Overseas Travel

Working at the University may mean you get asked to work abroad to carry out research or to supervise Students carrying out fieldwork.  It is imperative that before you travel you follow College / Departmental guidance regarding trips abroad eg emergency contacts and procedures, University insurance, trip risk assessments.  If you are still then unsure what to do, contact Health and Safety Services for further advice.

A simple safety measure is to scan your passport and email this to yourself, so you will always have access to it from anywhere in the world.

The Head of College/Department, and in some cases the Health and Safety Task Group, must authorise any visit to a country or region listed as 'Restricted' by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

You must also remember that even when you are travelling abroad you must still look after your health and not switch off to the hazards around you especially when working in countries with very different hazards to those you are exposed to on a daily basis at home.  We are not used to looking out for poisonous snakes or spiders or dealing with extreme temperatures so can become blasé and not even consider these as a risk until it is too late. Some things you may need to consider when travelling are:

Vaccinations and Immunisations

  • Ensure you get the right vaccinations for the country you are visiting. Your GP will be able to advise you.

The Journey

  • Don't wear tight clothes on long-distance journeys.
  • Do regular stretching exerices and try to walk around the plane at regular intervals.
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid drinking too much alcohol.

The Sun and High Temperatures

  • Protect yourself from harmful UV rays by using a sun cream with a high protection factor. Reapply it every couple of hours and don’t forget to protect your ears, lips, hair parting and the tip of your nose with sun block.
  • Stay in the shade between 11am and 3pm when the rays are at their most damaging.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and loose clothing.
  • Choose sunglasses with UV filters to protect your eyes.
  • Avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day.
  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic liquids to balance the loss of body fluid through perspiration.
  • If you get prickly heat, take tepid showers and dab the affected areas with calamine lotion.  Wear loose clothing to reduce irritation.

Snow and Ice and Cold Temperatures

  • Always use a sun cream of SPF15 or above and wear sunglasses or goggles, even in cloudy weather.

Hypothermia is a potentially fatal condition that occurs when your body temperature falls beneath 35°C (95°F).  Look out for a change in behaviour which can indicate someone is suffering.

  • Wear appropriate clothes, with sufficient insulation and wind- and waterproof outer layers. A hat is also important.

Frostbite occurs when the extremities (fingers, cheeks, ears, nose and toes) get so cold their temperature drops below freezing. If noticed quickly, it’s fully reversible. If not, it can result in lose of tissue.

  • If you suspect someone has hypothermia or frostbite, stop immediately. Make sure they’re wrapped up warm, in a safe place. If you can’t find shelter, huddling together should warm them up but this will take time. Continuing to ski, drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes will do nothing to help the victim and may make things worse.

Altitude sickness

At high-altitude resorts, you’ll probably notice the effects of thinner air – you may feel very tired, very quickly. To help lessen the effects, start your pre-ski fitness regime at least six weeks before you go on holiday. Start on the lower slopes and work your way up to higher altitudes.

Acute mountain sickness (AMS) causes dizziness, nausea, raging headaches and radical change in personality or behaviour. It’s life-threatening condition. If symptoms arise in any of your group, alert the ski patrol or mountain medical corps, and descend the mountain immediately.

Insects

Insect bites are by far the most common and can transmit diseases. Some of these can cause unpleasant reactions. Seek medical attention if an insect bite causes swelling, bruising or persistent pain.

  • Check with your GP if any medication is required before visiting the country.
  • Use an insect repellent containing DEET. Wrist and ankle bands impregnated with this chemical are also available.
  • Were protective clothing and use mosquito netting.  Especially in malaria areas.
  • Avoid applying high-concentration (30 % DEET) products to the skin.
  • Don’t inhale or ingest repellents, and be careful not to get any in your eyes.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should minimise use of repellents. Seek specific advice from your GP.
  • Keep your legs covered after sunset.
  • Avoid using aftershave, perfumes or scented deodorants – they’re “mozzie magnets”.

Animals

In general, animals tend to avoid humans but they can attack, particularly if they’re with their young and their bites can lead to infection that may be serious, sometimes fatal. They can also transmit rabies, an acute viral infection of the nervous system. Rabies occurs in Europe and North America, as well as in the developing world.

  • In areas of endemic rabies, domestic dogs, cats and other animals shouldn’t be petted. Wild animals should be avoided altogether.
  • If you’re bitten by an animal and wash the bite immediately using soap, or flush with clean water for at least five minutes. Apply antiseptic, if possible, and comer the area with a dry dressing.
  • Seek medical attention immediately. If you need a rabies vaccination, the course must be started straight away.
  • Note the details of the incident and description of the animal. If it’s domesticated, try to identify the owner. Find out whether the animal has an up-to-date rabies vaccine. Check if the animal becomes sick within a fortnight.
  • Report the incident to the police – you’ll need a formal report for insurance purposes.
  • Consult your GP on return to the UK.

Snakes

Deaths from snake bites are relatively rare – an estimated five million snakebites occur worldwide each year, causing about 125,000 deaths. The most dangerous snakes include the Australian brown snake, carpet vipers in the Middle East, Russell’s vipers and cobras in Southern Asia, and coral and rattlesnakes in North America.

Most snakebites are the result of harassment – biting is a snake’s defensive reaction. As snakes bite people when they’re frightened rather than to kill them for food, many bites inject little poison. However, the venom of a small immature snake may be more concentrated that that of an adult.

Eat and Drink Safely

  • Always wash your hands before going to the toilet, before handling food and before eating.
  • Use bottled water, check the seals are unbroken.
  • Boil water or filter using a water purifier.
  • Avoid ice in drinks if you are unsure of the water source.
  • Avoid uncovered food which could have been exposed to flies etc.
  • Eating somewhere if you are unsure of their hygiene practices eg street vendor, kiosks.

Travel Advice

Government information on all aspects of travelling, including potential danger areas, laws and customs abroad, and who to contact in case of trouble can be accessed on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website.

The Department of Health, the National Health Service and MASTA (Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad) also have useful travel health information.