Besides packing your bags and making sure your passport is current, there’s a lot to think about from a health perspective when going overseas. One of the most important things to do is consult a travel medical clinic to be aware of health advisories of your destination.
Travel medicine clinics offer the following services:
- Travel immunizations and appropriate medications.
- Advice about how to avoid infection.
- Precautions about food and water.
- Country-specific information about health regulations for destinations.
- Vaccination documentation to enter destination countries.
Once you decide your travel plans will take you beyond North America, it’s wise to make an appointment with a travel health expert to discuss your general health and immunization needs.
Why Travel Immunizations are Imperative
Because of the immunizations we receive as children, often travellers will overestimate their protection against some diseases. But in some parts of the world, diseases that haven’t been seen for decades are still spreading.
Common vaccines that may be recommended at travel medicine clinics include:
- Polio and Diphtheria
- Yellow Fever
- Hepatitis A
- Typhoid Fever
- Japanese Encephalitis
Yellow fever is a viral infection that lives in many areas of Africa and South America, primarily transmitted by daytime biting of infected mosquitoes. Requirements for this vaccination are put in place by certain countries to protect both individual travellers and countries from the risk of importing or spreading the yellow fever virus. Travel medicine clinics will know whether this applies to your destination and will provide you with an International Certificate of Vaccination as proof for entry into the country you will be visiting.
Travel medicine clinics consider several other factors to determine whether or not you will need particular vaccines, such as:
- Your risk of exposure to diseases in the places you plan to visit.
- Your age, current health status and vaccination history.
- Presence of any additional risk factors, for example if you are pregnant or have any pre-existing diseases or a condition that might weaken your immune system.
- Reactions to previous vaccine doses and your allergy history.
- Length of visit, where you will be staying and what kinds of activities you will be doing.
To get maximum protection from travel vaccines, ideally you should book an appointment with the travel health clinic four-to-six weeks before your intended travel date. Infectious diseases are often preventable through vaccinations and it’s important to discuss your travel plans with a health professional to ensure you have the appropriate immunizations for your trip.
Advice for Healthier Travels
In some tropical and subtropical countries where infectious diseases are more prevalent, travellers may need to take further precautions against certain conditions like travellers’ diarrhea – a common problem for Canadians travelling to developing countries especially. In fact, some research has shown that nearly half of people who travel each year to countries such as the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia experience travellers’ diarrhea. This gastrointestinal illness is usually caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria or, less frequently with parasites or viruses. Travel medicine clinics provide more advice on food-borne illnesses and possible anti-diarrhea medication.
Booking an appointment with a travel medicine clinic is your first step to having a healthier trip.