Accidents pose greatest health hazard for travellers
Traffic, drowning, and alcohol are greater risk than exotic diseases
Accidents pose a far greater hazard for Finns travelling abroad than exotic diseases, says Maija Rummukainen, a doctor specialising in infectious diseases at the Central Finland Central Hospital in Jyväskylä.
The risk of getting into an accident appears to grow as active travel becomes more common.
Rummukainen says that injury in an accident is a more frequent cause of holidays being cut short than malaria, for instance.
Travellers are also often repatriated for treatment for the aftermath of heart attacks and strokes.
In Africa, for instance, traffic accidents are a greater hazard for foreign travellers than diseases. This is why Rummukainen says that safety issues are just as important when travelling abroad as they are here in Finland.
"Everyone’s dream is to ride on a motorcycle in the tropics wearing shorts and no shoes", Rummukainen says, adding that protective clothing, a helmet, and boots are just as important there as they are at home.
The danger of drowning is real. "If there is a red flag on the beach, don’t go swimming", Rummukainen warns. "Sea currents can come as a surprise".
The most common complaints during holiday travel are stomach problems caused by foreign bacteria. The best way to avoid this is to choose restaurants with high standards of hygiene.
Rummukainen notes that there is no need to shun cold food; hygiene is the most important factor.
She adds that hygiene standards in Spain, for instance, are quite high, and that salads can be eaten there without worry.
Other health hazards include excessive consumption of alcohol, sexually transmitted diseases, and other illnesses.
The most common infectious diseases caught while travelling are STDs and influenza.
Finland provides free flu shots for members of high-risk groups, and all those who are over the age of 65.
Rummukainen recommends that families consider paying to inoculate all family members against the flu.
Visits by immigrants to their former home countries pose a new hazard.
Malaria infections have been increasing in Finland every year, and one third of all cases last year were among those who had visited their former homes. Rummukainen notes that those visiting relatives in areas where malaria is prevalent need to be inoculated, because immunity is lost after six months.