One Symptom Travelers Shouldn’t Ignore

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When one goes traveling, the thrill of adventure should be the primary focus. There is nothing like landing in a foreign country and gradually learning and feeling comfortable over a short period of time. But traveling involves one very important aspect: being careful.

And a new study says that means knowing when you might be sick — sicker than you would have imagined. Researchers say there is one symptom that travelers should not ignore, even upon returning home. It is fever. Studying travel-related illnesses from around the world, they say that fever is a symptom that could indicate a potentially serious condition.

They highlight fever in people who have returned home as being something that should be checked out. They took information from about 30 medical clinics (specializing in travel medicine) on six continents to see what the leading travel illnesses were. The study was published, tellingly, in the “Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases.”

Over a decade, nearly 25,000 travelers were treated at these clinics. Nearly 30% of them went to the clinic because of a fever. The most pointed statistic was in the rate of hospitalization: while just three percent of non-fever people were hospitalized, 26% of people with a fever headed were checked into the hospital. That is, clearly, a much greater percentage.

The most common cause of fever was malaria, the culprit behind 21% of cases. Over the study, 12 people died from illnesses — four from malaria. Often transmitted by a mosquito bite, malaria is a common disease in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Many travelers can fall ill after returning home. It presents as a flu-like condition that can strike right away, or months later.

The researchers noted other causes of fever: dengue, rickettsia, and hepatitis. About 17% of travelers had an infection that could have been prevented with a vaccine. That raises the important point of being medically prepared for any trip, especially to subtropical regions of the world.

In the study, those who traveled to south-central Asia, Central and South America, and sub-Saharan Africa were the most likely to develop fever. We live in the era of travel, and a fever is not to be ignored. A fever is when your body’s temperature rises above normal, to around 103° F. It may include such symptoms as muscle aches, headache, shivering, sweating, loss of appetite, dehydration, and overall weakness.