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  • Good advice for safe travel

Article

Good advice for safe travel

Here we have gathered advice to help you have an enjoyable and safe trip abroad. Many of the travel tips vary depending on the type of trip, how long you will be away and your own health. At the bottom of the page is some additional advice for pregnant women and children.

en liten gutt med badering som går ut i vannet
Illustrasjon: FHI

Here we have gathered advice to help you have an enjoyable and safe trip abroad. Many of the travel tips vary depending on the type of trip, how long you will be away and your own health. At the bottom of the page is some additional advice for pregnant women and children.


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Ministry of Foreign Affairs: travel advice and travel registration

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs' (UD) website has information in Norwegian about where you should avoid travel (for example due to political unrest or conflicts). Check the travel advice at your destination, what your travel insurance covers and the entry status of the coronavirus pandemic in the country you are going to travel to.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs encourages everyone who travels abroad to register, so that you can receive information via SMS or e-mail, if something serious happens at your destination (in Norwegian):

Travel abroad during COVID-19

Before travelling, you should consider the risk of being infected with the coronavirus while travelling, the risk of being affected by restrictions, entry bans, quarantine or other measures. In addition, you should check the capacity of the health service at your destination if you should become ill, and how you can return home in case of illness.

Travel insurance

Visits to doctors and hospital stays can be expensive abroad. Therefore, arrange health and accident insurance before the trip.

When travelling to other EEA countries, you should also remember to bring a European Health Insurance Card. The card gives the right to necessary health care at public hospitals in the EU and EEA, and can be ordered free of charge at helsenorge.no:

Travel vaccines and preventive medicines

Travel vaccines and preventive medicines are recommended before travelling to some countries:

Requirement for vaccination certificate

Some countries require you to be vaccinated against certain diseases before entering or leaving:

  • Yellow fever: Several countries require documentation of yellow fever vaccination (international vaccination certificate) upon entry.
  • Meningococcal disease: Saudi Arabia requires Mecca pilgrims to be vaccinated with meningococcal ACWY vaccine.
  • Polio: When travelling to and staying in countries with polio outbreaks, everyone must have been vaccinated against polio during the last 12 months before returning home / leaving the country they are visiting.

Be aware that if you need an international certificate of vaccination (yellow) before travel, this can be ordered from and issued by healthcare personnel.

It is important to check the entry rules for your destination.

Regular medications and chronic diseases

If you use regular medication, it is a good idea to bring enough for the entire stay. Lack of medicine or the fact that medicines abroad are often sold under a different name than in Norway can make it difficult to get what you need.

Carry important medicines in your hand luggage and bring a doctor's declaration (in English) that these are necessary for you. This will avoid problems in customs. Contact your doctor or municipal health service if you need information about prescriptions for preventive medication in connection with your trip.

If you have a chronic disease or disability, you should consult your doctor before the trip.

First aid kit

In addition to regular medicines, you may want to bring some over-the-counter medicines:

  • Wound cleanser
  • Compresses
  • Plasters
  • Travel sickness tablets
  • Painkillers
  • Nasal spray
  • Talcum powder (for skin irritations)
  • Glucose electrolyte powder (to normalise fluid and electrolyte balance in case of diarrhoea and fluid loss)
  • Anti-diarrhoea medication
  • Also remember sunscreen, mosquito repellent / mosquito nets and malaria tablets (see section below) if this is recommended for your trip.
  • Condoms: Condoms that you buy in Norway have undergone a strict quality control. It is therefore an advantage to bring condoms from home to countries where the quality of the condoms can be poor. To avoid sexually transmitted infections, it is still better to use condoms you have bought locally than not to use a condom at all.

Blood clots on long flights

Long flights cause high air pressure over a long period of time, which can be problematic for some. Everyone, but especially pregnant women and women who use birth control pills, should follow these tips to prevent blood clots:

  • Make movements with the legs
  • Walk around the plane at regular intervals
  • Wear support stockings
  • Drink lots of non-alcoholic beverages

If you have a serious chronic disease, you should consult your doctor before embarking on a long flight.

