It is now the second most common reason for leaving the UK, but travelling overseas to see friends and relatives without immunisations could put you at serious risk.
Visiting friends and family abroad is more popular than it has ever been. In fact, it is now sandwiched between ‘going on holiday’ (No. 1) and ‘travelling on business’ (No. 3) as the second most quoted reason for leaving the UK.
As any travel clinician will tell you, however, it also leaves thousands of people a year at risk of contracting serious, and in some cases deadly, diseases.
I used to live there so I’m not at risk
This commonly held belief is one of the biggest dangers for those heading overseas. Travellers who are heading to a foreign country for the first time will commonly research the appropriate vaccinations before they travel, whereas those who have spent long periods of time at their destination or visited many times over the years may mistakenly believe they are equipped with a natural immunity.
Unfortunately for such travellers, this false sense of security can be dangerous to your health. Even those who have grown up in an African or South American country, for example, most likely do not have immunity to regional diseases any more. Indeed, research has shown that it takes under a year of living in a non-endemic country for any immunity to drop – including diseases such as malaria.
Children who haven’t lived outside of the UK for several months are particularly at risk of contracting diseases and it is vitally important that they receive the latest vaccinations.
Why else would I be at risk?
Visiting friends and family abroad often means a longer trip than the average holiday. After all, catching up after months or even years apart can take time. But these extended stays also increases the likelihood of exposure to infectious diseases.
Sharing time with family can also involve hugging and kissing – closer contact than you would usually anticipate on a holiday – and time spent in a community environment, rather than surrounded by fellow tourists. This factor also makes the transmission of diseases more likely.
How should I prepare for my next trip abroad?
If you are heading abroad to meet up with family or friends, the advice is simple: plan your trip as if you were any other tourist to the region and take the necessary precautions. For the sake of making an appointment with a travel clinician and getting your vaccinations and travel medications up to date, it really isn’t worth the risk.
At Express Travel Clinic, we offer a comprehensive list of immunisations at competitive prices. We can also accommodate travellers at short notice. Explore our vaccines here.