People come into contact with microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and viruses more often when they are travelling. Microorganisms can get into the body and cause infections or diseases. To prevent this the human body has various protective mechanisms. One of these is the immune system which contains immune cells and proteins which together fight infections. This system is dysfunctional in people with an immune disorder and the body is therefore more susceptible to infection.
An immune disorder can be congenital or acquired. In the latter case it may be caused by an infection, a blood disorder or the use of certain medications (such as Prednisone or Imuran).
Due to their reduced resistance, people with an immune disorder may respond differently to vaccinations than healthy travellers. A vaccine may be less effective and the risk of complications associated with it higher. Depending upon the type of disorder, “live” vaccines may be ruled out. Additional vaccinations may also be necessary due to the increased risk of contracting certain infectious diseases.
The risk of contracting malaria is no greater than that of healthy travellers. However a malaria attack may well be more severe in persons with an immune disorder. Taking the appropriate medication for the prevention and treatment of malaria and measures to prevent mosquito bites are, therefore, even more important. Consider the use of a mosquito repellent (DEET), long clothing, insect screens at windows and doors and impregnated mosquito nets. Emergency treatment may be given on the advice of a specialist if malaria is contracted.
Whether or not antibiotics should be taken to prevent traveller's diarrhoea should be discussed with a vaccination specialist. Individuals can themselves reduce the risk of traveller’s diarrhoea by following basic hygiene rules, for example washing hands before every meal. A drug passport containing all the relevant information about a person’s health, medications and/or known allergies is recommended. In addition, carry a letter - written in English - from a consultant explaining the nature of the immune disorder.