Personal hygiene

Some general tips for good personal hygiene:

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet and before eating. You can also use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • Try to avoid walking barefoot. Damp soil and sand, especially in tropical areas, can transmit diseases
  • It is important to clean and care for even small wounds and tears.

Sun and heat

Sun advice

Enjoy the sun but avoid getting sunburnt. Young children's skin is especially vulnerable to strong sun. Infants should therefore avoid sunbathing, and young children should wear clothing that covers larger parts of the body (possibly keep them in the shade). It is easy to underestimate the strength of the sun. Start tanning carefully to avoid burning - use sunscreen with at least a factor of 30 and reapply several times during the day. Remember that even short stays outside can cause burns.

Overheating

Heat can be stressful, so try to stay in the shade in the middle of the day. In strong sun, you should cover your head with a light headgear so as not to overheat. This is especially important for children and people with little hair.

Sweating profusely causes you to lose a lot of fluid and salt, which must be replaced; drink plenty of non-alcoholic beverages, use salt tablets and add salt to your food. If you are producing normal levels of urine and it has the same colour as usual, you are getting enough fluid. 

Water and swimming

  • Avoid swimming in fresh water in tropical areas because diseases such as snail fever (schistosomiasis) are widespread there.
  • Vibrio bacteria are found in brackish and salt water, especially in subtropical and tropical areas, and can cause serious wound infections.
  • Near built-up areas, salt water can be contaminated by sewage. The water can be contagious, even if you just wade or walk barefoot. This does not apply to swimming pools with chlorinated / purified water.
  • Check if there are undercurrents when swimming outside the tourist beaches.
  • Legionnaires' disease is caused by a bacterium that can cause an unusual but severe pneumonia (legionella). The bacteria enter the body by inhaling small water droplets from ventilation systems, showers and hot-tubs.
  • Smokers, the elderly and people with reduced resilience (such as cancer patients or diabetics) are particularly vulnerable to disease. These should consider not visiting spa facilities when travelling.
  • There is no vaccine against the disease, and there is a limit to what you can do to avoid infection. However, if you are staying in hotels where you suspect poor maintenance, and where the hot water temperature is low, you can probably reduce the risk somewhat by first letting the hot water run for a few minutes and then shower with low water power.
  • If you experience symptoms such as muscle pain, weakness, fever and signs of pneumonia during or after the trip, you should consult a doctor.

Food and drink

If you travel to areas with poor hygiene conditions, there is a greater risk of infections that spread through food and water. Symptoms are usually diarrhoea and vomiting. The infectious agents are killed by boiling and frying.

Some good precautions:

  • Be careful with cold sauces, unpasteurised dairy products, ice cream not packed by a dairy, food prepared from raw eggs (mayonnaise, desserts), salads, raw shellfish and semi-cooked or raw meat.
  • You can safely eat food that has just been cooked or fried and is still hot. The same goes for fruit and vegetables that you peel yourself.
  • Make sure you wash your hands after using the toilet, after contact with animals and before cooking or eating.
  • You can drink freshly brewed, hot tea or coffee and (mineral) water from bottles you open yourself, but you should not normally drink tap water. Ice cubes made from contaminated water are a common source of infection.
  • Are you pregnant? See the separate section for advice on food and drink for pregnant women.

HIV and other sexually transmitted infections

The risk of transmission of a sexually transmitted infection from casual, unprotected sex is high. This is true wherever you are.

The most common diseases are gonorrhoea and chlamydia. The most serious is HIV infection. The HIV virus can stay in the body for several years before causing symptoms, and a person can therefore transmit the infection without realising it. If you use a condom during the entire intercourse (vaginal, anal or oral), the risk of becoming infected is significantly reduced.

Africa and some Asian countries have the highest incidence of HIV, but Southern and Eastern Europe also have a larger proportion of infected people than Norway. Among prostitutes, the percentage of people living with HIV is high worldwide. Remember that sexual services in return for gifts, meals etc., can be a form of prostitution in countries with great poverty. Men who have sex with men have a high risk of contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases through unprotected sex. Remember to bring a condom from home.

