If you are getting ready for a trip abroad, there are a lot of health-related considerations you should keep in mind in the weeks leading up to your departure. A consultation with a travel health provider at a specialized clinic will assure that you have accurate information and take the necessary precautions based on your personal travel itinerary.
Some travelers might have concerns regarding whether it’s better to visit a travel clinic or just make an appointment with their primary care physicians. Everyone’s different, but while it’s understandable that you may feel more comfortable with your primary care physician with whom you are already well-acquainted, the specialty-factor of travel clinics makes them more convenient for most travelers. At travel clinics, common travel vaccines and medicines are always on hand, and doctors keep up-to-date on the latest travel information on a country-by-country basis, a large task a primary care physician may not devote much time to. Travel clinics also tend to offer more accommodating hours for those busy pre-trip schedules.
Travel clinics always have important vaccinations for travelers in stock, and can also provide you with the certification proving that you’ve been immunized against yellow fever, a requirement for entry into some African and South American countries. The Center for Disease Control lists required and recommended vaccines for specific countries on their website, so if your destinations require vaccines, be sure to schedule your appointment 4-6 weeks before your trip, so the vaccinations have time to take full effect within your body.
But vaccinations aside, there’s still a lot to consider and discuss at your appointment with your travel health provider. Sharing your full itinerary with your provider during consultation is the best way to ensure you don’t miss any important information. Be sure to discuss any pre-existing conditions with your provider so he or she can instruct you on how to best care for yourself abroad. Depending on your destination, you should stock up on necessary prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines, as they may not be available overseas.
A travel health provider can help you plan for geography-specific issues such as altitude sickness for places 6,000 feet or more above sea-level. They can also help determine whether the water in your destination is safe to drink without treatment, whether you will be at an increased-risk of foodborne illness, or if you’ll need to use antimalarial drugs.
Sharing your specific activity plans with your doctor is also important. For example, if you expect to be in contact with livestock or other animals while abroad, be sure to inform your provider, as this may expose you to foot and mouth disease, or require a rabies shot. Your travel health provider can also offer you valuable advice on what to do in the event of an emergency, including information about using medical insurance abroad and how to obtain emergency medical treatment in foreign countries and rural areas.
Remember at your consultation your travel doctor is there to help you, and there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Your provider can even give you tips on how to minimize jet lag!
While you’re planning, consider emergency preparedness for non-medical emergencies as well: natural disasters, political instability, terrorism, piracy, burglary, and passport, visa and driver’s license issues are all important factors with the potential to affect your health, safety, and enjoyment while traveling, and should be taken into consideration.