South Africa’s immense natural beauty and wealth of holiday destination options means that we are spoilt for choice in domestic travel. To make the most of the summer holidays, there are a number of precautions that will help to safeguard against health-related difficulties that could hamper festive enjoyment.
“With South Africa’s stunning sandy beaches, majestic mountains and our country being home to no fewer than eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it is little wonder that many of us are choosing to ‘keep it local’ for our summer holidays,” says Dr Pete Vincent of Netcare Travel Clinics and Tokai Medicross.
“Even in our own back yard, however, there can be any number of health-related dangers or inconveniences for the unwary traveller. With a little forward planning and some sensible precautions, however, there is much one can do to help ensure that your well-earned break is not marred by preventable ailments and accidents.”
Holiday driving precautions
“Before setting out on your journey, have your car serviced and the tyres checked for road worthiness. Please make sure that everyone in the vehicle is safely buckled up and keep to the speed limits and the rules of the road. Maintaining a safe following distance is a critical aspect of road safety,” Dr Vincent advises.
“Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and prevent driver fatigue by taking regular breaks, at least every two hours, and changing drivers if possible.”
Swimming and water safety
“Any water source is a potential drowning hazard. Do not leave children unattended around water, and supervise them closely because drowning can happen quickly and silently. Also be very vigilant on rocky shores where waves can be unpredictable.
“Even strong swimmers should be cautious when swimming in the sea as the conditions are very different from those of a swimming pool. Obey lifeguards and only swim at designated swimming areas,” he warns.
“Alcohol and swimming or boating do not mix, as one needs to remain fully alert. For those who will be yachting or boating, ensure that there are enough lifejackets in good condition for all aboard.”
“It is important to protect yourself and family from excessive sun exposure, which can lead to the development of skin cancer in the future. Avoid outdoor activities between the hours of 10h00 and 15h00 when the sun is at its fiercest,” Dr Vincent adds.
“Wide-brimmed hats and UV protective clothing should be worn to help prevent sunburn, and a high sun protection factor sunscreen should be applied liberally 20 minutes prior to sun exposure and reapplied every two hours – and more frequently if you are swimming or perspiring.”
Dr Vincent notes that certain sunscreen ingredients may be harmful for the environment. “Sunscreens containing oxybenzone, butyl paraben, octinoxate and 4 methylbenzylidine have reportedly been found to be harmful to coral reefs and these should be avoided if you are intending to swim in the ocean. Those that are zinc oxide or titanium oxide based, on the other hand, have not been found to damage coral.”
“As advised by South African National Parks earlier in the year, summer visitors to the Kruger National Park should consult their local travel clinic about the necessary malaria precautions. All visitors to the park and surrounds should take Malaria prophylaxis and all usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites. If you develop flu-like symptoms, even well after a visit to a malaria area, consult your doctor and have the relevant blood tests taken for malaria,” Dr Vincent advises.
Steps to prevent mosquito bites:
• Apply a good quality insect repellent.
• If you are wearing sun protection lotion, apply insect repellent after the sunscreen.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Mosquitoes are unlikely to bite on areas covered by clothing, particularly if the clothing is loose-fitting.
• Protect yourself with a mosquito net while sleeping. Remember to check that there are no rips in the fabric and ensure that you do not let the fabric rest against your skin, as mosquitoes could bite you through the netting.
Tick bite fever
“If you have walked in any grasslands in the Eastern parts of South Africa be sure to check yourself for ticks immediately after your walk and remove any ticks carefully. The Incubation period for tick bite fever is eight days from when the bite occurred. Should you develop a sore with a black centre and swollen lymph nodes near the site, seek medical attention as soon as possible.”
“There is a very helpful maxim that can significantly reduce one’s chances of developing the ‘traveller’s curse’ of food poisoning: ‘Boil it, Cook it, Peel it or Forget it’. Be careful of eating raw or undercooked foods, including vegetables, salads, meat and seafood. Eat only fruit that can be peeled or cut open such as bananas, oranges, pineapples and pawpaws.
“With the present outbreak of Listeriosis, which is contracted through eating food contaminated with the bacterium, it is particularly important to practise good food hygiene, particularly for individuals who are pregnant, asplenic or in any way immuno-compromised, as they are particularly vulnerable to infections.”
“Whatever holiday activities you may partake in, be sure to drink plenty of water. If you are not certain whether the tap water is safe to drink, it is advisable to rather drink bottled water and be sure to check the seal is intact when you open the bottle, or opt for sparkling water. Do not risk brushing your teeth with potentially contaminated water, rather use bottled water,” Dr Vincent notes.
“With travellers’ health precautions such as these in place, it is possible to significantly improve the odds that your holiday will be memorable for all the right reasons. From all of us at Netcare Travel Clinics and Tokai Medicross, we wish the public a festive season that is safe, healthy and supremely enjoyable,” he concludes.
For the contact details of your nearest Netcare Travel Clinic please visit https://www.netcare.co.za/Netcare-travel-clinics
Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Travel Clinics
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, or Meggan Saville
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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