Diarrhoea and vomiting

Traveller’s diarrhoea is usually harmless, but follow these tips:

  • Drink plenty, and more than usual, of boiled water, mineral water or tea. Glucose electrolyte powder is also good to use. Dissolve it in bottled water or boiled water.
  • Toddlers with diarrhoea are more prone to dehydration than adults. Pay attention to the child's general condition and consult a doctor if you are concerned about the child. In case of bloody diarrhoea and diarrhoea with fever you should always consult a doctor.
  • Medicines can help to stop diarrhoea but should be used with caution. Do not use such remedies with a fever and do not give it to children under 12 years of age.
  • If you are nauseous, it is best to drink little and often.
  • If you vomit, it is advisable to drink something without / with little carbon dioxide (shake out or leave the mineral water slightly open so that the carbon dioxide decreases).
  • Be extra careful with hand washing when you have diarrhoea or vomiting to reduce the chance of infecting others.
  • If you use birth control pills, be aware that they may lose their effect with diarrhoea or vomiting.

Skin problems, bites and stings

Heat and humidity can cause skin irritation or an itchy rash. To alleviate this, you can buy "prickly heat powder" in some countries, but ordinary talcum powder can also help to some degree. You can treat insect bites and stings with an antipruritic agent, or simply put a wet wrap on the bite.

The right choice of clothing (such as cotton and loose clothing) can make the skin less irritated.

Animals

Animals can transmit many diseases to humans in different ways. You should therefore avoid contact with animals on your trip. Even apparently healthy animals can be carriers of serious diseases, so you must resist the urge to stroke them. Children can be particularly vulnerable and must be encouraged to stay away from animals.

Animal bites can cause infections, so if you are unlucky and are bitten by an animal, seek medical attention.

Rodents, such as mice and rats, can spread disease through bites, scratches, urine, faeces or via fleas. Avoid areas with a lot of rodents and avoid touching objects that may be contaminated by them. Bats can transmit some serious diseases, so you should not stay in caves where bats live.

In many places, it is easy to come into contact with monkeys. However, these can be carriers of many diseases so you must avoid contact with them.

Rabies is a deadly disease that occurs among animals in large parts of the world, but it has the highest risk in Africa and Asia. Humans can also be infected, and the most important transmission route is dog bites. The infection occurs through bites or when the animal's saliva enters wounds, on mucous membranes or in tears in the skin. In case of bite, scratches or licking of wounds or mucous membranes, wash and scrub thoroughly and seek medical attention immediately. The doctor can best assess the risk of rabies and quickly initiate vaccination if necessary. You can also be vaccinated against rabies before the trip.

Malaria, zika fever, dengue fever and other mosquito-borne diseases

If you travel to tropical and subtropical regions, you are exposed to a number of mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria, zika fever, dengue fever, chikungunya fever, Japanese encephalitis, yellow fever and West Nile fever. It is therefore important that you protect yourself against mosquito bites at all times when travelling to these areas:

  • Wear clothing that covers the arms and legs. Use mosquito repellent on body parts that are not covered with clothing.
  • Use impregnated mosquito nets over / around the bed when sleeping outside or inside.
  • The malaria mosquito is attracted to light at dusk. Do not turn on the lights until doors and windows are closed. Hotel rooms with air conditioning are usually mosquito-free.
  • Children who cannot move around by themselves can be effectively protected by hanging impregnated mosquito nets over the bed, pram, playpen, etc. Baby baskets should be lined with mosquito-proof fabric.

If you have been advised to take malaria tablets, you must continue to take them after returning home, as prescribed by your doctor. The reason for this is that malaria sometimes only causes symptoms long after (weeks / months) you have returned home.

Young children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to a severe malaria disease course.

NIPH recommends that pregnant women postpone unnecessary travel to areas with malaria or with outbreaks of zika fever.

Planned health treatment abroad

Avoid having health treatment in countries outside Norway if you can have the same treatment in Norway. This also applies to dental treatment. The risk of infection with resistant bacteria is much greater when treated in health services abroad than in Norway.

