Thursday, May 10, 2012

Honeymoon drugs

I am not talking about anything illegal, or even anything hippy/herbal. I'm talking about essential drugs for awesome destinations.

Depending on where you go, drugs may be easily available (Europe), available but expensive (USA), available but dodgy if you don't know what you're doing (most of Asia), or not available at all (Pacific Islands). Before you set off on your honeymoon you need to know this.

Start your health planning at least six weeks before you depart. Some vaccines need more than one dose, or time to be fully effective. See your healthcare professional (GP), but you can get some idea of what you might need before then.

The NHS website fit for travel is great. It covers all the bases, tells you about precautions, vaccines and recommendations. I think it lacks information about one key area, and that's what I'm going to talk about. Malaria prophylaxis.

As a travel junkie and healthcare professional, my friends often ask for my advice about this. Prophylaxis means prevention, and that's definitely the key. It's all out there, and it's not rocket science; try to get bitten less. Cover up at dusk, wear mozzie repellent, use nets and coils in the room at night if needed, if you have a 'proper' room keep the door shut when the light's on. If you're like me, you'll still get bitten, so drugs also have a role.

There are a variety of drugs, and not all will be effective where you're going. For Vanuatu (where we're going in August) the NHS advise Atovaquone/proguanil OR doxycycline OR mefloquine. This is the question I get asked - how do you decide which to take?

Doxycycline is cheap, but it's an antibiotic. If you're on the pill, it's not the right choice. It can also irritate your stomach and make your skin more sun sensitive. Having said that, it's what we'll be taking and we've used it twice before. Mefloquine (Lariam) can rarely cause serious side effects such as hallucinations; if you've never taken it your honeymoon may not be the time to try it! Malarone (atovaquone/proguanil) has the least side effects, but is expensive (prices are comparative based on the UK). That's my 'key facts' summary - the decision is yours!

Your GP will give you a private prescription (not an NHS one), so don't just go to your nearest chemist, shop around and get quotes from a few places. In my experience independent chemists or Chemist Direct are a lot cheaper than Boots.

The hard part is remembering to take them, especially after you come home (continuing for a month after leaving the country is common). I suggest putting them with your toothbrush!


Ainhoa @ALittleBite said...

Good point! We're going to the US West Coast on our honeymoon (we're booking the flights tonight, yippee!) so I think we're covered... we do need to get some sort of travel insurance though.

H said...

Your honeymoon route looks fab, but you'll definitely need good insurance! Maybe that should be the next post..

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