Health & safety
Prevention is the key to staying healthy while abroad. A little planning before departure, particularly for pre-existing illnesses will save trouble later. See your dentist before a long trip. Carry a spare pair of contact lenses or glasses, and take your optical prescription with you. Bring medications in their original, clearly labelled, containers. A signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medications, including generic names, is also a good idea. If carrying syringes or needles, be sure to have a physician’s letter documenting their medical necessity.
If you’re an EU citizen, the European Health Insurance Card (which replaced the E111 form in 2006), covers you for most medical care but not for non-emergencies or for emergency repatriation home. You can apply for one online in many EU countries via your government health department’s website. Citizens from other countries should find out if there is a reciprocal arrangement for free medical care between their country and the country visited. If you do need health insurance, make sure you get a policy that covers you for the worst possible scenario, such as an accident requiring an emergency flight home. Find out in advance if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures.
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The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all travellers should be covered for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio, as well as Hepatitis B, regardless of their destination. Since most vaccines don’t produce immunity until at least two weeks after they’re given, visit a physician at least six weeks before departure. There are no specific vaccination requirements for entry to Denmark, other than against yellow fever if you’re coming from an affected area.
The WHO’s publication International Travel and Health is revised annually and is available online at www.who.int/ith/.
Health Advice for Travellers (currently called the ‘T6’ leaflet) is an annually updated leaflet by the UK Department of Health and is available free in post offices. It contains some general information, legally required and recommended vaccines for different countries, reciprocal health agreements and a European Health Insurance Card application form.
Denmark is by and large a very safe country and travelling presents no unusual dangers. Travellers should nevertheless be careful with their belongings, particularly in busy places such as Copenhagen’s Central Station.
In cities, you’ll need to quickly become accustomed to the busy cycle lanes that run beside roads between the vehicle lanes and the pedestrian pavement, as these cycle lanes (and fast-moving cyclists) are easy to veer into accidentally.
Throughout Denmark, dial 112 for police, fire or medical emergency.
Be careful even in hotels; don’t leave valuables lying around in your room. Hostellers should bring a padlock to secure their belongings in the hostel lockers.
Never leave your valuables unattended in parked cars. If you must leave your luggage in a vehicle, be sure that your car has a covered area that keeps bags out of sight and carry the most important items with you. Remove all luggage overnight, even if the car is left in a garage.
If you are unfortunate enough to have something stolen, immediately report it to the nearest police station. If your credit cards or travellers cheques have been taken, notify your bank or the relevant company immediately.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Blood clots may form in the legs during plane flights, chiefly because of prolonged immobility. The longer the flight, the greater the risk. The chief symptom of DVT is swelling or pain of the foot, ankle or calf, usually but not always on just one side. When a blood clot travels to the lungs, it may cause chest pain and breathing difficulties. Travellers with any of these symptoms should immediately seek medical attention.
To prevent the development of DVT on long flights you should walk about the cabin, contract the leg muscles while sitting, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid alcohol and tobacco.
Availability & cost of health care
Good health care is readily available and for minor self-limiting illnesses pharmacists can give valuable advice and sell over the counter medication. They can also advise when more specialised help is required and point you in the right direction. The standard of dental care is usually good, however, it is sensible to have a dental check-up before a long trip. The largest (nondispensing) chemist chain in Denmark with more than 200 outlets is Matas.
Tickborne encephalitis is spread by tick bites. It is a serious infection of the brain and vaccination is advised for those in risk areas who are unable to avoid tick bites (such as campers, forestry workers and hikers). Two doses of vaccine will give a year’s protection, three doses up to three years’.
Heat exhaustion & hypothermia
Denmark has a fairly mild climate year-round and visitors are not at excessive risk from either of these conditions. It is surprisingly easy however, to become over-exposed to the sun in a temperate climate, even on a cloudy day, and to become dangerously cold in mild, damp weather if out cycling or hiking.
Heat exhaustion occurs following excessive fluid loss with inadequate replacement of fluids and salt. Symptoms include headache, dizziness and tiredness. Dehydration is already happening by the time you feel thirsty – aim to drink sufficient water to produce pale, diluted urine. To treat heat exhaustion drink replacement fluids with water and/or fruit juice, and cool the body with cold water and fans. Treat salt loss with salty fluids such as soup or Bovril, or add a little more table salt to foods than usual.
Acute hypothermia follows a sudden drop of temperature over a short time. Chronic hypothermia is caused by a gradual loss of temperature over hours. Hypothermia starts with shivering, loss of judgment and clumsiness. Unless rewarming occurs, the sufferer deteriorates into apathy, confusion and coma. Prevent further heat loss by seeking shelter, warm dry clothing, hot sweet drinks and shared bodily warmth.
Insect bites & stings
Mosquitoes are found in most parts of Europe, they may not carry malaria but can cause irritation and infected bites. Use a DEET-based insect repellent. Bee and wasps stings only cause real problems to those with a severe allergy (anaphylaxis.) If you have a severe allergy to bee or wasp stings carry an ‘epipen’ or similar adrenaline injection.
Emotional stress, exhaustion and travelling through different time zones can all contribute to an upset in the menstrual pattern. If using oral contraceptives, remember some antibiotics, diarrhoea and vomiting can stop the pill from working and lead to the risk of pregnancy – remember to take condoms with you just in case. Time zones, gastrointestinal upsets and antibiotics do not affect injectable contraception.
Travelling during pregnancy is usually possible but always consult your doctor before planning your trip. The most risky times for travel are during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and after 30 weeks.
Emergency contraception is most effective if taken within 24 hours after unprotected sex. The International Planned Parent Federation (www.ippf.org) can advise about the availability of contraception in different countries.
When buying condoms, look for a European CE mark, which means it has been rigorously tested, and then keep them in a cool dry place.