Safe Travels!by Rina Marfatia, MD, Infectious Diseases, Internal Medicine, Travel Medicine
The holidays are over and you have said good bye to 2017. You are looking forward to a new and exciting 2018. You may have resolved to be healthier, sleep better, work harder…and travel more. Travel is definitely on my list.
I enjoy the planning, the packing, and the airport. I love people watching and wondering where everyone else is off to. Are they traveling for fun? Where are they going? What kind of a traveler are they? What kind of traveler are you?
In all this excitement, it is easy to forget to make sure you are ready for the unexpected travel illness. A lot of this can be prevented by taking a quick trip to a travel medicine physician. Whether you are a solo adventure traveler, business traveler, or group traveler you would benefit from that appointment.
A travel medicine specialist will review with you where you are going, how long you are traveling for and what your exposures and activities are going to be. Based on that, she/he will advise you on the recommended vaccines, medications and preventative care you need to take to stay safe.
For example if you are going to Brazil, your doctor can tell you need to be vaccinated for typhoid, take malaria pills and take insect precautions to prevent chikungunya and dengue. And, if you are traveling to certain parts of Brazil you may even need a yellow fever vaccine. You should also be up to date on all your routine vaccines.
It is good to know that many diseases such as traveler’s diarrhea, E. coli, Salmonella or Shigella are transmitted through food contaminated with fecal matter containing the bacteria. To be safe, try to avoid raw foods such as salads or leafy vegetables, even if they are washed. Well-cooked foods are safer because they eliminate a lot of the pathogens. Water can also transmit bacteria. The best way to avoid this is to boil your water or use only bottled water, even when visiting friends and family at your destination. Don’t forget to use bottled water when brushing your teeth as well. Food and beverage safety precautions go a long way in keeping you healthy. If you’re an adventurous eater, and you do get sick, remember to hydrate, hydrate and hydrate.
Routine vaccines are available at your doctor’s office. Some vaccines such as yellow fever are mostly available at the travel clinics and sometimes at the pharmacy. The preventative antibiotics that are prescribed and over the counter medications can be availed at your pharmacy. In addition, you should make sure you have your regular medications refilled and on hand for travel. Keep a list of all the medications and doses, so if you do run out, a local doctor can prescribe them for you and you don't lose any days without medication.
You have done all your prep, you are off and you still get sick. What do you do now?
Even with precautions, like vaccines and medications, it happens. Here’s where a travel doctor can be very helpful. Knowing your destination, the doctor can give you information on how to get local help. Being aware will make you a more mindful traveler.
You’re now ready to enjoy the world, make memories and flood your Instagram.
P.S. It’s a good idea as well to do some research and background reading on your destination. Websites such as that of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov) can also give you information on factors such as the political situation in the country, unrest in certain areas or general travel warnings.