Health Precautions and Safe Travel
Health Precautions and Safe Travel
The Coronavirus/ COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that we are a very connected world, difficult to isolate and easy to have germs, infections and illnesses transmitted to fellow travellers. We are vastly unprepared to fight contagion and need to be better prepared and informed on steps we can take to protect ourselves!
Driving, Driver Fitness and Health
On the Arrive Alive website, we focus on driver fitness and health. Driving is a complex skill and requires mental alertness, clear vision, physical coordination and the ability to react appropriately, which can be affected by changes in our physical, emotional and mental condition. Most of us are aware of the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs, but certain types of medication produce effects that impair our ability to drive a vehicle safely.
We also share information on the role of medical experts in determining our fitness to drive!
The aim of determining fitness to drive is to minimise the risk to the individual, and other road users, while maintaining appropriate independence and employment. Health professionals are very important in determining the fitness to drive - not only of elderly drivers but also of people recovering from accidents and other trauma.
When drivers are using medication and the instructions fail to provide advice on the effect that the medication might have on safe driving, it might be best to check with the doctor or pharmacist to make sure. Doctors might also advise on physical therapy, medicine, stretching exercises, walking or fitness programs or refer you to other fitness professionals.
Medical professionals will consider many factors:
- individual’s ability to drive safely - for example, some individuals may not respond well to treatment, and therefore may not be able to drive at the end of the recommended minimum period of refraining from driving
- risk of serious motor crashes due to sudden driver failure - e.g. presence of any factors that may cause sudden loss of consciousness or sudden impairment of driving ability
- type of licence held and type of driving undertaken - professional drivers transporting passengers pose a significant risk
- medication - effects of medications, and likely compliance with medications, on the ability to drive safely
- presence of multiple medical conditions - where an individual has multiple medical conditions, it is important to consider any possible combined effects on an individual’s ability to drive safely
- other factors that may exacerbate risks - for example, smoking, alcohol, family history etc
Drivers should never overestimate their fitness to drive. It is better to consult with your physician and to refrain from driving for a while than to face the consequences of a tragic accident.
Which Precautions should we take to be a Healthy Traveller?
We developed in partnership with Lunanim an informative animation on Health Precautions and would like to provide some additional information. We would like to credit the World Health Organization for the guidance provided on the safety of travellers on various modes of transport across the globe:
Obey Government Emergency Measures/ Bans Implemented
Tour operators, travel agents, airline and shipping companies each have an important responsibility to safeguard the health of travellers. It is in the interests of the travel industry that travellers have the fewest possible problems when travelling to, and visiting, foreign countries.
Contact with travellers before the journey provides a unique opportunity to inform them of the situation in each of the countries they are visiting and of any emergency measures, regulations and travel bans they should be aware of.
Remain respectful of the host country, its population and the rules and the regulations of that country.
Know and consider your health status before making travel plans
Any traveller intending to visit a destination in a developing country should consult a travel medicine clinic or medical practitioner before the journey. This consultation should take place at least 4-8 weeks before the journey and preferably earlier if long-term travel or overseas work is envisaged.
There are certain groups of Travellers who need to take special caution:
Age/ The Elderly: Elderly people should seek medical advice before planning long-distance travel. The elderly and young children are also more susceptible to infectious diseases.
Pre-Existing Conditions: People suffering from chronic illnesses should seek medical advice before planning a journey. Any traveller with a chronic illness should carry all necessary medication and medical items for the entire duration of the journey. All medications, especially prescription medications, should be stored in carry-on luggage, in their original containers with clear labels.
The traveller should carry the name and contact details of their physician on their person with other travel documents, together with information about the medical condition and treatment, and details of medication (generic drug names included) and prescribed doses.
Pregnancy: Pregnant women risk serious complications if they contract malaria or viral hepatitis E. Travel to areas endemic for these diseases should be avoided during pregnancy if possible.
Disability: Physical disability is not usually a contraindication for travel if the general health status of the traveller is good.
Research your destination/ hotspots and follow health advice/advisories
Serious health risks may arise in areas where accommodation is of poor quality, hygiene and sanitation are inadequate, medical services are not well developed and clean water is unavailable.
