Backpackers are vulnerable to a variety of illnesses and diseases. This is because the majority of them engage in activities that expose them to health and safety problems. Additionally, backpackers are less likely to be discriminating about where they stay and what they eat. Studies suggest that about 82% of backpackers contract some form of illness abroad.
Here are some of the most common backpacker illnesses and diseases:
1. Lyme disease
Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is a growing concern to backpackers. It is caused by bacteria which is spread by ticks. Early symptoms of Lyme disease include rash, headache, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, fever, and chills. If left untreated, severe symptoms like facial paralysis, neurological disorders, severe headaches and heart palpitations may occur.
The best way to protect yourself against Lyme disease is to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Additionally, get in the habit of tucking your pants legs inside your socks.
2. Traveller’s Diarrhoea
This is a stomach and intestinal infection that affects the majority of backpackers at some point of their travel. It’s caused by drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food.
While traveller’s diarrhoea isn’t serious, it can be very unpleasant. Common symptoms of the infection include bowel urgency, abrupt onset of diarrhoea, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and malaise.
Most symptoms clear up on their own in a few days. However, if your traveller’s diarrhoea doesn’t resolve within a week or your symptoms worsen, seek medical attention.
water image source
Leptospirosis is a disease associated with drinking or swimming in water contaminated with bacteria known as Leptospira. It is common in tropical countries, however; the risk of infection is higher after heavy rain or flooding.
The condition can be mild or severe. Backpackers with a mild form of the disease experience flu-like symptoms including chills, cough, fever, headache, eye redness and general weakness among others. Severe cases of the disease may cause heart dysfunction, mental confusion, and liver and kidney problems.
4. Mosquito-borne Diseases
Mosquitos are one of the most dangerous species on the planet. They have the ability to spread many deadly diseases including malaria, chikungunya, dengue fever, West Nile virus and Japanese encephalitis among others. Backpackers traveling to tropical areas are at a high-risk of contracting mosquito-borne diseases.
It is important to take precaution to prevent mosquito bites. This includes wearing clothes that cover most parts of the body, using repellents and sleeping under a mosquito net.
5. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s)
Backpackers who engage in unprotected sex, share needles or get tattooed in unsanitary environments are at a higher risk of contracting STIs. Some of the common sexually transmitted infections include chlamydia, genital warts, gonorrhoea, herpes, and HIV.
If you experience symptoms of STI, be sure to visit a local GP.
These are just some of the common diseases that affect backpackers. It is important that you take preventive measures to avoid contracting any disease while traveling. You may also consider buying a medical travel insurance to cover you in case you get sick while traveling.