Safe Sunny Travels This Winter

Jan 30, 2018

By Barret Procyshyn

With a quite harsh winter so far, many people are booking trips to Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America in search of warmer weather, good food and cold drinks. However, travel to many of these locations does come with the risk for communicable diseases, which are not present in Canada. This can put your health at risk because we are often more susceptible to contracting these illnesses. Consider your health if you are planning on travelling to a foreign country. By speaking to your pharmacist and other health care providers you can significantly limit your risks and have an amazing holiday.

Some tropical countries do not have acceptable health care. Hospitals may be difficult to access; health care professionals may not be anywhere near your beach resort and pharmacies often do not have a trained pharmacist. They may be a trained pharmacist but not be able to speak proper English, which can make explaining travelers diarrhea very interesting. It is best to get your information ahead of time and take as much necessary medication with you as possible.

Hepatitis A and B are commonly found in developing countries, Mexico and in various destinations throughout the Caribbean. Hepatitis A is a liver disease most often passed through contaminated food, drinks or water supply. It can even be found in swimming pools at a five-star resort. To limit exposure to Hepatitis A do not eat raw unpeeled fruits, vegetables or shellfish. Also avoid contaminated water by only consuming bottled water and by not using ice outside of trustworthy establishments. It is also important to practice frequent hand washing. Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease spread by contact from bodily fluids or blood. A simple, yet effective and long-term solution to hepatitis A and B is vaccination. The most popular is a combined hepatitis A and B vaccination called Twinrix. Twinrix, which has proven to be very safe and effective, is a series of either three or four doses which can provide protection for about 20 years. At least two doses should be given before travel.

Travelers diarrhea occurs in up to 40% of travelers going to less developed countries. Most travelers will develop travelers' diarrhea in the first week of travel, which could ruin a dream holiday. To avoid traveler's diarrhea, remember to boil, cook or peel your food or just do not eat it. Only bottled or carbonated beverages should be consumed. Street vendors should also be avoided, if possible. If you want to protect yourself against the bacteria causing travelers' diarrhea, the Dukoral vaccine is a great option. Dukoral does not require a prescription and the oral vaccine provides protection for up to three months. A course of Dukoral also covers travelers against cholera which is an infectious disease also causing severe, dangerous diarrhea.

If you get travelers' diarrhea, immediate self-treatment is necessary. Antibiotics can be prescribed to decrease the severity of an attack. If seeing a travel health specialist or even your family doctor, find out if you should take a course of antibiotics with you. The Canadian medications are much safer and trustworthy. If travelers' diarrhea hits it is very important to stay hydrated, by consuming carbonated drinks, canned juices, safe water and salty soups. Oral rehydration packages mixed with water are also effective. Always avoid caffeinated beverages. Travelers can also take loperamide (Immodium) to stop diarrhea as long as fever or bloody stools are not noticed. It is also a good idea to pack Pepto Bismol tablets in your suitcase as they have shown to shorten the length of a traveler's diarrhea attack.

Typhoid fever makes more than 20 million people ill each year in the developing world. It is contracted by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the unseen Salmonella typhi bacteria. Typhoid fever is more common in areas where sanitation is likely to be poor, so when travelling to Asia, Africa or Latin America, you can be at risk. An oral vaccination called Vivotif will prevent the bacteria and its symptoms which include sustained fever stomach pains, headache, loss of appetite and significant weakness.

Travelling to more remote countries may put you at risk for Malaria, Yellow Fever and other rare but serious diseases. Do not be alarmed, just be informed and prepared. Make sure you have the correct information for the area you will be visiting. Travel health information can be complex and confusing, but you pharmacist can help you have a healthy holiday. Remember vaccinations are an extremely important insurance policy.

You can see our Facebook page at facebook.com/clinicpharmacy or visit us in store for a travel health checklist.

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