Health Hazards of Travel

hummingbirdsOne of the concerns for folks that travel regularly, is health.  I know it is for me.  I’d like to think I could travel anywhere in the world without a thought of getting sick or injured.  Unfortunately, that would be naive on my part.

What I can do is prepare and educate myself on potential health hazards for a given country or region I plan on visiting.  For instance, its common knowledge we American’s can’t seem to handle the water in Mexico.  Thus, to avoid Montezuma’s revenge, most American’s stick to bottled water, soda, or alcohol when visiting Mexico.  I’m sure the same can be said for Mexicans visiting America.  It’s all about what our bodies are used to.birds of preyIf I were to visit certain foreign countries, I’d probably undergo a slew of shots in an attempt to protect myself from hepatitis, typhoid fever, meningitis, or any other serious medical conditions which might be considered rare in the United States.

mountain wildflowersI remember during my airline days when I would frequent tropical paradises like Hawaii and St. Thomas.  The first five days were always sheer joy and tons of fun.  As the week progressed, I’d be overcome with an unease or even an ill feeling; almost a sense of claustrophobia.  Toward the end of my stay, I couldn’t wait to board that plane for the mainland.  Come to find out, there’s actually a condition called “rock fever”.  Ok, this isn’t anything serious other than a mild phobia, but it did enlighten me. You won’t find me moving to a tropical island anytime soon.  I’ll opt for miles and miles of endless roads any day.

Since I enjoyed plenty of international travels when I was younger, I have no plans to travel outside of North America.  As a full-time RV’er traversing my homeland, what health concerns could I possibly have?  Surprisingly, more than one might think.

prairie dogsLet’s talk about those adorable Prairie Dogs found in the western United States.

I love watching these little guys pop up and then down …. in and out of their mounded burrow.  And their little defensive squawking barks accompanied by the flipping tail is quite entertaining.

I’ve found myself more than once hanging around a prairie dog colony being entertained by their cute antics and trying to capture them on film (film sounds so much better than media card ).  These delightful little rodents can be quick and captivate the attention of not only us two-legged creatures but also our four-legged family members.  I’ve seen many a blogger post about doggie sticking his head in a prairie dog hole or trying to chase these furry rodents.  It’s all I can do not scream at the computer, “NO”!hummingbird

Prairie dogs are known plague carriers.  Yes, you heard me right, Bubonic plague still exists in the United States and is usually contracted from fleas living in the fur of prairie dogs.  These fleas are easily passed on to our pooches, compromising everyone’s health.  Recently near Fort Collins, Colorado, a teenage boy passed away from contracting a rare case of Septicemic plague contracted from prairie dog fleas.

So if you’ve recently been near a prairie dog village and develop flu-like symptoms, it would be wise to seek medical attention immediately.Falcon

There was a time when contracting Lyme disease from deer ticks was an exclusive worry to those living in America’s northeast part of the country.  Although it’s still a huge problem in New England, the disease can be contracted from any infected tick throughout the United States.

BroncoLyme disease is a serious bacterial disease with debilitating consequences.  Thus, a tick bite should never be taken lightly and should even be followed up with immediate medical attention.  You can read about singer – songwriter Avril Lavigne’s Lyme disease journey and struggles here.

Valley Fever?  I don’t know about you, but I never heard the term Valley Fever until we started traveling regularly to Arizona.  Every now and then we would encounter someone informing us they needed to visit a friend in the hospital who was suffering from Valley Fever.

Since we spend our winters in Arizona, I was quick to educate myself on the signs and symptoms of Valley Fever and the fungal spore behind the illness.  Some folks grow up in Phoenix and never ingest a spore while others may visit for a few days and return home with these nasty guys imbedded their lungs.Canadian GeeseThe spores causing Valley Fever live in the dirt of the arid desert southwest and become airborne during windstorms, construction, four-wheeling, or even gardening.  Once airborne the spore can be inhaled – ingested and imbedded in the lining of the lungs.  Depending on the number of spores ingested and the overall health of a person, determines the severity of the symptoms and illness.  Some folks never know they have Valley Fever while others are hospitalized.  It can be fatal.

RobinYou can read more about it here, but there’s one huge fact to understand about Valley Fever especially for travelers.  After returning home, weeks later a person might develop a nagging cough.  The fungal spores on a lung X-ray can mimic cancer and lead to a misdiagnosis. Doctors outside of an arid climate might not be familiar with Valley Fever.

So before jumping to the Big C conclusion, a doctor might need to be informed by the patient that further testing would be prudent to rule out Valley Fever.  Thus, it’s important for anyone traveling to the southwest section of the United States, to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Valley Fever.

ButterfliesAnd last but not least, there’s West Nile.  No one likes being bit by an irritating mosquito.  The itchy welts are bad enough, but now, after being bit, I have to be concerned about contracting the West Nile virus!

So there you have some of “my” health concerns while traveling around the country in our RV; plague, Lyme disease, Valley Fever, and West Nile.  I’m sure my friend Mona Liza would add chiggers to this list.  You can read about her chigger attack here and make sure you don’t meet a similar fate.

Is there a disease or bug where you live that is of particular concern?  Have you ever traveled someplace and been exposed to an unusual health risk?  Feel free to enlighten us in the comments 🙂

Blue Jay

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor or a nurse.  This post is merely meant as entertainment.  It is meant to enlighten and provoke awareness of geographical health concerns and nothing more.

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