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Travel and feverish illness

Travel and feverish illness
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What returning travellers should know about fevers

It’s not unusual to fall ill with a fever on your return from a trip abroad. Indeed, fever is one of the most common symptoms that brings returning travellers to a doctor.

Most fevers are nothing to worry about and will resolve with rest and self-care. But returning travellers experiencing a fever should seek prompt medical attention to rule out serious illness. Be sure to let the healthcare professional know where you’ve been, what activities you’ve been doing and also the dates of your trip. You should also mention if you’ve been bitten by an animal or insect.

What is a fever?

Fever is a symptom of illness that indicates your body is fighting infection. A fever is a body temperature of 38C or above. You can check your temperature with a thermometer. Or you can place a hand on your back and chest to see if it feels hotter than usual. Some people with a fever experience shivering and chills or sweating. Other people with elevated temperature flush red – but this can show up less on darker skin.

What should I do if I have a fever while travelling?

You can treat a fever by resting, drinking fluids and taking painkillers if needed. Some feverish illnesses are contagious, so if you have a fever it’s considerate to avoid contact with other people as far as you are able until you’ve recovered.

It’s best to get a fever checked out promptly by a doctor while travelling. This goes double if you also have symptoms like jaundice, rashes, bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain.

A healthcare professional can help you to rule out serious illness, and give advice on self-care. See our article on accessing medical care while abroad.

What traveller’s illnesses cause fever?

Fevers are usually caused by respiratory tract infections like colds and stomach upsets and you can expect to be back to normal activity levels in a few days. But there are some dangerous diseases that have fever as a symptom. These include:

  • malaria
  • typhoid
  • dengue fever
  • rickettsia
  • hepatitis
  • HIV
  • TB
  • haemorrhagic fevers

Consulting a healthcare professional will help you to rule out these conditions, or get treatment if that is needed.

How can I avoid traveller’s fevers?

You can minimize your exposure to these diseases and reduce the chance of infection with a good travel health regime. For example, you can get a vaccine against yellow fever, and you can take tablets that protect you from malaria. The CDC also recommends avoiding tick bites, as well as insect bites and mosquito bites while travelling, as many dangerous pathogens are spread in this way.

Every trip abroad has a different risk profile, and it can be hard to work out what precautions you have to take, whether it’s travel vaccines, antimalarials or avoiding vectors.

So make a travel health appointment six to eight weeks before your trip abroad and get trustworthy advice from a trained travel health nurse or pharmacist. They can help you work out what vaccines and antimalarials you’ll need and give you a schedule for getting the different doses. They can also advise on what covid testing services you might need for your vacation. We have plenty of travel health appointments at our travel health clinics and it’s quick and easy to make a booking.