The greatest risk is if you are admitted to hospital for treatment. There is also an increased risk associated with surgery or other treatment in health services other than hospitals, for example at a general practitioner or dentist. You must seek medical attention in case of an urgent need for health care while travelling, but planned treatment abroad is not recommended, especially in countries with a high incidence of resistant bacteria.

Antibiotic use is contributing to the development of resistant bacteria. Avoid buying antibiotics while travelling that are not prescribed by a doctor. If you have bought such medicines, contact your doctor when you return home. Never throw away unused antibiotics with household waste or flush them down the toilet. Take them to a pharmacy where they can be disposed of correctly.

Sick after you get home?

If you become ill for the first time after returning from a trip abroad, you must tell your doctor where you have been. This is especially important if you have been to areas with malaria, have received health care or dental treatment abroad, or have stayed for a long time in a country with a high incidence of resistant bacteria. Your doctor may need the information to provide the correct treatment for an infection, or to prevent other patients from becoming infected if you need to be admitted to hospital.

If you have had traveller’s diarrhoea on the trip, this can often persist for a few days after returning home. Be extra careful with hand hygiene after toilet visits, and before touching food that others will eat. In some cases, it may be necessary to seek medical attention.

Pregnant women and children

Pregnant women

If you are pregnant, you or your foetus may be exposed to a certain risk when travelling abroad, especially to tropical areas and when travelling under primitive conditions.

Being pregnant should not stop you travelling abroad, but it is important that think carefully about the destination and consult a doctor about whether the trip involves particular health risks, and which precautions you may need to take to reduce the risk of infectious diseases.

Vaccination of pregnant women

Most vaccines can be given to pregnant women if there is a high risk of transmission for certain diseases when travelling abroad. The risk of infection in each individual case is assessed against the risk of vaccination.

Food and drink

Prevention of gastrointestinal infections is important for pregnant women, because diarrhoea can trigger contractions throughout pregnancy and some microorganisms can harm the foetus.

Pregnant women should be extra careful with food abroad. The hygiene rules you follow in Norway, must be followed even stricter abroad. Avoid raw meat and fish, and wash or peel raw vegetables, fruit and berries.

Some food may contain microorganisms that may be harmful to the foetus, although the likelihood is small. It is especially important that pregnant women avoid infection with listeria and toxoplasmosis.

Listeria

Listeriosis is a serious disease that can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth and disease in the newborn baby. The bacterium can be transmitted by consuming certain foodstuff that is stored cool with a long shelf life and that is eaten without heat treatment. There is a risk of becoming infected both in Norway and abroad.

Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is common outside Northern Europe. If you are infected for the first time while pregnant, the parasite can be transmitted to the foetus and in rare cases can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, brain damage or visual impairment in the child. Women who are infected during pregnancy usually have mild, if any, symptoms themselves.

Pregnant women who were infected earlier in life have lifelong antibodies to the parasite that protect the foetus from infection. If you are pregnant, you can be tested for antibodies to see if you have already been infected before travelling. If you do not have antibodies against Toxoplasma, you should be tested again 2-3 weeks after travel. If you were infected recently and it is detected early, the doctor can begin immediate treatment.

Mosquito-borne diseases

Several mosquito-borne diseases can affect the foetus if the mother becomes infected during pregnancy. The most important diseases are zika fever and malaria, but also diseases such as yellow fever, dengue fever, West Nile fever, chikungunyavirus disease and Japanese encephalitis can in rare cases cause premature birth or low birth weight. It is therefore important that pregnant women are always careful with the use of mosquito repellents, mosquito nets, protective clothing and other measures to protect themselves against mosquito bites during stays in sub-tropical and tropical areas.

 

Children

Children may be more exposed and vulnerable to infectious diseases when travelling abroad. This is especially true of diarrhoea and respiratory tract infections.

Vaccination of children while travelling

In general, children should have started immunisation programmes before travelling to southern and eastern Europe and the tropics and subtropical regions.

Mosquito-borne diseases

If you travel to tropical and subtropical areas, it is important to protect your child from mosquito bites during your stay. Young children are particularly vulnerable to severe malaria.

History

02.06.2022: Information about international certificate of vaccination