Most international travellers experience no problems abroad. Others may have an upset stomach but nothing more. It’s easy to become paranoid with every ache, cold or spot attributed to your trip abroad. There are some important things to remember when it comes to symptoms of tropical disease…
Some illnesses like Malaria can harbour themselves in your body for many weeks or even months, it is important therefore to inform your doctor of any travel to ‘exotic’ countries in the past 12 months.
Typical symptoms of many tropical diseases share common traits to ,disease found at home and include Fevers, Muscle Ache and Headaches. Other common signs to look for include diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, chronic fatigue, or skin rashes.
If you return from overseas and experience fevers, sweating, shivering, aches and pains and other flu like symptoms you should seek medical advice as soon as possible. Even if you were on malaria tablets, they do not offer full protection. Malaria can be a serious disease if left untreated. It is wiser to assume you have malaria until proven otherwise.
Travellers’ Diarrhoea is common however if the problems persist you should seek medical attention. Also keep in mind the risk of dehydration and use oral re-hydration salts if required. Viruses, bacteria or parasites can cause diarrhoea. Travellers returning with persistent bowl problems often experience good days and bad days this is often a sign of bacterial infection from a disease like Cryptosporida. Exhaustion and a feeling of tiredness can also be a common symptom.
Parasites and fungus just love warm humid places so it’s not surprising that such organisms are in plentiful supply in tropical regions.
Tissue Myiasis is caused by a fly larva. The adult fly lays eggs on your clothing the eggs hatch and the larva burrows into your skin where it grows for a week or so. The first sign will be what appears to be a boil forming on your skin. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the boil as you might kill the larvae, which can lead to infection. Instead us some Vaseline to block the air duct at the top of the boil, this will force the larvae up for air where it can be more easily removed.
A small adult hookworm that usually infects animals causes Larva Migrans. The worm has actually entered the wrong host i.e. you. Unable to penetrate further into your body it wanders around just below the skin, which can cause irritation and discomfort. Most people get the worm in their feet from wandering around beaches. The condition isn’t dangerous and can usually be treated with creams.
Ticks are a problem in forested or grassland areas and can be found in many regions in the world not just the tropics. For example, Tick Bourne Encephalitis is found mainly in central Europe. Ticks can also spread diseases like typhus, relapsing fever, and Lyme disease. Ticks can be treated with Vaseline in the same way as Tissue Myiasis. A little bit of Vaseline and suddenly breathing becomes more important than feeding and they’ll tend to fall off. Don’t be tempted to pick them off as you may leave a bit of the proboscis behind.
Other symptoms may point to a problem that you picked up while overseas, chronic fatigue and or blood in the urine could indicate schistosomiasis (haematobium). Diseases like tuberculosis and brucellosis while rare do occur.
If you are concerned about symptoms of tropical disease, please visit your doctor and don’t forget to mention your journey even it was a year or so ago.