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Visiting friends and relatives overseas

The information provided is a summary that was up to date when this article was published; however, recommendations may be updated from time to time. Please always consult with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist well in advance of travelling.

Planning to visit your parents, attend your friend’s wedding in a foreign country, introduce your newborn baby to relatives or travel to look after an ill grandparent?

These are all times when you might not think about seeking travel advice. Whether it’s a last-minute plan or you’re very familiar with the destination, you could underestimate the potential travel-related health risks. 

Did you know that travellers visiting friends or relatives may have an increased risk of getting travel-related illnesses – including infections – and are more likely to be hospitalised compared with those travelling for tourism?1 Different countries bear different risks. For example, you may be at a higher risk of catching measles and meningococcal meningitis, which are highly infectious and may be more common in the destination country than in the UK. You could also be visiting an area with a high risk of catching malaria.1 Finally, remember that, even if it’s summer in the UK, it may be winter in the country you’re visiting, meaning that flu may be circulating.1

There are several things that are worth considering before visiting your friends and relatives overseas, to help ensure that you have the best possible visit in terms of travel health. Included below are a few things to help you start thinking:

  • Vaccinations
  • Travelling with a baby or a young child
  • Carrying medicines with you
  • Stomach upsets and travellers’ diarrhoea
  • Insect and tick bites

Vaccinations

You may have grown up in the country you’re visiting – or have lived there for a while – but it’s still worth checking the latest vaccination requirements. See our interactive travel health map for possible recommendations, or check which diseases may be present in the country you’re visiting.2

Also check that you are up to date with all the standard NHS vaccinations

The NHS advises that you speak with a doctor, nurse or pharmacist about your planned destination as early as possible, ideally 6–8 weeks before you travel. They will talk you through travel health risks and help you plan the best way to stay healthy during your trip.

Travelling with a baby or a young child

If you’re flying with a baby or a young child, please make sure you check the policies of the airline or travel company before travelling. These will inform you whether you are able to take expressed breast milk, formula milk, sterilised water and/or baby food. Additionally, they will specify whether you can take a pram or car seat as hand luggage. 

Please also be aware that, at UK airports, individual containers of breast milk must hold no more than 2 litres and that airport staff may need to open the containers to screen the liquids.3 Other countries may have different policies; therefore, make sure you check these before your return flight. 

Carrying medicines with you

You may want to take your prescription medicines or over-the-counter remedies for colds, fever or stomach bugs – but check for any rules on bringing medicines by contacting the embassy of the country you’re visiting. 

Stomach upsets and travellers’ diarrhoea

Travelling abroad may expose you to viruses and bacteria that could make you unwell, leading to stomach problems or travellers’ diarrhoea, for example.1 You could catch these infections from contaminated food and water. So it’s important to take precautions with food and water, particularly in places where standards of hygiene and sanitation may be poor.

Get further advice on food and water safety when travelling.

Insect and tick bites

Malaria, dengue, yellow fever and tick-borne encephalitis are some of the many diseases that can be spread by insects and ticks. Avoiding insect and tick bites is a good way to reduce your chances of being infected.

Check our advice on insect and tick bites.

Have you got everything covered? To help stay happy and healthy when visiting friends or family, book a travel health consultation before you go away. 

SAGB.TRAV.19.11.2010 | April 2020

References

  1. NHS Fit for Travel. Advice for Those Visiting Friends and Relatives. Available at: https://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/advice/general-travel-health-advice/visiting-friends-and-relatives 
  2. NHS. Travel vaccinations overview. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/travel-vaccinations/ 
  3. Gov.uk. Hand luggage restrictions at UK airports. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/hand-luggage-restrictions 

All accessed January 2020.