Going on holidays down south? Planning a trip to a developing country? When it comes to travelling to many foreign destinations, you will need to take special health precautions in order to avoid unpleasant, or even potentially disastrous, surprises.
Vaccination is the most effective way to protect yourself from various infections. Make sure your routine immunization is up to date. Then get all the vaccines you need for your specific travel destination. Remember, some are mandatory.
You can get serious infections when you travel. Fortunately, there are vaccines for many of these diseases, including:
- Hepatitis A and B
- Influenza (the flu)
- Japanese encephalitis
- Yellow fever
The most common illness to strike Canadian tourists travelling to tropical countries is traveller’s diarrhea, also known as turista or Montezuma’s revenge. This acute form of diarrhea generally lasts two to three days. To steer clear of it, you can get a vaccine one week before your trip. You need to take two separate doses, one to six weeks apart. The second dose needs to be taken one week before departure. Your family pharmacist can give you more information on this vaccine.
If you suffer from traveller’s diarrhea during your trip, you can take antibiotics to reduce the severity and duration of your symptoms. Your family pharmacist is now authorized to prescribe these drugs to you. You should also bring with you medicine for the rapid relief of diarrhea and other symptoms. Plus, you’ll want to have on hand a rehydration formula. Some solutions come in powdered form, making it easier to pack.
At present, there is still no vaccine against malaria. However, it can be prevented with medications that need to be taken before, during and after a trip. The hot, humid climate in some countries creates favourable breeding conditions for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Be sure to bring a DEET mosquito repellent. Your pharmacists can recommend one to you. They can also now prescribe medications to prevent malaria.
Prevention, first aid and medications
Prevention is always the best way to avoid health problems. Here are some effective measures you can take to stay healthy during your travels:
To prevent traveller’s diarrhea:
- Drink only boiled or bottled water.
- Never brush your teeth with tap water.
- Eat all your food well cooked.
- Eat only peeled fruit and vegetables.
- Wash your hands often, especially before eating.
To prevent malaria:
- Wear light-coloured clothing.
- At night, wear clothing that covers and protects your body: socks, pants and long-sleeved shirt, tucked in and buttoned.
- Do not wear perfume.
To prevent sunburns and heatstroke:
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Apply liberally.
- Reapply every two hours and after swimming or perspiring heavily.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure, especially between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated.
Your family pharmacists can give you more valuable travel health advice, too. For instance, they can help you pack a travel kit containing health essentials, such as:
- Pain relievers
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Nausea medication
- Antiseptic gel
- Topical antibiotics
- Adhesive bandages and dressings
- After-sun product
Last but not least, don’t forget to pack all your prescription medications in your carry-on luggage. Here are some tips to follow regarding your medicine:
- Before you leave, check the expiry date on your medications. Replace them if needed.
- Ask your family pharmacist to give you the complete list of your medications, including their names and dosages.
- Keep your medications in their original container with the label.
- Bring extra medicine in case of unforeseen events.
As you can see, your family pharmacists can help you in many ways before you go on a trip. Speak to them any time!
Family pharmacists can also prescribe* medications for certain minor health problems, when no diagnosis is needed, as is the case with traveller’s diarrhea. A consultation will be required so the pharmacist can make sure you meet the prescribing criteria.
To avail yourself of this service, you may need to book an appointment with your family pharmacist. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more details. Some Uniprix-affiliated pharmacies also offer an online appointment booking service. To locate the store nearest you providing this service, click here.
*Certain conditions must be respected. Fees may apply. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more information. Pharmacists alone are responsible for the practice of pharmacy. They offer related services only on behalf of pharmacist-owners