Seeking a medical consultation prior to upcoming travel is important for overall well-being and is considered best practice.
As the pandemic wanes and summer travel approaches, it is an apropos time to reiterate the importance of a pre- travel check-in with your internist. It is crucial to remain vigilant about your individual health while traveling, partic- ularly if you are traveling to certain high-risk regions or if you have underlying health conditions. Outlined below are a few items to consider in advance of your next trip.
Pre-travel Consultation: It is advisable to review where you are going with your physician at least 4–6 weeks prior to your departure. The region of travel is an important factor so that your physician can accurately assess what preventative measures are needed due to the uniqueness or prevalence of diseases in that specific location. Sched- uling your consultation 4–6 weeks in advance will allow adequate time to administer any necessary vaccinations, obtain any relevant testing, and assess individual risk to properly prepare. Additionally, if you are currently taking any medications, the destination and length of travel may require an adjustment to your prescription(s).
Vaccinations: Vaccinations are an essential component of travel medicine; some countries require proof of vaccination before entering, so it is important that you are aware of this information in advance. Common pre-travel vaccinations to consider include those for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever, and meningococcal disease. It is important to check with your physician whether these, or any other vaccines, are recommended or required based on where you are visiting. Additionally, traveling always serves as a built-in opportunity for your physician to review your vaccination schedule to ensure that you’re up to date with the everyday recommended vaccines in addition to those necessary for your travels.
Health Risks: Travel can impose unique risks, particularly if the environment, activities, or food and water consumption in the destination is new to the traveler. Vaccines help limit some of these risks, but do not eliminate them altogether. Some of the common health risks associated with interna- tional travel—risks that can disproportionately impact people traveling to a location for the first time—include infectious diseases (malaria, tuberculosis, travelers’ diarrhea), climate-related illnesses (dehydration, altitude sickness, hypothermia), and injury due to poor infrastruc- ture. It is particularly important to prepare in advance if the region’s resources or health systems are limited in their ability to treat these health risks. If you happen to become ill, do your best to contact your internist to help coordinate the appropriate care.
Medical Kits: Consider carrying a medical kit that includes basic first aid supplies such as pain relievers, antihistamines, and antibiotics. However, it is important to consult a physician before assembling a medical kit to ensure that it contains the proper supplies that are appropriate for you and your destination(s). A few supplies to consider include:
- Benadryl for allergic reactions
- Hydrocortisone 1% topical cream for allergic reactions
- Imodium to treat diarrhea
- Meclizine anti-nausea medication
- Omeprazole anti-reflux medication
- Antibiotic ointment such as bacitracin
- Paxlovid may be needed as many countries are low in stock
As an additional resource, the CDC has a useful website covering travel risks, recommendations, and guidance with the ability to customize results to your specific destination: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/