All individuals planning travel should receive advice on the potential hazards in their chosen destinations and understand how best to protect their health and minimize the risk of acquiring the disease. Forward planning, appropriate preventive measures and careful precautions can substantially reduce the risk of accidents and illness.
The epidemiology of infectious diseases in the destination country is of importance to travellers.
Travellers and travel medicine practitioners should be aware of the occurrence of any disease outbreaks in their destination countries.
Information can be found in Online Media, Travel Websites, Travel Advisories and from the Embassies. Also, consult with travel agencies.
Pack Smart for a Healthy Trip.
A medical kit should be carried for all destinations where there may be significant health risks, particularly those in developing countries and/or where the local availability of specific medications is uncertain. This kit will include basic medicines to treat common ailments, first-aid articles, and any other special medical items, such as syringes and needles, that may be needed and can in some cases be used by the individual traveller.
Certain categories of prescription medicine or special medical item should be carried together with a medical attestation on headed paper, signed by a physician, certifying that the traveller requires the medication or the items for a medical condition.
When experiencing Symptoms - Implement social/ physical distancing
Travellers must accept that they are responsible for their health and well-being while travelling and on their return as well as for preventing the transmission of communicable diseases to others. Also, consider the health and well-being of accompanying children.
- Wash hands regularly with soap and warm water and/or use hand sanitizers.
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth.
- Implement social distancing. Limit physical interaction in groups or in public spaces.
- Maintain at least a 1-metre distance between yourself and anyone else if you are in a public space and increase the distance when you or another person is coughing or sneezing.
- Self-isolate and stay at home if you are feeling unwell or are presenting with cold or flu symptoms, are coughing or have trouble breathing. If applicable, cover your mouth and nose with a protective mask.
- Ensure that your hands are sanitised before and after each money transaction, particularly when performing manual transactions (with cash or bank cards) at all our toll plazas. Droplets of saliva can easily settle on banknotes and coins, cards and other devices.
- Keep up to date with the latest COVID-19 [OR another disease] outbreaks and hotspots and avoid travelling to places that are at risk, particularly if your health and immunity is already compromised.
- Heed ALL calls and emergency measures implemented by our government to protect our nation.
Focus on Hygiene in and outside Vehicles
Toll concessionaire and its service providers have instituted various measures to ensure heightened hygiene and sanitisation steps are implemented at all its operations, including toll plazas, and amongst its route maintenance and route patrol service teams; and to limit the risk of exposure and transmission during every interaction.
The Automobile Association says motorists should practice good hygiene in their cars, on motorbikes and bicycles by regularly wiping down surfaces that are touched often such as gear levers, steering wheels, handles, handlebars, and visors.
MasterDrive offers the following advice to fleet drivers on how to sanitise their vehicles:
Ensuring your vehicle remains sanitised should be done in a number of steps:
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds before leaving on each trip
- If you receive stock or other items during the day, spray or wipe it down with disinfectant as well as any areas other people may have been in contact with upon collection.
- Consider using rubber gloves when items are handed to you directly.
- Ideally, try to both wash and sanitise your hands when leaving but if you do not have access to hand-washing facilities, just sanitise them.
- Keep a plastic bag that you can place items like used gloves into and dispose of this at the end of the day.
- At the end of your shift, disinfect the car so that either yourself or a co-worker can start the next shift with a fully sanitised car.
- Attached is an image that indicates the areas that need to be cleaned with an alcohol-based disinfectant including the door, door handles, dashboard, steering wheel, gearstick, handbrake, radio, infotainment system, armrests and the seat.
- Alcohol-based disinfectants will not damage the car as long as you do not soak the surfaces and do not use it on infotainment systems.
- Do not forget areas that may not immediately jump to mind as places you or someone else may have touched such as the levers controlling items like indicators, the rear-view mirror, the levers that move the seats and even fuel cards.
- Do not forget the exterior of the vehicle either, including door handles, door frames and the boot.
- If someone travels with you for a short period, do not forget to sanitise anything they have touched on their exit.
