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Illness & injury

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We can all expect to have bouts of illness during a long field trip. Possible illnesses range from minor stomach and respiratory problems to acquisition of serious contagious diseases. In the worst case, fieldworkers have died after not being able to get treatment. It is important to ensure that you have a good understanding of preventative measures and treatments for any locally endemic diseases in your field site area (e.g. malaria).

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, you need to discuss these with your doctor, and others including the Insurance Office, so that you know how best to deal with them before you leave. If you are going to be a long distance from good hospitals and have such a condition, you may want to change your fieldwork situation. This will always be respected by RCLT. It is your responsibility to inform the University of any pre-existing condition and a medical certificate from your doctor verifying your ability to travel may be required before your trip is approved.

There are currently no limitations on travel for staff members who are pregnant, provided their doctor deems that they are fit to travel. Airline policies may include limitations on overseas and/or domestic travel and these should be checked before confirming any bookings.

Injuries may range from minor injuries through to serious injury in car or bus crashes, or other accidents. In many places differences in safety standards and infrastructure mean that the risks involved in travel may be significantly different to what you are generally used to. Always take local warnings about travel dangers seriously.

Questions you need to know the answers to:

  • Are there any illnesses endemic to the area?
  • How will I manage prevention of these?
  • Where is the nearest hospital and doctor?
  • Do I know how to get there, quickly?
  • Do I have a plan to get back home if I need to?
  • Have I made a will and given instructions for what is to be done to my research tapes, notes etc., if I die in the field?
  • If I am travelling a long distance, does someone at the other end know I am coming, who can inform people about an accident if it occurs? 

I was travelling on a motorbike in India when a stone punctured a tyre and I fell, deeply cutting my hand. I went to a local hospital to have the wound stitched up and I was prescribed antibiotics. After about two weeks of regular attendance at a hospital to have the dressings changed and the wound cleaned, the wound was still badly infected and was showing signs of necrosis. I decided to go to Bangkok for further treatment. It was my view that the hygiene levels at the Indian hospitals were well below acceptable standards and so was not willing to risk my health further at Indian hospitals.

-- Seino van Breugel