Travel emergency: top travel injuries and illnesses

Aussies are generally renowned for their love of travel and adventure. But sometimes our wanderlust can land us in serious trouble. Here are five of the most common travel accidents, illnesses and medical emergencies.

We’ve looked at the most common medical cases requiring medical assistance among Aussies in popular travel destinations according to travel insurance data, and suggested some tips to help avoid a travel emergency.

1. Skiiing in North America

A snow trip to the USA or Canada can be an unforgettable experience but so is a trip to the emergency room (for all the wrong reasons). Skiing accidents are the most common injury among Aussies travelling abroad.1

So unless you’re experienced, consider taking lessons and easing into it on the slopes. Maybe do as the locals do and follow the International Ski Federation’s safe skiing code to help prevent injuries. 

2. Gastro in Indonesia

We’ve all heard of ‘Bali belly’ (traveller’s diarrhoea often caused by an infection leading to gastroenteritis or ‘gastro’). So if you’re travelling around places where the hygiene may be suspect it’s important to be careful with what you eat and drink.

Reduce your chances of picking up harmful bugs by washing your hands regularly, and drinking and brushing your teeth with bottled water (check the seal before purchasing). It’s also advised to avoid ice and salads washed with tap water, and be careful of raw or runny eggs, cold meat or seafood.

3. Head injuries in Thailand

Whether through misadventure or recklessness, head injuries are the most common medical problem among Aussie travellers in Thailand.

Motorcycle and traffic accidents are very common in Thailand where it can seem like chaos rules as opposed to the actual road rules. Motorcyclists and passengers are legally required to wear a helmet but they’re not usually provided by hire companies and motorcycle taxis.  Many travellers are surprised to learn you must hold an Australian motorcycle licence to be covered by travel insurance for a motorbike or scooter accident overseas.

Foreigners involved in accidents are sometimes affected by alcohol, which along with unfamiliar and dangerous traffic conditions, can be a lethal combination. 

4. Hip replacements in the UK

The highest number of calls for help in the UK were in relation to a hip replacement.1

While there are many reasons why you may need hip surgery it’s important to watch where you’re going and try to prevent falls that could lead to a hip injury. Stretching and warming up is recommended before activity, wear well-fitting shoes with good grip, and don’t overdo it trying to see everything.

Tourists are warned not to feed or touch wild monkeys.

5. Monkey bites in Singapore

They might look cute, but monkeys (like any wild animal) can be unpredictable. It’s advised not to touch or feed wild monkeys or carry food in your bag as they’re known to help themselves.

Bites can be severe and may cause serious illness in humans. Monkeys can carry rabies and some species also carry Herpes B. Anyone who is bitten should clean the wound immediately by irrigating the bite with running water, thoroughly washing the wound with soap or an antiseptic, and seeking urgent medical attention. 

6. Cycling accidents in France

The idea of cycling though the stunning French countryside conjures romantic imagery, but if you’ve ever watched the pile ups at the Tour De France you know it can be dangerous.

The roads are shared in France, and the emphasis is on a mutual respect among all road users who must follow the local Highway Code. Add further protection by wearing a good quality helmet that fits you well, just like you would at home in Australia.

7. Viral illness in the Philippines 

Viral illnesses are common in the Philippines where there’s a risk of water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases. It’s advised to drink bottled water (with the seal intact) and avoid ice cubes, raw foods and anything undercooked.

You can be at higher risk of developing mosquito-borne illnesses such as malaria and Dengue fever so it’s important to avoid insect bites by wearing repellent, protective clothing and ensure your accommodation is mosquito free.

The Australian government advises all travellers to visit a doctor eight weeks before heading overseas to talk about vaccinations and other medical protection against infections. 

8. Scooter accidents in Vietnam

Crossing the road can be terrifying in Vietnam, let alone driving on it. Traffic and road conditions can be poor and there’s a large number of fatal and serious accidents on the road every year.

 The Australian government says there’s an increasing number of tourists involved in serious crashes and warns caution when considering scooter or car hire.

9. Respiratory problems in China

Air pollution is a big issue in China’s major cities and can cause major health problems for travellers. The Chinese government provides data on pollution levels online, and there are several apps and websites with up-to-date information.

Children, older travellers and those with cardiac and respiratory problems are often the worst affected. Those with pre-existing conditions should seek medical advice before travelling to China.

Before heading off, check out the Australian government’s smart traveller website for up-to-date advice on everything from known trouble spots to high risk activities.

1 Data collected by emergency assistance group First Assistance from five Australian travel insurers. 

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Bupa Travel Insurance is distributed by Bupa HI Pty Ltd ABN 81 000 057 590 an authorised representative of the issuer, Insurance Australia Limited ABN 11 000 016 722 AFSL 227681. Any advice is general only and does not take into account your personal circumstances. Consider the  Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to see if this product is right for you.

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