Preparing for Health Risks When Travelling

Jan 23, 2013

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Many of us enjoy escaping winter by travelling south in search of warmer weather. Leaving snow banks, this crazy cold weather and icy roads for beaches and palm trees makes perfect sense. If you are travelling to a foreign country, a little more preparation is involved than just booking your ticket and bringing a passport. Travelling to some countries can put your health at risk. However; by being prepared you can significantly limit your risks and have an amazing holiday.

Some countries do not have acceptable health care. While the beaches may be perfect, hospitals may be difficult to access and pharmacies often do not have a trained pharmacist. You may go to a pharmacy for a stomach issue and have to talk to a guy selling fishing trips or ice cream, who claims he is a pharmacist.

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 15 to 20 years. At least two doses should be given before travel. If you have had twinrix in the past check with your clinic pharmacist to make sure booster doses are not needed.

Travellers diarrhea occurs in up to 40% of travellers going to less developed countries. Most travellers will develop travellers diarrhea in the first week of travel, which could ruin a dream holiday. To avoid travellers 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 travellers 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. If you have already taken Dukoral within five years, only one booster dose is needed.

If you get travellers diarrhea immediate self-treatment is necessary. Antibiotics can be prescribed to decrease the severity of an attack. 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. Travellers 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 travellers diarrhea attack.

Typhoid fever is a life-threatening illness affecting over 20 million people 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. Travel health information can be complex and confusing but you pharmacist can help you have a healthy holiday.

If you are planning a holiday, dont forget to plan for your familys health and safety. Remember vaccinations are an extremely important insurance policy. You can see our Facebook page at or our website at to see my travel health checklist.

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist



The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

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