Image via Flickr user Jens Schott Knudsen
Travellers might spend a lot on immunisations but the truth is that the biggest holiday health risks are not vaccine-preventable. The vast majority of fatalities are caused either by illnesses that would have killed anyway and trauma – accidents, falls, violence. Below is a list of travel’s most deadly, and how you can decrease the risk.
Road traffic accidents such as car collisions and vehicles hitting pedestrians and cyclists are the biggest cause of death of otherwise healthy travellers. The risk is especially high in resource-poor destinations where 90% of fatalities on the road happen in low- or middle-income countries. Vehicles in such places may not have seat belts, and lights and brakes may not work.
Get yourself familiarise with the traffic laws there and look out for vehicles before crossing the road. Always wear your safely belt if there is one. Avoid travelling at night when it is dark.
Most people will assume they need to be more cautious when wild swimming however it is known that pools are more dangerous as the drowning risk is more than 12 times higher in a swimming pool than in open water; children under seven are most vulnerable. Rules are strict in the UK but, even at popular overseas holiday destinations, there may not be lifeguards.
It is important to know your limits or get in the depth of your ability range, look out for warning signs. Stay sober, to prevent yourself getting plunge into the water and suffer hypothermia quicker.
There are a surprising number of injuries, and even deaths, connected with travellers’ accommodation. Hotels lacking smoke alarms or sprinkler systems, and poorly- vented heating devices emitting carbon monoxide are risks. Wild camping in remote spots can be dangerous if you don’t know the local terrain.
Always check for the fire escape route, and think about what kind of hotel you have choose. Keep a torch with you especially when you are in a destination where there are frequent power cut. And always remember, never smoke in bed. When it comes to camping, try not to light a stove in the entrance while you are inside.
Mountains are dangerous places despite the changeable weather, thin air and sheer drops. Most people died from falling off cliff paths and one common cause of which is being pushed over by passing yaks, mules or even goats. Some even died from altitude sickness, something travellers climbing over 3,000m need to be very aware of.
It is crucial that trek-leaders be gently reminded to follow sensible safety precautions. Always check the weather there, and prepare all the equipment needed for safely precautions. Do not overlook this.
Scuba-diving has a reputation for being dangerous, but under proper conditions with safe equipment the risks may be low but higher at some destinations: medical examinations, or even ability to swim, are not always mandatory when hiring scuba equipment.
6. Extreme adventures
Rafting, bungee jumping, jetboating etc. The list of possible extreme sports you can try overseas is long and terrifying. Few travellers die but there are fatalities even in experienced ventures; it can be instructive to Google the possible injuries and likelihood of death before signing up. The list for bungee-jumping, for example, is especially impressive.
By Dr Jane Wilson Howarth
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