

Burning is not a recommended way to remove a tick. This could make the tick burrow deeper in your skin – and heat may cause it to burst and spread its fluids, increasing your risk of getting tick-borne disease.3 The best way to remove a tick is with tweezers – by grabbing it as close to the skin as possible, applying pressure evenly and trying not to squeeze it.4 After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands and dispose of the tick safely (e.g. in a sealed bag/container).

If you have doubts about any travel safety facts, visit your GP or practice nurse before you travel.

“Sleep is the cure for jet lag”

If you’re feeling exhausted right after your long-haul flight, having crossed several time zones, you might think that going to bed will be a good fix. In fact, taking a nap during the day could make your jet lag worse. Unless you arrive at night, it’s important to spend time outside and give your body some natural light.

Natural daylight can shift your body clock to fit the new time zone.5 Read more about jet lag and ways to reduce it.

“Urinating on a jellyfish sting relieves the pain”

A jellyfish sting can be extremely painful and ruin a nice day at the beach. Sadly, urine will not help relieve the pain. It can actually have the opposite effect and cause the jellyfish's stingers to release more venom.6 If you’re stung by a jellyfish, find a nearby life guard (if you can) and get their advice.

 

Date of preparation: April 2019

SAGB.TRAV.19.03.0432

 

References

1. CDC Malaria: www.cdc.gov/malaria/travelers/drugs.html

2. WHO Rabies Fact Sheet: www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/rabies

3. Due C, Fox W, Medlock JM, Pietzsch M, Logan JG, Tick bite prevention and tick removal. BMJ 2013; 347: f7123.

4. CDC Tick Removal. www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html

5. Choy M, Salbu R, Jet Lag: Current and Potential Therapies. PT 2011; 36(4): 221–224.

6. Scientific American. Fact or Fiction?: Urinating on a Jellyfish Sting is an Effective Treatment. www.scientificamerican.com/article/fact-or-fiction-urinating

All accessed April 2019.