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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Respiratory Tract Infections

These are second only to diarrhoea as causes of illness in travellers due to infection.

The stress of travel, dry aircraft cabin atmosphere, smoking more than usual and crowding, for example, in airports, aircraft cabins, hotels and clubs will also contribute. Sometimes respiratory symptoms are due to exposure to new allergens and city air pollution.

  • Influenza is most common in the southern hemisphere during their winter season, which is summer in the northern hemisphere and visa-versa. Vaccination should be considered for those at risk of serious disease.
  • Meningococcal infections are also spread through the respiratory route and outbreaks do occur Africa. Vaccination should be considered for those at risk in endemic areas during outbreaks.
  • Legionnaires' disease (legionellosis) has been linked to contaminated water used in water cooled air conditioning systems and sometimes showers. It can be a serious illness, particularly in those with pre-existing health problems. Unlike many other respiratory infections, legionnaire's disease is not spread person to person. 

These infections are difficult to prevent because of the ease with which most are spread from person to person. Those liable to chest infections may benefit from taking an 'emergency' course of antibiotics with them.

If you are concerned about any of the above, seek advice from your own GP or nurse.

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