Travel & Expedition Medicine

Travel & Expedition Medicine

Many individuals often travel to seek new adventures, to push new boundaries in order to achieve things that are a little out of the ordinary. However, with these more extreme challenges comes the increased risk of medical problems. Research suggests that one in three people travelling abroad will fall ill during their sojourn. For those travelling to intense environments or to participate in extreme undertakings, this number increases. Services Available:
  • Travel packages that cover preparation, health optimisation, testing & physical activity.
  • Travel Medical & Security courses to protect you in all eventualities.
  • 24/7 Medical Reach back - so that you always have someone to call on no matter where you are in the world.

It’s important to be well prepared health-wise for trips of this nature, to ensure you get the most out of your adventure.

We, at CHHP, have the expertise to offer a specialised medical assessment for those undertaking these types of challenges. Our specialist doctors offer a unique service as they themselves have a vast experience in these harsher environments. Our unique assessments can involve individual training plans and one to one personal training sessions. Whether it is the actual activity you are participating in that is extreme or the environment to which you are travelling, we can ensure you are physically at your best to achieve the goals you set out to.

Although we have a forte in dealing with extreme events, we are also more than happy to assess and advise on those who travel further afield due to work, such as frequent business travellers or those who travel for leisure such as on a family holiday.

Environmental Health Risks

As well as ensuring you are physically fit enough to go on your adventure, there are various health risks you need to be prepared for depending upon the environment you are visiting.
Those with specific medical conditions will find that certain environments can significantly worsen their medical condition placing their health at risk.

Mountain and altitude

A mountain itself can have a range of different climates that present a challenge within itself. Over just a few days you have the potential to experience intense tropical weather to glacial regions, each of which have their own unique risks (see other environmental health risks). So as well as needing to be fit enough to potentially ascend hundreds of metres each day, you also need to ensure you are in the best shape to efficiently deal with this change in climate.

Above 1,500 metres one’s body will change physiologically due to the high altitude. It’s not just mountains that are above this level,there are numerous areas and cities in the world that are significantly above this altitude. Our bodies aren’t designed to live at such great heights, as we need certain levels of oxygen to live. The problem with high altitude is that there is a decrease in atmospheric pressure and that means there is less oxygen available to us. This can be difficult for those in good physical health to cope with unless they are fully informed and prepared beforehand. Those with medical conditions can be placing themselves at risk, as even some conditions that do not cause problems at sea level can be dangerous at high altitude.

There have been a few trials to see if it is possible to predict whether someone will get sick with altitude sickness but so far they have failed to reveal a useful test.
A thorough health assessment and useful pre-trip information can help mitigate those risks, in addition to assessing the effects altitude has on medical conditions to ensure you are fully prepared.

Desert and heat

Visiting environments that are particularly hot, such as deserts, has become increasingly popular. Those who combine this heat with demanding activities, such as hiking, biking, or general outdoor activities, are at an increased risk. This risk is especially heightened in travellers coming from cool or temperate climates that are not acclimatised to the heat and are in poor physical condition.

Two major factors that affect a person’s response to extreme heat are cardiovascular status and dehydration. Dehydration in particular cuts time to exhaustion and reduces exercise performance. There is also a direct correlation to the level of dehydration and increase in heart rate and body temperature.

Minor heat conditions, such as heat cramps and heat oedema, to major heat disorders, such as heat exhaustion and exercise-associated hyponatremia, can all be easily avoided when given the correct advice and training. We offer sound expert advice from informing you on specialist clothing, physical conditioning to effective fluid and electrolyte replacement.

Polar and cold

When travelling to cold areas, such as the polar regions, a major concern is hypothermia. This is when the body loses more heat than it can produce, resulting in a gradual decline in body temperature. It’s not just extreme cold that can lead to hypothermia. Wind, rain, and humidity can produce the condition even with temperatures around 10°C.

Extended exposure to cold air can also cause the skin’s blood vessels to contract, reducing blood flow to the body’s extremities. If left untreated, this can cause cold related conditions, ranging from nonfreezing cold injuries (e.g. chilblains and trench foot) to freezing injuries (e.g. frostbite).

Some medical conditions can affect the way you feel or respond to cold, which can become a major concern when staying in extreme environments. These conditions can include dehydration, exhaustion, diabetes, thyroid problems, peripheral neuropathy and circulatory problems as well as the side- effects of different medications. Cold can also be an irritant to the lungs and upper respiratory tract, meaning respiratory problems, such as asthma, have the increased potential to flare up. These conditions don’t mean you shouldn’t visit these areas, but it’s important to learn how to manage the condition.

Jungle and tropical

Hot humid environments, such as the tropics, provide ideal conditions for a number of diseases, or their vectors, to survive and spread. This means travelers who visit these environments need to be aware of the regional common diseases and how to prevent and deal with them. Of particular importance are vector mosquito species, which spread malaria and viral diseases such as dengue and yellow fever. Vaccinations or other precautions such as anti-malarial medication may be necessary to ensure your safety in these regions.

Tropical sun is much stronger than in Northern latitudes. You need to manage your time in the sun, avoiding the heat of the day (see heat related health risks). This is especially important if you are being particularly active, such as partaking in sports, as sun overexposure can reduce your performance.

For more information please contact us on 0207 637 7677 or email