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Traveling Internationally Over Spring Break? Make An Appointment with A Travel Medicine Provider First

Published in Family Medicine, Women's Services, Travel Medicine, Men's Health, For the Health of It Author: Teia Wolter,PA-C

Spring break is right around the corner and that means vacation season is nearly here. If you’re planning to take a trip outside of the U.S., add a visit with a Travel Medicine provider to the top of your vacation checklist.

When you make your appointment, let the scheduler know what area you’re traveling to and all the countries you’ll be visiting during that time. That way, your Travel Medicine provider can prepare for your visit.

We’ll discuss health concerns in the area you’re going to, how to protect yourself against native wildlife and bugs in the area, proper sun protection, whether travel health insurance is needed, and you’ll even talk about any potential political unrest in that region.

While political unrest isn’t a huge part of the visit, I usually just let patients know if it’s a concern in the country they’re going to so they can be cautious and aware that it’s happening. We will also talk about overall safety in the area if crime is a bigger issue.

In certain countries, people don’t have access to the same health care available in the United States. For most countries, getting vaccinations ahead of time is not required but it’s highly recommended. We advise being up to date on all the routine vaccines. In addition to that, there are a couple travel specific vaccines we may suggest.

Potential vaccines:

  • The typhoid vaccine is recommended in areas that do not have clean drinking water. This is an infection that you can get from contaminated food and water that causes traveler’s diarrhea.
  • Yellow fever is another recommended vaccine that is sometimes required in certain African or South American countries. It’s not available at all our clinics, that’s why it’s important to let schedulers know where you’re traveling so you can be seen at the right clinic.
  • The Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine is recommended if you’re traveling anywhere outside the U.S. Measles is still common in many countries and unvaccinated travelers bring the disease back to the U.S. where it can easily spread to unvaccinated people.
  • Depending on what time of year you’re traveling, influenza and COVID-19 vaccines are recommended.

For a health care checklist, I recommend bringing the following items with you on your trip:

  • Pain relievers such as ibuprofen and Tylenol
  • Imodium for diarrhea
  • Meclizine or Dramamine for nausea and motion sickness
  • Mosquito repellant
  • Sunblock
  • First-aid kit
  • Benadryl for allergic reactions and itching
  • Hydrocortisone cream for rashes
  • Prescription medications you may need

When you return home, you don’t have to be evaluated by a health care provider unless you’re having symptoms of an illness that aren’t improving. If you’re concerned about specific exposures including sexually transmitted diseases, you should be seen by your primary care provider to be tested and treated appropriately.

It’s common to develop traveler’s diarrhea. If this happens to you, it’s important to stay hydrated. If you have dehydration concerns, then you should be evaluated by a health care provider and treated promptly.

It’s recommended that you make an appointment with a Travel Medicine provider at least 30 days before your planned trip. This will ensure that any recommended vaccines you get prior to traveling will have had enough time to work in your system and give you the most benefit. This also provides enough time to order any medication refills you may need.

For more information about immunizations required for travel, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Travelers’ Health website or make an appointment to speak with your local Travel Medicine provider.