To Your Health: Consult travel clinic before next trip abroad
By Dr. Herbert White Jr. August 27, 2013 1:54PM
Dr. Herbert White Jr.
Updated: September 29, 2013 6:37AM
If you’re planning to travel abroad, the first item on your itinerary should be a stop at a travel medicine clinic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends such a visit four to six weeks prior to your expected date of departure.
Travel is not without risk, especially to developing countries, whether for business, pleasure or visiting family and relatives.
In 2011, there were more than 60 million international tourist arrivals in the U.S. and more than 58 million U.S. travelers going abroad, according to the World Tourism Organization.
There is no doubt that global travel by U.S. citizens has increased, especially among recent immigrants going back to their home countries with their children to visit family and friends.
A recent study found that those visiting friends and relatives accounted for 46 percent of U.S. international air travelers. Of those traveling to developing countries, about half will develop some health problem.
Common health problems associated with travel include traveler’s diarrhea, respiratory problems, skin disorders, fever and trauma.
Many of these health problems are preventable and the risk of exposure to some of these can be reduced for a well-informed traveler.
As a physician, I would advise all travelers to consult with a travel medicine specialist.
The initial goal of the pre-travel consultation with the specialist is to determine potential health risks facing the traveler based on his medical history, travel destination, mode of travel, itinerary of destination, purpose of travel and season of travel.
A travel clinic has access to the most accurate, up-to-date information on what diseases exist in every country, including the latest outbreaks. The specialist will communicate these risks to the traveler in ways that empower and inform. A plan for mitigating and reducing the identified risks is then made, which may include vaccine administration, prescription of medications to prevent diseases, such as malaria, or treat conditions that arise during travel, such as diarrhea. Finally, an informed traveler is a safe traveler.
A specialist can offer safeguards on how to reduce chances of developing diseases that are present at a destination. No vaccine or preventative medicine is going to be 100 percent effective, so people still need to exercise caution in exposing themselves to various things.
A travel medicine specialist also will include instruction about how to eat foods and drink water safely to decrease risk for typhoid, traveler’s diarrhea and other maladies in addition to how to deal with jet lag and motion sickness.
Upon returning back home, if a traveler feels as if he may have contracted something on the trip, he can return to the specialist for post-travel evaluation and, if need be, medical treatment.
Whether traveling abroad for work, pleasure, missionary projects or other reasons, being protected against disease can help you make the most of the experience.
For more information, check out the CDC website at www.cdc.gov or call a full-service travel clinic, such as Franciscan St. James Health’s International Travel Clinic, at (708) 503-3222.
White is the medical director of the Franciscan St. James Occupational and Environmental Health Center. Franciscan St. James Health is a member of the Southland Health Alliance.