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 (bloodcare.org.uk) – 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

News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Life and Style
View of champagne glasses at a beach bar set up along the Croisette during the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes on May 17, 2013
food + drink(and for now, there's a clear winner)
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Irradiated turkey and freeze dried mash potato will be on the menu this thanksgiving
video
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Manager - Global Leisure Business

    £55000 - £65000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in their fiel...

    Investigo: Senior Finance Analyst - Global Leisure Business

    £45000 - £52000 per annum + bonus+bens : Investigo: My client, a global leader...

    Investigo: Financial reporting Accountant

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits : Investigo: One of the fastest growing g...

    Sphere Digital Recruitment: CRM Executive – Global Travel Brand – Luton – £25k

    25,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: CRM Executive – Global Travel Brand – Luto...

    Day In a Page

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?