Getting Sick after Travel
We hope you had great experiences and made many wonderful new memories, but the truth is that sometimes travelers come home with more than souvenirs. Fortunately, most after-travel illnesses are mild and not a concern, such as a head cold or an upset stomach. However, some symptoms may warrant a trip to the doctor.
If you have been in a country with malaria and develop a fever within a month after you leave, see a doctor immediately. Most fevers are caused by less serious illnesses. But because malaria is a medical emergency, your doctor must first rule it out. A fever could still be malaria even if you took antimalarial medicine because the medicine is not 100% effective. Most malaria develops within 30 days, but rare cases can lie dormant for a year or longer. So always tell your doctor about any travel you have done, even if it was months ago.
Most cases of diarrhea go away by themselves in a few days, but see your doctor if you have diarrhea that lasts for 2 weeks or more. Persistent diarrhea can make you lose nutrients and is often caused by a parasitic infection that will need to be treated with special drugs.
Skin problems (rashes, boils, fungal infections, bug bites) are among the most common illnesses reported by people who have returned from international travel. Most skin problems are not serious, but they may be a sign of a serious illness, especially if you also have a fever.
At the Doctor
Whatever the reason, if you go to the doctor after returning from a trip overseas, tell him or her about your recent travel. Make sure to include all relevant details:
- What you did on your trip.
- How long you were gone.
- Where you stayed (fancy hotel, native dwelling, tent).
- What you ate and drank while you were there.
- Whether you were bitten by bugs.
- Whether you swam in freshwater.
- Any other possible exposures (sex, tattoos, piercings).