Cruising – How to Stay Healthy

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Cruising continues to be increasingly popular for many travellers. Cruise ships are like small cities on the sea. In our busy lives, being able to visit several destinations in a relatively short period of time without having to move from one hotel to another is an attractive option for many. Cruise ships are also stylish and sophisticated and usually have an impressive arrange of entertainment and facilities. Whether you are after a family holiday or an adventure, cruising has something for everyone. Here are some travel tips to ensure smooth sailing!

1. Managing Conditions on Board

Make sure you are well before boarding a cruise ship for a holiday. If you have a chronic illness, ensure you have a medical review with your family doctor 6-8 weeks before leaving. Your doctor will ensure you are fit enough to travel, and advise on appropriate vaccinations. Take a medical kit for minor ailments, and speak with your doctor about medications such as antibiotics that may be used to self-treat certain conditions. Medical advice should always be sought if you become unwell on the ship.

2. Sea Sickness

If you are prone to sea sickness, request a cabin on the lower level towards the centre. Refrain from having a heavy meal before you board the vessel. Eat light and simple meals whilst on board, and try to avoid alcohol. Lying down where possible assists in resting the inner ear canal which contains small crystals that are sensitive to movement and vibration. Ginger works within the gastrointestinal tract, by increasing the gastric motility and it is also reported to increase gastric emptying. Medication is available such as hyoscine-hydrobromide (KwellsT) which helps to regulate brain signalling. Take the medication 30-60 mins before you depart. Repeat the dose after 4 hours if necessary. Always speak with your doctor before taking new medications.

3. Infections on board

The most frequent infections on cruise ships are respiratory illnesses such as influenza and gastrointestinal infections. Transmission is facilitated by large numbers of individuals clustered in close proximity to each other. An infectious agent introduced into the environment of a cruise ship has the potential to spread widely across the ship and cause significant illness amongst passengers. Noroviruses are common causes of viral gastroenteritis, and outbreaks have increased on cruise ships. The Norovirus causes stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea. Passengers with the virus are often confined to their cabins to prevent the spread of the illness.

Be sure to wash your hands regularly, especially before meals, after using the toilet and finishing activities. A good idea is to take a hand sanitiser to use frequently when travelling. Beware of the buffet! Bugs, including Noroviruses can thrive in foods that are kept at room temperature. You must inform medical staff immediately if you are unwell with such symptoms.

4. Sunburn and dehydration

You don’t have to be lying by the pool to get sun-burnt. Taking part in water sport activities, walking the streets of local towns, or enjoying the white sandy beaches in exotic locations can expose exposed you to high levels of UV radiation. Make sure you cover up with long sleeved clothing and wear plenty of sunscreen on any exposed skin. To avoid becoming dehydrated, drink plenty of water and avoid excessive alcohol. If doing activities, you may benefit from fluids with added electrolytes.

5. Use of the Ships’ Doctor

The American College of Emergency Physicians has stated that ships must have at least one doctor and one additional clinical provider such as a nurse or doctor, on call 24 hours per day. If unwell, you must inform the medical staff on the ship. The doctors will use their own discretion to decide when a passenger needs to be transferred to a health facility at port. Remember, if you receive treatment by the on-board doctor, you will have to pay for it up front, and then make a claim to seek reimbursement from your travel insurance company.



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Australian Medicines Handbook, Jan 2017