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Keeping illness in check during holidays

Going out of town: Make sure you take the necessary precautions.    File
Going out of town: Make sure you take the necessary precautions. File 

Taking your family out of town for the holidays? Whether you are already out of town or getting ready to travel to the coast, up-country or even abroad, there are a few things you must take into account.

Malaria prevention:

If you are travelling to the so-called ‘malaria endemic zones’ like the coast, Nyanza, Western and parts of Rift Valley provinces, you need to take the following precautions:

Buy insect repellant gels/ointments. These are applied on to any exposed surface of the body to prevent mosquito bites, especially in the evenings. They are available at most supermarkets and pharmacies. Precaution: Do not mix repellant gels with regular body lotions as this may cause rashes and may also make them less effective.

Ensure that the mosquito net your family will be sleeping under is treated with insecticide. Untreated nets are not effective against preventing malaria.

You can also buy a plug-in mosquito repellant which are available at most supermarkets. These are electric devices plugged into the wall socket, preferably in the evening and release insecticide vapours throughout the night. They can be used as a back-up the the mosquito nets.

If you are spending the night with a child who requires to sleep with the lights on, replace ordinary bulbs with special insect repellant bulbs. These can be purchased in the supermarket.

Anti-malaria prevention drugs taken before travel can be used under the instruction of your doctor (do not buy them over the counter, especially for children and pregnant mothers as some of these drugs are not for use in these groups and can lead to complications such as miscarriages). Contrary to popular belief, you need to know that you can still get malaria even if you take these prevention drugs. Preventing the mosquito bite is most important thing you can do in the fight against malaria.

Wear light cotton clothing that covers the arms and legs in the evenings.

For your outdoor needs, you can use special electric insect zapping laterns which attract insects to them before killing them. For areas with no electricity supply, you could burn mosquito coils or mosquito sticks in the evening. Make sure the area is well ventillated.

Food and water:

Water: Contaminated water is the leading cause of ‘travellers diarrhoea’. Ensure you have a large supply of clean water. Even when buying bottled water, be sure that it has a KEBS certification. (We all know of unscrupulous businesses that bottle untreated tap water).

Use fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. Avoid canned goods, especially if kept under inappropriate storage conditions (think, hot poorly-ventillated car boot during a road trip). Bacteria have been found to thrive in poorly stored food cans.

Milk: If you are travelling up-country, you will probably get milk ‘straight from the cow’ as opposed to the pasteurised packet milk we are used to in towns. As long as the milk is boiled before consumption and has not been adulterated with dirty water, most children can tolerate fresh cow milk. Please note, however, that you cannot substitute infant formula milk or breast milk with cow milk as the baby may not be able to tolerate it and may get stomach discomfort, bloating and even diarrhoea.

Sea food and desserts: Avoid giving small children raw seafood/fish, undercooked chicken and beef. This is due to risk of food-poisoning. Also avoid desserts with raw eggs

Vaccination:

If travelling abroad, it is best to travel with fully vaccinated children. In Kenya, generally, all children are vaccinated against most life-threatening ailments by nine months. If you must travel with a child younger than this, always talk to your paediatrician about what precautions to take.

Some neighbouring countries in such as Uganda and Sudan have had yellow fever outbreaks in the past so get its vaccine before travelling there. Most countries have a list of vaccinations all visitors must receive – ensure the embassy provides you with the necessary information. Most urban hospitals have travel centres which also give adult vaccines.

Pregnant:

Generally, it is safe to travel by any mode of transport while pregnant. However, several precautions need to be taken:
Ensure that your health travel insurance covers for your pregnancy and that you will have access to healthcare in case of emergency.

Always carry your clinic card – just in case you need to acess emergency services

If travelling by air, inform the airline of your status. Most airlines do not carry women after the 36th week of pregnancy due to the risk of going into labour while in the air (34th week if you are carrying twins). Some airlines need a letter from your doctor before allowing you on board. Always check beforehand.

Pregnancy puts you at risk of getting clots in the blood vessels of your legs, a condition known as deep venous thrombosis (DVT). If making a long journey, take a short walk around the plane every hour. This ensures good circulation to the legs and helps prevent clot formation. Talk to your doctor about use of special stockings that also aid in preventing leg swelling.

Safety belt: Do not put it over your belly. Put the cross strap between your breasts and the lap strap below the belly (across your pelvis).

If you have had complications during the pregnancy e.g high blood pressure, abnormal bleeding from the womb or birth canal (spotting), diabetes etc, consult your doctor about your travel plans.

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