Going Abroad? Visit a Travel Clinic First

Keep from getting sick while abroad

couple enjoying vacation in Europe

Whether you’re planning to soak up the sun in Mexico, do business in China or go on safari in Africa, any travel outside of the country carries some health risks.

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Experts say the best way to protect yourself is to visit an international travel health clinic. Studies show that taking the precaution of visiting a travel health clinic makes you seven times less likely to get sick during your travels.

At a travel health clinic, a doctor will review your travel destinations and planned activities, then offer advice, vaccines and medication as needed — all tailored to your travel plans.

“People need to know the risks associated with places they plan to visit,” says travel medicine physician’s assistant Nancy Ivansek, PA-C. “ Travel clinics offer a full array of protective advice and preventive medications.” she adds.

For the best advice, just be sure the clinic you visit is recognized by the International Society of Travel Medicine, she cautions.

“As in every other medical specialty, the drugs and recommendations needed to protect a traveler against certain illnesses change over time, so it’s important that the provider giving the  travel health advice is current on world health information,” Ms. Ivansek says.

“And it’s our job to stay up-to-date on the latest health and safety concerns around the world,” she adds.

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What does a travel clinic offer?

Travel clinics offer:

  • Vaccines and medications as appropriate
  • Advice about how to avoid infection
  • Precautions about food and water
  • Information about health regulations for destination countries
  • Documentation to enter destination countries
  • Materials about health insurance coverage for international travelers

Why might I need immunizations?

We tend to overestimate our protection against some diseases because of the immunizations we receive as children. However, in some parts of the world, diseases we haven’t seen in the United States for decades are still spreading. When we travel to certain parts of the world, we may need a booster shot to be protected.

“Take pertussis, for example,” says Ms. Ivansek. “One of the reasons there is a worldwide epidemic is that, as adults, we are not protected unless we get a booster. Having an up-to-date immunization will protect you in crowded quarters where you’re more vulnerable, like in an airplane,” she says.

“Another example is polio,” Ms. Ivansek says. “While it has been wiped out in the United States, it is still common in Nigeria, Niger, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. If the immunity from your childhood vaccination has waned, you can put yourself at risk for the disease by traveling to areas that still have polio ,” she says.

Here is a list of common vaccines that may be recommended at a travel clinic:

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  • Polio and Diptheria/Pertussis/Tetanus (DTP)
  • Yellow fever vaccine (required to travel to some countries)
  • Routine flu vaccine
  • Hepatitis A vaccine (may be recommended if food is a concern)
  • Typhoid vaccine

What medications might I need?

In tropical or subtropical countries where illness is endemic, travelers need to take special precautions against these conditions:

  • Malaria – May require antimalerial medication, education and recommendations to avoid insect-borne illnesses
  • Gastrointestinal disorders – May require education, advice on food-borne illnesses and possible anti-diarrhea medication

Once you’re home

If you notice fatigue that lasts longer than normal jet lag, or you have a fever, diarrhea or rashes, you should return to a travel health clinic for a post-trip evaluation.

Also, for at least one year after your trip, make sure your physicians know you’ve been out of the country recently. That way, they can consider all possible causes when looking at any new symptoms you develop.

To find a travel health clinic in your area, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

More information

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