So, you have been planning a trip for quite some time now and you think you have covered all your bases. Have you taken into account your health and the potential risks that you may be exposed to in the country that you will be visiting? Do you know if there are any health hazards that may require you to obtain a vaccination prior to you leaving home? With that in mind, we have put together some important ‘need to know’ information on travel-related illnesses and vaccinations that one needs when visiting certain countries abroad.
Why should a person visit their local travel clinic prior to their trip abroad?
A visit to your local travel clinic, also commonly referred to as a passport health travel clinic, prior to your departure abroad will benefit you in the long run as you will be given a wealth of information that will assist you in maintaining good health whilst traveling and obtain the applicable vaccinations and certificates for countries that require it.
During your consultation, you will be informed of ways in which you can reduce your risk of being exposed to potentially hazardous food and water, diseases caused by parasites and illnesses such as dengue fever and malaria which are transmitted by mosquitoes, should you be traveling to countries where these are of concern.
Helpful tips such as how to handle jet lag, how to prevent altitude sickness and even how to organize and pack your own medical kit are just a few of the topics that will be covered.
Those living and traveling with HIV, or any other serious medical condition, such as being an organ transplant recipient, will receive a specially tailor-made consultation which is best suited to the need at hand to ensure sufficient preparation for the upcoming trip.
Over and above this, you will receive comprehensive information on yellow fever and any other potential diseases based on the country you intend to visit as well as advice on the following:
- Travel vaccinations and medications needed
- Specialty travel health products/items
- Safety & security information as well as e-travel alerts
- Medical insurance
Can I visit my family doctor instead of a travel clinic consultant?
It is advisable that you rather make the appointment to meet with a health travel clinic physician due to the fact that they manage a large number of travel vaccines that are often difficult to find in one place and can prevent yellow fever, hepatitis A, typhoid fever and an array of diseases and illnesses common in countries around the world.
What can be expected from an appointment with a travel clinic consultant?
On average consultation with a travel clinic specialist will be around the 45-minute mark which would entail a detailed itinerary with a host of information about the specific destination you intend to visit. A travel clinic consultant will discuss and supply you with information from the WHO (World Health Organization), CDC, (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and a few other reputable sources. A list of medical vaccinations that are required pertaining to the country you are going to visit will be provided and would need to be facilitated prior to your intended departure date.
You will also be given the opportunity to have all your medical and health-related questions answered before you travel and get health and wellness tips tailored to you.
How far in advance should I make my appointment with the travel clinic?
Most of the travel vaccines that are administered require a two-week period in order to take effect. It is therefore essential that you contact your travel health clinic in advance to make the appointment and to ensure that you have enough time to allow the vaccine to do its job prior to your trip.
What to do in case of a chronic illness?
Like everything in life, it depends. If your chronic illness allows you to travel and you feel confident doing so, the answer is pretty straightforward: prepare accordingly. Here are a few tips to do so:
- Adjust the duration, season and travel pace to what you are able to actually do. And remember to have a plan B in case you experience more pain than normal or have a flare-up.
- Take all the prescriptions of your medicines with you. Some countries will require you to show them on arrival.
- That said, check your meds are legal where you are headed. Opioid painkillers, for instance, are banned in a few countries and you won’t be able to find them there either. But worry not, this world is quite large and there’s such a wide array of destinations that allow you to travel with them. Head there instead.
- Pack comfy clothes. If you experience bloat or need to be bed-ridden for a few days to recover from a flare-up, having the right clothes with you makes all the difference.
- Remember travel is not a competition and avoid comparing your happiness, body, life challenges, or what not with other people realities. Everyone is fighting their own battle.
Are travel vaccines really required prior to traveling abroad?
Every person has their own customized itinerary, and so with that being said, a travel clinic will take this into account and base your consultation around the countries and areas that you will be visiting. Travel Clinics will often suggest and recommend a yellow fever vaccination for some travelers, but sometimes not for others. More often than not, the travel vaccinations that are generally recommended are as follows:
- Yellow Fever
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Standard / Routine immunizations (if yours are not up to date)
Factors that determine the type of travel vaccine/s required include:
- The specific countries that you intend to visit or pass through
- The duration of time that will be spent in that country
- The type of accommodation (whether it be a hostel/backpacker’s lodge or five-star hotel/resort)
- The season (time of year, i.e. rainy or dry seasons)
- Sea level (elevation). Will you be at sea level or will you be above the tree line?
- Your personal medical and immunization history
- Whether you are traveling in urban or rural areas
- Existing outbreaks in the countries you’ll be visiting
What does a vaccine actually do?
A vaccine is a bio-engineered pharmaceutical that tricks the human body into thinking it is being invaded by an infectious component so that your immune system can consolidate and build up its defense mechanisms against a particular illness. It does this by creating applicable antibodies to fight off the invader. As a result of a lasting ‘memory’, if you will, is then left behind allowing your immune system to recognize and subdue the potential threat should any disease based agents enter your body once again and this offsets the threat of becoming ill with a disease that you have been immunized against during your trip.
Do my children need to be vaccinated before traveling?
The short answer is yes. It is vitally important that your children are vaccinated prior to traveling and the most common vaccines include:
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Yellow Fever
Just a reminder that if your children are below 18 years of age, you as a parent or a legal guardian would need to be present in order for the travel clinic physician to administer the vaccination.
Top ten travel destinations that require travel vaccinations:
**Note: If you are traveling to a destination outside of the counties that are mentioned above, it’s best to contact your local travel health clinic to confirm what vaccinations/medications may be required.