Some immunisations take up to two weeks for full protection, so you should allow plenty of time to make an appointment with your surgery or travel clinic. There may be a charge for immunisations for travel outside the UK.
Malaria is a serious, sometimes life-threatening illness that is transmitted by an infected mosquito.
It is vitally important to get up-to-date information about which anti-malarial tablets are recommended for the part of the world you are visiting, as there is resistance to some medicines in certain parts.
Malaria-prevention medicines must be started before travel - sometimes as much as three weeks before - and continued for up to four weeks after returning home. You may need a private prescription from a doctor.
As anti-malarial tablets do not provide 100 per cent protection against the illness, it is important to avoid being bitten by a mosquito in the first place. You should use an insect repellent (containing 50 per cent diethyltoluamide, or DEET), wear clothes that cover most of the body (particularly around dusk and dawn) and sleep under a mosquito net at night if you are in a high-risk area.
Following your return from travel, it is important to report to your doctor any illness with high fever, as it is possible that you have contracted malaria, despite all your precautions. It can be treated, successfully in most cases, if diagnosed early.
Current medical conditions and treatment
It is a good idea to discuss any significant health problems with your doctor or nurse before travel.
Some travellers will need a 'fitness to travel' certificate for the airline or travel company. It is also sensible to take an adequate supply of essential medication with you, although for travellers going abroad for a long time there may be limits on how much you are able to take with you (the maximum is three months' supply from the NHS).
Some countries will not allow certain medicines to be brought into the country, and there may be penalties for possession of these; it is wise to check with a pharmacist on our Health@Hand team.
Sometimes a letter from your doctor may be required. Keep prescribed medication in its original labelled container at all times. It is a good idea to take a printout or surgery-stamped record of the prescription medication and keep it with the tablets.
Travel health insurance
You should contact your insurance company with details of your travel dates and destination to make sure that both it and your private health insurer are aware of any pre-existing health conditions, and so that you are aware of any exclusions to your cover before you travel.
Take details of your policy and the 24-hour emergency telephone number with you in case you need assistance.
Keeping safe while travelling
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (www.fco.gov.uk) offers invaluable guidance on local customs, personal safety, and visa and passport requirements, as well as health advice.
It is a good idea to take the 24-hour British Consular Helpline number with you: 020 7008 1500 (+44 20 7008 1500 from abroad).
A more detailed factsheet on Travel Health is available from Health@Hand, which includes information on prevention of deep vein thrombosis, suggested content of first aid and medical kits, and a useful “before travel” checklist.