Simon Calder: Foreign lesions, and how to avoid them

The man who pays his way


Sometimes, you can judge a book by its index. Try this alphabetical array: “Alligators, attacks by; altitude; American cutaneous leishmaniasis”.

Merry Christmas, everybody. The bumper book of beastliness that may be jutting out  of your festive stocking later this month is  Travellers’ Health, whose fifth edition was launched this week. Its author is Dr Richard Dawood, who virtually single-handedly founded the discipline of travel medicine with the book’s first edition in 1986. He enlisted expertise from across the medical profession to compile an encyclopaedia of excuses to stay at home. And that’s just the clinical cross-section under “A”.

Alligator bite wounds, you learn, “are inevitably infected with a range of bacteria”. Frankly, I think that could be the least of your concerns should you find yourself up the wrong creek with a greedy gator. Prevention, the book suggests, is better than cure. “If attacked on dry land, run. If attacked in the water, hit the  animal on the nose and eyes with any available  weapon.” Such as Travellers’ Health.

Altitude is a problem only if you hurry. “Altitude illness is entirely preventable: no one should die of it,” the book notes. “Acclimatisation is a state of physiological ‘truce’ between the body of a visitor and the low-oxygen environment of high altitude. This truce permits  the trekker to ascend gradually.” You need to  be acutely aware of the symptoms of AMS, in this context the acronym for Acute Mountain Sickness, rather than Schiphol airport near  Amsterdam (elevation 11ft below sea level). The travellers at greatest peril are those who do not “listen to their body” and continue to ascend. High places, though, can affect more than your judgement. “Haemorrhoids are also common at altitude,” you learn. When planning your next trip, it may help to know that the highest point in Norfolk, Beacon Hill, is a comfortable 338ft above the North Sea.

American cutaneous leishmaniasis? Beware in Belize, where some sandflies harbour this parasite. Its most antisocial variant causes a disfiguring disease in which the nose and lips become swollen, and eventually “the lesions spread along the cartilage of the nose”.

Heavens, what horrors could the rest of the index hold from B to Z? In fact, Travellers’ Health abounds with good advice. Bindings of the ski variety should be tested every day, heel and toe, to ensure they will release in the event of a fall. And Zopiclone is a sleeping pill and therefore may ease the effects of jet lag but does not accelerate adjustment to a new time zone.

Be positive about B–

The launch event was held in the sumptuous surroundings of the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London, above the platforms that can take you to the mystic east or south to Elephant & Castle. It felt like being admitted to the world’s most exotic A&E department. Look, there’s Colonel Michael Thomas, clinical director for the Blood Care Foundation ( – which guarantees to get safe supplies of your blood type to almost anywhere in the world. The exceptions that are not covered comprise a couple of dozen countries whose blood supplies are considered impeccable. The list includes Britain and various other western European nations – but, curiously, only the northern half of Germany.

As a traveller you should always try to be positive, but if, like me, you inadvertently find yourself B-negative in haemotological terms, you could be in trouble when you need a transfusion. Rhesus-negative blood groups, I discovered, “are virtually confined to the Mediterranean and Northern European races”, which is why the foundation has set up strategically located blood banks in other parts of the world.

Colonel Thomas is now involved in another global mission: to reduce the appalling attrition from rabies, the deadliest infectious disease on Earth. Anyone who contracts it, from a bite or merely a lick from an infected animal, will die. But there is a brief window between the encounter and the disease taking hold, and Colonel Thomas aims to get life-saving vaccine to the traveller anywhere in the world. Good luck if you happen to be in North Korea, whence Dr Dawood’s brother, Norman, has just returned. Travelling seems to be in the, er, blood.

Gut instinct

What, I enquired of Dr Dawood, was the most significant change between the fourth and fifth editions of his book? I imagined he might mention the worrying resurgence of both cholera and TB, or the encroachment of malaria and dengue fever in Europe. But the answer was: technology.

“You can now download the entire book from the loo,” said Dr Dawood. If you have mistakenly departed without the book, and you happen to be carrying a Kindle, you can in seconds acquire the whole thing, including page 14 – which looks initially like a map of Latin America, but turns out to be a diagram of the small and large intestines, labelled with the legions of bugs that seek to upset your stomach.

Given the foreign lesions that may lurk in the sand scrunching beneath your toes on the idyllic cays of Central America, should you simply stay at home? No, says Dr Dawood, who instead prescribes a good holiday. “If you are a careful, responsible traveller, travel will be good for your health and well-being, and good for the places and people you visit.”

‘Travellers’ Health’ is published by OUP, £16.99

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Louis van Gaal
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own