Caution: close encounters with foreign creatures can seriously damage your health

Visiting exotic countries is much easier these days – and so is the possibility of meeting all sorts of creatures

Visiting exotic countries is much easier these days – and so is the possibility of meeting all sorts of creatures, says Chrissie Wood, travel health nurse, at MOHS Workplace Health.

Coming face to face with bugs, ticks, sea urchins, snakes or larger animals on safari, in the wilds of Borneo or swimming in the sea isn’t that unusual so it’s important to know what to do to safeguard your health.

For example:

  • always wear long trousers and boots when walking through undergrowth or long grass and carry a torch and spare batteries when walking at night to see where walking
  • when sleeping outside, always have the bed raised off the ground
  • remove ticks immediately
  • be observant when swimming

and if you do meet a snake, don’t panic. Just keep very still until it goes away!

Before travelling, book an appointment with your GP or travel health nurse to discuss the health risks and preventive vaccinations required for the area you are visiting.

You will need a rabies vaccination if you are going to a high risk area more than 24 hours from medical help.

Rabies is a very serious viral infection which targets the brain and nervous system. You can catch rabies if you are bitten by an infected animal and you haven’t been vaccinated. It’s almost always fatal unless treated very early.

Precautions to take include not stroking dogs and cats and avoiding contact with bats, jackals, foxes and other wild animals.

In areas endemic for rabies, all unprovoked bites or licks should be considered possible exposure and the following action should be taken:

  • wash the wound for five minutes under running water with soap
  • rinse and apply an antiseptic (eg iodine, chlorhexidine or alcohol)
  • seek medical assistance as soon as possible
  • do not have the wound stitched for at least 48 hours

If you are bitten by an animal or reptile abroad, see your GP or travel health nurse on your return.

For more advice, visit the MOHS travel Health Centre, in Birmingham Road, West Bromwich, or email or call 0121 601 4041.