Safe and Healthy Travel
Every year more and more Americans are traveling internationally — for vacation, business, volunteerism and to visit friends and family.
Whatever your reason for traveling, there are precautions you should take to be proactive, prepared and protected when it comes to your health—and the health of others—while you are traveling.
EvergreenHealth's Dr. Frank Riedo is an expert in travel medicine, and offers some advice for anyone exploring outside of the US.
Before You Travel
Why would someone need to see a travel medicine doctor?
Dr. Frank Riedo: Globalization facilitates the spread of disease and increases the number of travelers who will be exposed to a different health environment – an estimated 80 million travelers go annually from developed to developing countries.
Travel medicine is the branch of medicine that deals with the prevention and management of health problems of international travelers.
This typically includes pre-travel consultation and evaluation, contingency planning during travel, and post-travel follow-up and care.
What are some of the most common things I might encounter while traveling?
Dr. Riedo: Many health hazards that can plague a traveler are dependent on the country or region you are traveling to.
It also depends on the type of activities you’ll be doing on your trip – a jungle safari carries a much different risks than a food tour of Thailand.
Among the most medical problems acquired by tourists include the 6 I’s:
- Insects: repellents, mosquito nets, antimalarial medication
- Ingestions: safety of drinking water, food
- Indiscretion: HIV, sexually transmitted disease
- Injuries: accident avoidance, personal safety
- Immersion: schistosomiasis (worms)
- Insurance: coverage and services during travel, access to health care
How can I better prepare for my next international trip?
Dr. Riedo: Before going on any international trip, you should take time learn about the country you are going to, and determine the specific health risks. A good source of information is the CDC.gov website.
You should also visit a doctor for a pre-travel consultation to make sure that you are up-to-date with all of your routine vaccinations, including a seasonal flu vaccine, and consider any recommended vaccines for your destination
If you have recently been sick, or find yourself sick at the time of planned travel, see your doctor to discuss whether you should travel.
What will I get at a pre-travel consultation?
Dr. Riedo: Our providers at EvergreenHealth Infectious Disease and Travel Medicine have traveled extensively and served on medical trips in remote areas and are considered experts in travel medicine and foreign infectious disease.
We'll look at your destination, length of stay, immunization history and general health and provide you with:
- a risk assessment for the area that you'll be visiting
- advice for travelers with chronic conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes
- advice for pregnant travelers, or families traveling with children
- recommendations for antibiotics for the region you'll be visiting to treat any respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments
- recommendations on immunizations you may need; you can even get immunizations during your appointment.
We offer a wide array of immunizations, including those required for travel and routine vaccines. These include:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
- Poliovirus (Polio)
- Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (Tdap)
- For more information regarding specific vaccines, visit http://www.immunize.org/vis/
What do you recommend people bring with them to prepare for possible illness?
Dr. Riedo: While you may not be able to prevent every illness or injury, you can plan ahead to be able to deal with them.
I advise people to pack a travel health kit that includes:
- Prescription medicines you normally take
- Special prescriptions for the trip such as antimalarial medication
- Over the counter medications such as antidiarrheal medication, pain or fever reliever and antihistamines
- Supplies to prevent injury or illness such as insect repellent, sunscreen and antibacterial hand sanitizer
- First aid supplies
What if I become ill after I'm back home?
Dr. Riedo: We tend to bring more than souvenirs home with us - such as respiratory infections or gastrointestinal issues.
If you aren’t getting better, see your doctor and be sure to tell them where you’ve been traveling, because that changes the nature of the testing that will be done to determine the problem and the best treatment.