Beware of the side-effects of illness and medication on safe travel
According to the New Mexico Department of Health, certain drugs can interfere with factors that are essential for safe driving, such as:
Coordination - needed for steering, braking, accelerating, and manipulating the vehicle;
Reaction time - needed to respond in time and appropriately deal with certain situations;
Judgment - helps with risk assessment, avoidance of hazards, and emergency decision-making;
Tracking - helps to stay in the lane and maintain the correct distance from other cars and obstacles;
Attention - ability to handle the high demand for information-processing ;
Perception - needed for glare resistance, dark and light adaptation, and dynamic visual acuity.
The reactions caused by certain types of medication may include nausea, drowsiness, blurred vision, inability to think clearly, reduced coordination and diminished motor or judgment skills and can, therefore, impair your ability to drive.
Call your healthcare provider immediately if you think you may have a medical emergency. Always seek the advice of your doctor or another qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Be thoughtful, defensive and considerate to prevent the need for further medical intervention
It is important to share some sound advice from the Automobile Association after the outbreak of the Coronavirus/ COVID-19:
“Road users who add to this pressure by not obeying the rules, and who through negligent actions cause crashes which require medical intervention, are adding to this pressure and are, quite frankly, selfish, irresponsible, and a danger to others. It is the responsibility of every person who is on the roads - motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians - to behave in such a way that their journeys are completed without incident,” says the AA.
In addition, the AA says people who are still on the roads need to assess each driving situation as there are people who are abusing the current crisis to drive recklessly.
“An increase in average speeds, specifically on highways, has been noticeable. Always be vigilant, put your cellphone away, and remain focused on the road ahead. Now is not the time to take any chances - even though the roads may appear clear. Now, more than ever, it is the responsibility of those who are still driving to ensure their own, and other road users’ safety,” urges the AA.
Travellers should be advised to have a medical examination on their return if they:
- suffer from a chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, chronic respiratory disease.
- experience illness in the weeks following their return home, particularly if fever, persistent diarrhoea, vomiting, jaundice, urinary disorders, skin disease or genital infection occurs.
- they received treatment for malaria while travelling.
- consider that they have been exposed to a serious infectious disease while travelling.
- have spent more than 3 months in a developing country.
Travellers should provide medical personnel with information on recent travel, including destination, and purpose and duration of the visit. Frequent travellers should give details of all journeys that have taken place in the preceding weeks and months
Plan for worst-case scenarios
Anyone suffering from allergies should wear a medical bracelet with important medical and contact information. Be aware of emergency numbers or use technology and the vast range of medical and emergency Apps available today.
All travellers should be strongly advised to travel with comprehensive travel insurance as a matter of routine. International travellers should be aware that medical care abroad is often available only at private medical facilities and may be costly. In places where good-quality medical care is not readily available, travellers may need to be repatriated in case of accident or illness. If death occurs abroad, repatriation of the body can be extremely expensive and may be difficult to arrange.
Travellers should know the procedures to follow to obtain assistance and reimbursement. A copy of the insurance certificate and contact details should be carried with other travel documents in the hand luggage.
Health and Safety Checklist for the Traveller
Obtain information on local conditions
Depending on destination
- risks related to the area (urban or rural)
- type of accommodation (hotel, camping)
- length of stay
- security problems (e.g. conflict)
- availability of medical facilities.
Vaccination. Contact the nearest travel medicine centre or a physician as early as possible, preferably 4-8 weeks before departure.
Malaria. Request information on malaria risk, prevention of mosquito bites, the possible need for appropriate preventive medication and emergency reserves, and plan for bednet and insect repellent.
Food hygiene. Eat only thoroughly cooked food and drink only well-sealed bottled or packaged cold drinks. Boil drinking-water if safety is doubtful. If boiling is not possible, a certified well-maintained filter and/or disinfectant agent can be used.
Specific local diseases. Consult the appropriate sections of this volume as well as www.who.int and national travel health web sites.
Be aware of accidents related to
- traffic (obtain a card showing blood group before departure)
- animals (beware of venomous marine or land creatures and rabid dogs)
- allergies (wear a medical alert bracelet)
- sun (pack sunglasses and sunscreen)
Get the following check-ups
- medical-obtain prescriptions for medication according to the length of stay, and obtain advice from your physician on assembling a suitable medical kit
- ophthalmological-pack spare spectacles
- other according to specific conditions (e.g. pregnancy, diabetes)
Subscribe to medical insurance with appropriate cover abroad, i.e. accident, sickness, medical repatriation.