Whether for business or pleasure, travelers planning a trip outside the country should remember to set aside some time in during their plan-making to address important health and safety precautions. In fact, studies show that almost half of travelers from a developed country visiting a developing country get sick when they stay for a month or more. The guidelines and regulations for necessary vaccinations and medications vary greatly from one destination to another, and failure to receive the right immunizations could be life-threatening. To ensure the highest degree of accuracy and safety, the Center for Disease Control recommends seeing a physician who specializes in travel medicine. Usually this means a visit to a travel clinic.
So first things first; what is a travel clinic? It is a medical facility that focuses specifically on the preventative care of those planning to travel internationally. At a travel clinic, patients can meet with doctors who specialize in emporiatrics, or travel medicine, and deal exclusively with travel-related health issues on a daily basis. Patients generally visit a travel clinic for a consultation and vaccination, and then again after their return for a wellness checkup.
Some people might be curious as to why visiting a travel clinic would be any better than visiting their family doctor. The simplest answer is that while family doctors are trained to deal with a large range of health concerns, travel health providers focus only on emporiatrics. This means that travel medicine physicians put more time and effort into having the up-to-date information about location-specific travel health issues that you need, and since the focus of travel health is in large part on educating the traveler about disease prevention, the more knowledgeable your physician is the more you’ll learn. Additionally, travel clinics have all the vaccinations you need in stock, whereas family physicians may not always have vaccines against rarer diseases like yellow fever or typhoid on hand. Travel clinics can also provide you with the yellow fever certificate necessary for entry into certain countries requiring proof of immunization. Travel clinics’ rates are usually competitive with those of regular physicians, and most offer evening and weekend hours and even same-day or walk-in appointments to accommodate travelers’ busy schedules; such flexibility is not often a practice of regular physicians.
When you visit a travel clinic, the consultation is very important. This is the time when you can ask the doctor questions and he or she will provide destination-specific information about the necessary precautions for you to take. Some good areas of focus for your consult are appropriate vaccinations and what some travel health specialists refer to as the “six Is”: ingestions (such as food and water safety), insects, immersions (waterborne illnesses contracted through swimming) injuries, indiscretions (sexually transmitted diseases), and insurance. It is essential that you share your specific travel itinerary with your travel health provider, in order that he or she can give you the most accurate information possible about vaccines and whether antimalarial drugs will be necessary. Activity plans should also be noted, as the CDC recommends rabies vaccines in many countries for travelers who plan to spend a lot of time outdoors or participate in camping, hiking or cycling. Altitude sickness prevention and water purification plans might also be necessary, depending on your destination.