Global mobility is a vital part of business in today’s world. In 2006 the number of UK employees making overseas business trips reached 7.1 million a year.
Given these numbers, it is vital that employers understand the potential impact of travel-related health issues, particularly as business and leisure travellers face different types of health risks.
To ensure the health and wellbeing of staff during business travel, employers must be aware of the consequences and impact of travel-related issues. A coherent health management strategy will ensure business continuity and less disruption to core activity.
So, what should employers consider communicating as part of a thorough plan?
Not only do vaccines protect an employee from illness, they also help to prevent widespread outbreaks. Official guidance recommends beginning a vaccine course at least four to six weeks prior to travel. But even a last-minute jab can be useful if time is short, providing at least partial protection.
Prevent malaria. Each year, more than 10,000 travellers become ill with malaria, a disease that can develop so quickly that any delay in diagnosis and treatment may be life threatening.
Around 3.2 billion people are at risk worldwide but the good news is that malaria is both preventable and treatable.
The ABCDE of malaria prevention offers ideal guidance for travellers, who should be aware of the symptoms and avoid mosquito bites, especially between dusk and dawn. Chemoprophylaxis (antimalarial medication) should be used to prevent infection, if prescribed, and a diagnosis sought if a fever develops one or more weeks after being in a malarial area.
And finally, travellers should always carry a stand-by emergency treatment kit if available.
Carry prescription medications
For many travellers – 48% of adults in England – it is necessary to carry medication for personal use across international borders. But it’s worth noting that the rules around prescription and over-the-counter medications vary by country and violation of medication transport rules can lead to serious consequences, even if the violation was unintentional.
These problems can be prevented with preparation before departure. Travellers should carry an ample supply of medication and check the rules of their destination country.
If required, they should carry a copy of their prescription, together with a doctor’s letter .
Don’t underestimate jet lag
Nearly 93% of travellers who fly through different time zones experience this temporary physiological condition which is caused by disturbance to the body’s natural circadian rhythm, or internal clock.
It can cause fatigue, broken sleep, irritability, difficulty concentrating and an inability to make decisions.
Symptoms are not welcomed by the business traveller who will want to hit the ground running.
Business travellers should try to adjust their sleep cycle by a couple of hours before departure, and on arrival at their destination.
Protect against deep vein thrombosis
There is ongoing concern among airplane travellers about the development of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and the possible associated complications during a flight. DVT has an annual incidence of one in 1,000 people and anyone can develop it.
However, smoking, pregnancy, obesity and reduced blood flow due to illness, injury or recent surgery are known to increase the risk.
Loose clothing and regular leg movement and stretches will help. Those identified as being at higher risk should consider graduated support stockings, which have been shown to decrease the incidence of DVT.
Regular travel can have a negative impact on an employee’s health, which in turn can lead to reduced productivity, sickness and absenteeism.
By implementing a few simple measures, including providing comprehensive business travel guidance to staff, as well as health and wellbeing strategies, these can be avoided.