A healthy trip starts at home

6/4/2012

By: Jennifer DiFrancesco, NP and Angela Bradley, NP​

When preparing for an international vacation, many travelers often forget to add one critical task: visit a health care provider for pre-travel advice. Doing so can be the difference between a trip to remember, and one you’d rather forget.

As international travel increases and destinations become more exotic, proper planning for safe and healthy traveling has become more necessary than ever before. Unfortunately, the majority of travelers from the United States and other countries do not seek pre-travel health advice.

Ideally, travelers should make an appointment with a health care provider or travel medicine provider six to eight weeks before a trip. Most vaccines take time to become effective in the body, and some must be administered as a series over a period of days or weeks.

Vaccines for travel are divided into three categories: routine, recommended and required. While health care providers will tell you which ones you should have, it is best to be aware of them ahead of time.

Routine: Vaccines against diseases that rarely occur in the United States but remain common in other parts of the world.

Recommended: Vaccines to prevent spread of infectious disease across international borders. Need determined by destination, season of travel, age, health status and previous immunizations.

Required: Vaccination for yellow fever is required by International Health Regulations for travel to certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America.

The risk of becoming ill or injured during international travel depends on many factors, such as the region on the world visited, a traveler’s age and health status, the length of the trip, and the diversity of planned activities. Consequently, pre-travel consultations include risk-based assessments that customize pre-travel health care to the traveler’s itinerary. This provides an effective and efficient preparation for the traveler with the appropriate counseling, vaccinations and medications to help reduce the risk of illness and injury.

Pre-travel health care can dramatically reduce your risk of acquiring certain diseases. It can also prevent less severe, but extremely uncomfortable, illnesses and other health problems that can make your trip less enjoyable. Such illnesses and potential health threats often result from unsafe food, water and other environmental factors. However, carefully constructed travel health kits can prevent many of these menaces.
A variety of travel health kits are available commercially, but you can easily assemble one at home. A full list of items is available through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, but it should include medications, including those to treat pain, fever, diarrhea and respiratory symptoms; a basic first aid kit; and miscellaneous items like insect repellant, sunscreen and hand sanitizer.
 
One of the most effective ways to remain healthy on your travels is to visit a health care provider who can advise you on the best way to prepare for a fun and safe trip.
 
Jennifer DiFrancesco and Angela Bradley are nurse practitioners at PeaceHealth Medical Group’s Travel Clinic in Eugene. To schedule an appointment or for more information, call (458) 205-6026. Pediatric travel consultations are also available, call (541) 687-6340 for more information.