What Is Travel Medicine?
Travel medicine is a specialty within the medical field focused on preventive care before traveling. It is a highly dynamic specialty, meaning it has to continually adapt to new health crises that arise. When a new virus or health concern appears, travel medicine adjusts to include it within its field.
In addition to preventing various contagious health concerns, travel medicine also includes assessing each traveler’s risk based on their:
- travel destination
- trip itinerary
Travel medicine is important because it helps to ensure your health and safety while traveling. It is also an excellent opportunity to become better informed about what you might be at risk of based on your location and itinerary.
The Role of the Travel Medicine Specialist
If you’re planning on traveling outside of your home country, it is important to make an appointment with a travel medicine specialist at least 6-8 weeks before you plan to leave. When you meet with a travel medicine specialist, they will do the following:
Traveling places you at risk of various types of viruses that do not impact your home country, meaning you might have no immunity or protection against them. This is why knowing what vaccines are recommended (or necessary) before traveling to a specific location is essential.
A travel medicine specialist can look at your previous vaccines and trip location to suggest vaccines that protect against preventable illnesses, such as typhoid or Hepatitis A. The travel medicine specialist can also see which routine vaccinations are not up-to-date and require a booster, such as the flu shot.
By receiving these vaccines, you can help protect yourself against infections that might otherwise be significantly hazardous to your health.
One of the most common conditions affecting those who travel is traveler’s diarrhea. This digestive tract disorder results from drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food. It can leave you a frequent bathroom visitor, which we can all agree does not make for a pleasant trip.
There are precautions you can take to prevent traveler’s diarrhea, which your travel medicine specialist will discuss with you. This includes a review of food and water precautions, which also helps to prevent other health concerns stemming from ingesting contaminated substances. Your travel medicine specialist will also discuss important hygiene habits to adopt for further reducing the risk of disease.
Evaluate Mosquito and Tick-Borne Disease Risk
Mosquitos and ticks are two insects that can carry disease, which can then transmit to you with a single bite. Diseases such as malaria, Lyme disease, and yellow fever can stem from these insects, which is why it is essential to know what precautions to take.
A travel medicine specialist will explain any risks you are at because of your travel location and the steps you can take to prevent a bite. Additionally, if you are traveling to a place at risk of malaria, your specialist can discuss pre-trip medication options for preventing malaria.
Viruses are not the only detriment to your health that you may come across while traveling. Jet lag, motion sickness, blood clots, and altitude illness are all problems you may face while traveling, which can decrease your health and wellness.
Your travel medicine specialist will help you be proactive in preventing these occurrences. They will also provide you with valuable information on what to do should you suffer from any of them to ensure the rest of your trip is not ruined.
Manage Pre-existing Conditions
Various pre-existing conditions may need to be managed more closely depending on your travel itinerary. With your travel medicine specialist, you can ensure that your pre-existing conditions will be well-managed, and you won’t be pushing your body further than it can physically keep up with.
The Importance of Health Preparation
No matter your reason for travel, whether to visit family, study abroad, or for business or vacation, you can put your health and wellness in harm’s way. Here's where we enter; your key to proper travel preparation for the most important thing going on your trip, yourself.
Our medical consultants in our Travel Clinic offer a wealth of information needed to keep yourself safe. They play a key role in educating travelers on the health risks of a certain area, good habits to adopt, and recommended vaccines. We'd also love to evaluate your current health to provide guidance on managing pre-existing conditions.
If you want to return home in the same health as you set out for your trip in, our travel medicine specialists can help you achieve this, making them a crucial visit before setting off on your trip.
Aw, B., Boraston, S., Botten, D., Cherniwchan, D., Fazal, H., Kelton, T., Libman, M., Saldanha, C., Scappatura, P., & Stowe, B. (2014). Travel medicine: what's involved? When to refer?. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien, 60(12), 1091–1103.
Han, C., & Flaherty, G. (2015). Profile of Travelers with Preexisting Medical Conditions Attending a Specialist Travel Medicine Clinic in Ireland. Journal Of Travel Medicine, 22(5), 312-317. doi: 10.1111/jtm.12221
Rowe, K., Chaves, N., & Leder, K. (2017). Challenges to providing pre-travel care for travellers visiting friends and relatives: an audit of a specialist travel medicine clinic. Journal Of Travel Medicine, 24(5). doi: 10.1093/jtm/tax038