travel health know go

Travel health: what to know before you go

Travel Health with Amin Uppal (bio) | 6:11

When it comes to travel, many of us are concerned with what to wear, however not enough of us actually think about how to pack for our health. Registered Nurse, Aman Uppal, joins Lynda Steele & Drex of CKNW 980 to talk about what you need to know for your next vacation!

What exactly is a travel consultation and why is it so important for travelers to get it before they go?

International travel takes many forms, including tourism, business, visiting family and friends, mission work and/or adventure travel. It’s important to book a travel consult ahead of time so that you’re aware of what your health risks are. You might need to update certain expired vaccinations depending on each country’s unique risks. Sometimes certain countries require vaccinations, such as the yellow fever vaccine, as a condition of entering the country. Every traveler is unique, every trip is unique, and so the risks that come with that are quite unique, as well as the recommendations.

Which vaccinations do we really have to worry about? How many different ones are there?

It really depends, and the objective of the pre-travel consult is to determine what it is you really need. We look into whether or not you are up-to-date with your routine vaccinations (tetanus and measles, mumps, rubella vaccines) which can still be a concern depending on where you are going. We also look into certain recommended vaccinations depending on your itinerary. Hepatitis A and B are very common, and there are some unique vaccinations like meningitis and yellow fever which are very trip-specific.

We still hear a lot about the Zika virus, and many places still have travel alerts for it. What do you advise when it comes to the Zika virus and how can people protect themselves?

Zika has actually existed for a very long time, since the 1950s, but it’s been given more media attention given how widespread it’s become in many countries. We still follow the Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines regarding a Zika fever for travelers. For pregnant women specifically, or those that are planning pregnancy, we still suggest avoiding travel to those countries, if possible. If travel can’t be avoided, it’s important to take really strict mosquito and other insect precautions. We go over all of this in our travel consultation at Copeman.

For women wanting to get pregnant who are travelling, or who plan to travel, to a higher-risk country, we suggest waiting at least two months after you return to try to conceive. For men, we suggest the use of condoms for at least six months after returning from such an area as well. This is all just to prevent any sort of birth defects in the unborn child, which is the main concern.

How far in advance do you need to book a travel consultation?

At Copeman we recommend ideally booking your travel consult as soon as your trip is booked to give us as much time as possible to prepare you for your trip. At the very least, about 4 to 6 weeks before you go, because certain vaccinations can require a number of doses before leaving. For example, rabies vaccinations require three doses about 21 days apart before you can actually head off and be protected.

What countries might require a rabies vaccination?

It will depend on your trip. Sometimes we have adventure travelers that are going to be working with animals, possibly spelunking through caves, so their risks are definitely higher. If you’re going to be staying in South-East Asia for multiple months, that risk is there because often rabies can be seen in common animals like dogs and bats. So again, it would depend on the trip-specific details whether it would be recommended.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to travelling and health?

I’d say the biggest misconception is that people tend to believe just because a resort is rated 5 stars, everything is safe. But you can never be sure who is preparing the food in the back and whether the food handling skills of workers are 100% safe. A travel consult can really help with this because it can prepare you for any risks of food borne illnesses, and provide you with some options for what to do if you do end up with something like travelers’ diarrhea.

Are there any things that you can get from the drug store in advance (when you’re doing a big trip somewhere) that you should always bring with you?

At Copeman we usually suggest packing specific things based on your destination, however one of the most common things you could bring would be over-the-counter medications for common illnesses like nausea or travelers’ diarrhea. If you did come in for a consultation, we would be able to give you a much more specific list in advance. At the end of the day, it’s really important to prepare in advance for your travels and to know your risks. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!