The Doctor is In – Foreign Travel
Whether it’s a restful cruise or an around-the-world trip, the most carefully prepared journey can be most unpleasant when the traveler is not medically prepared for the excursion.
Depending on the areas to be visited, certain immunizations are either required or recommended. Those “recommended” are designated for the traveler’s benefit to prevent diseases native to travel destination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, www.cdc.gov, contains a list of recommended and required immunizations.
All international travelers should be protected against polio, tetanus, and diphtheria. Infants should also get a whooping cough (pertussis) vaccination. Typhus and plague vaccines would be wise before visiting certain parts of Africa, Asia and South America. Measles vaccine is also a must for those who never had the disease. For other areas of the world, antimalarial drugs may be indicated. These are started before traveling, and continued en route and for several weeks after leaving the infected areas.
All vaccinations should be recorded on an international certificate of vaccination, available from most physicians and health departments. The certificate of vaccination also indicates blood type, food and drug allergies and eyeglass prescriptions. Packing an extra pair of eyeglasses for your trip is also a good idea.
Other preventative measures are just as important as proper immunizations when contemplating travel. You should have a complete physical exam before departure and consult with your physician, especially if you have a chronic disease. This affords a chance to spot unrecognized ailments and clear up minor physical annoyances that could be bothersome on an otherwise well-planned vacation. A physical may even disclose a condition that warrants postponing the trip or changing the itinerary.
Chronic illness can flare up and cause trouble during travel. If you are taking a particular medication, be sure to have enough for the trip, plus extra medication in case of delays. Many medications are not obtainable in certain foreign countries.
For travelers on boats or planes, motion sickness pills or a special behind-the-ear patch (ecopolomine) are available.
Your list of handy medical items for travel should also include: bandages, burn ointment, antidiarrheal medicine, allergy pills, minor tranquilizer and an antacid.
Despite all precautions, some people get sick enough to require a physician’s care while abroad. The hotel or tour management group should be consulted, or if time permits, the nearest embassy. A directory of physicians who trained in the United States is available for free from the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers, 67 Mowat Ave #036, Toronto, ON M6K 3E3, Canada; 416-652-0137.