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Advice for those visiting relatives

This advice identifies a few key points you should consider in advance of your trip - it is not comprehensive. Although overseas trips should be planned in advance sometimes they are at short notice, for example, because a relative is ill.


Unfamiliar surroundings and alcohol consumption often result in accidents. Beware of sea currents and take especial care crossing roads. Sharp objects and discarded glass on beaches can injure your feet.

Insect and animal bites

Even if you are familiar with the country you are visiting you may now have become allergy once again to mosquito bite saliva and don't forget malaria. There is no rabies in Britain so dogs are usually considered friendly and infection free - this is not so in many countries.

Stomach upsets and diarrhoea

Contaminated food and water is a major cause of illness in countries with poor hygiene. Although eating and drinking is often safe in the good circumstances of your relatives homes, this is not always the case. Avoiding unsafe food and water can be difficult when being entertained by enthusiastic hosts unless you plan in advance! Unaccustomed spices or oil in food as well as alcohol can also lead to stomach upsets. You should consider taking an antidiarrhoeal preparation.

Tiredness and jet lag

Tiredness and jet lag may affect you more than you expect especially on short visits. Rest before travel is important.

Culture shock

Cultural and social differences can be confusing even if your ethnic origin is in the country you are visiting. Problems may include adjusting to a different climate, religious practices, separation from family and friends at home, changes in living standards, different social amenities, language differences, coming to terms with poverty, begging, and compulsory movement restrictions for safety or political reasons. Many problems can be overcome through experience and sympathetic support from family and friends.


Vaccinations take time: Consult your doctor or nurse as soon as possible. Late bookings can leave insufficient time for vaccinations to become fully effective. Even if you grew up abroad you may now have lost immunity to certain diseases such as typhoid that previously did not concern you.
Tetanus and diphtheria vaccination is important for those likely to sustain injuries (tetanus) or mix closely with the local population (diphtheria). For countries where these diseases are still common you should to receive boosters every 10 years and everyone should have completed their normal British childhood schedule.
There is an increasing risk from tuberculosis for those visiting many of the high-risk areas and mixing with the local population. Remember protection from BCG is only achieved after about 4-6 weeks. Boosters are not normally required.
Meningococcal type A vaccine is mainly a risk for those visiting risk areas in sub-Saharan Africa who will be mixing closely with the local population, as might be the case if you are returning home for a family gathering such as a wedding.
Hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines are important for those who are not able to be careful about their food and water hygiene in risk areas. Eating with your relatives may be reasonably safe but accidents happen and eating out may be risky in poorer countries.
Influenza vaccine can be considered for those who might get a more severe illness such as those with existing chest problems. Remember the 'flu' season in the Southern Hemisphere is from April to November. You also do not want to go out with influenza to infect your relatives.
Rabies vaccination can be important if you are going to be more than a day or two from good medical facilities. However when visiting relatives a trusted doctor is usually near at hand.
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is necessary for entering certain African and South American countries. Don't let the certificate go out of date.

Malaria prevention

When you cannot be sure that your accommodation will ensure good mosquito protection, you must consider taking a good mosquito net. Sensible clothing to protect the skin from bites and careful use of mosquito repellents is also important. If your advisor recommends anti-malaria tablets make sure you take then correctly. Do not be tempted to ignore these precautions because your relatives say they never get malaria - they may be immune due to repeated infections.
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