Preventing Illness while Travelling

Even though we live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, many people from the Comox Valley travel abroad for business or pleasure.  Part of preventative medicine is planning ahead for a safe trip and making good choices while overseas.  How far you need to go to ensure a healthy travels depends a lot on where you are going of course.  For travel in North America and Western Europe, some common sense is all you need. Pack a first aid kit, make sure you have adequate travel medical insurance, and practice good street smarts.  Taking a self defense course is a wise move for travelers, as criminals often lurk in highly touristy areas and count on tourists having their guard down.

If you are travelling further abroad to developing countries, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has a website where you can learn which immunizations are recommended or required for the areas you’ll be visiting.  Travel medical clinics are also a great source of information.  Updating your basic immunizations may not be a bad idea especially if you are travelling to areas where the population may be under-vaccinated.

Preventing food and water borne disease is important if you don’t want to spend your holiday on the toilet or worse.  People on stomach acid blocking medication for acid reflux or other stomach issues are especially prone to these types of infections because stomach acid is the first line of defense against ingested bugs.  Working with a naturopathic physician to find alternatives to acid blocking medications may be a wise choice if you want to stay healthy while travelling.  Taking probiotics prior to a vacation can also bolter your body’s defenses against food and water borne illness.   I encourage my patients to pick up some electrolyte powder and I write them a prescription for antibiotics ahead of time to tuck into their suitcase just in case they get a nasty case of traveler’s diarrhea.

Mosquitoes can be much more than just an annoyance as they can transmit disease.  There are at least 17 known mosquito borne infections including Lyme disease, Zika, Malaria, and Dengue Fever. It is a good idea to pay attention to whether or not mosquitoes are known to live in the areas where you’ll be travelling. Try to cover up and use insect repellents.  DEET is well known, but Picardin has some advantages.  You can even invest in special clothing that has insect repellent infused in the fabric.  Local work wear stores may carry these clothes.  Choosing air conditioned accommodation can help too.  Where malaria is a risk, there are medications that can be taken to prevent the disease from taking hold.

Sometimes people forget to pack their common sense when travelling abroad.  Remember to practice hand washing, safe sex, and street smarts.  The number one cause of death while travelling is motor vehicle accidents.  Mopeds are especially dangerous and some travel health insurance won’t cover injuries related to mopeds.  With a little prevention and travel savvy, you can enjoy your amazing adventures abroad and come home with great stories instead of ill health.

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