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What is Travel Medicine?
Travel medicine is a speciality that deals with health management and prevention of diseases for people travelling to international countries. It includes various disciplines such as public health, infectious diseases, wilderness medicine, high altitude physiology, tropical medicine and appropriate immunisations.
Travel vaccines, also called travel immunizations, are shots travellers need to get before travelling out of their native land. They are usually recommended even though not required for entry into the country you are visiting. Vaccination is the first step toward staying healthy while you are travelling.
Importance of Travel Vaccines
Travel vaccines are important because they:
- Prevent you from getting and spreading diseases
- Protect you from serious illnesses that are travel-related
- Help you stay safe and healthy during and after travel
- Stop you from bringing any serious diseases home
- Help safeguard public health
Who do You See for Travel Vaccines?
Once you decide that your travel plans are beyond your homeland, it is time to see a healthcare professional to discuss your travel vaccine needs. The first choice can be your family doctor or nurse. Other likely options are:
- City or county health department
- Travel healthcare expert
- Travel medicine specialist
- Private travel vaccination clinic
- Pharmacy offering healthcare services
The healthcare or travel health professional will decide on the number of vaccine shots and later the booster doses depending on various factors.
How Far in Advance do You Need Travel Vaccines?
Vaccines need to be given well ahead of travel time to ensure complete protection against illnesses. Ideally, it is advised to get the travel vaccines you need at least a month before your trip. This ensures the required vaccine series is completed, and your body will have adequate time to build up immunity. Even if you are a last-minute traveller, there may be options for getting the vaccines you need. This can be discussed with your healthcare professional.
Factors Crucial for Travel Vaccines
The type of vaccines recommended depend on several factors like:
- Your medical history
- Your age
- State of your health
- Your travel itinerary
- Mode of travel
- Your destination
- Nature of activity
- Duration of travel
- Season of travel
Travel Vaccines Offered
Your healthcare professional or travel health expert can offer a variety of travel vaccines and may recommend one or a combination of vaccines depending on the immunisation requirement.
Travel vaccines are usually given for illnesses or conditions such as:
- Yellow fever
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
- Encephalitis (Japanese or tick-borne)
Who is not Fit for Travel Vaccines?
Travel vaccines are not advised if you:
- Have immune deficiencies (HIV or AIDS)
- Are under specific treatment such as chemotherapy
- Had bone marrow or organ transplant recently
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding mother
To ensure a safe journey, make sure you are up to date on travel vaccines and carry a written record of vaccinations during your travels.
Travel Medical Kit
A travel medical kit is a collection of medications and related equipment for treating medical emergencies while travelling.
The Utility of Travel Medical Kits
Regardless of your physical or medical condition, travel time and destination, it is recommended to carry a travel medical kit as it can help you to:
- Deal with minor injuries or illnesses quickly
- Prevent injury or illness related to travelling
- Manage pre-existing medical conditions
- Treat exacerbations of medical conditions
Further, the travel medical kit can make your trip more productive and enjoyable as it avoids:
- Searching for medicine or a drug store
- Purchase of medicines during travel
- Unnecessary disruption in travel plans
- Chance of buying counterfeit (fake) drugs
- Unnecessary inconvenience and discomfort
What Medical Emergencies can the Kits Cater to?
Travel medical kits can cater to several conditions or emergencies such as:
- Small cuts and scrapes
- Minor accidents
- Cough or fever
- Sore throat
- Nasal congestion
- Mild infections or pains
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Respiratory issues
- Blisters, burns
- Stings, abrasions
- Skin problems
- Insect bites
Where are Travel Medical Kits Available?
Travel medical kits can be purchased from larger commercial chemists, specialist travel clinics and/or camping and walking shops. They are available with a list of items and clear written instructions.
However, it is recommended to check with your doctor or healthcare professional and tailor the medical kit. This will make sure you are familiar with the contents of the kit and their usage before you travel. The travel medical kit is usually tailored based on:
- Your travel needs
- Your health conditions
- The destination(s)
- Travel plans and activities
- Type and length of travel
Typical Contents of Travel Medical Kits
Travel medical kits contain several medications and related equipment. They include but are not limited to:
- Oral pain killers or topical pain relievers
- Antifungal and antibacterial sprays or creams
- Nasal sprays
- Antibiotic ointments
- Oral decongestants
- 1% hydrocortisone cream
- Anti-itch gel or creams
- Oral antihistamines
- Topical corticosteroids
- Burn relief gel or creams
- Motion sickness pills
- Anti-diarrheal pills
- Eye drops or eye wash solutions
- Laxatives or stool softeners
- Sleeping pills
- Oral salt tablets
- Insect repellents
- Water purification tablets or drops
- Pocket mask for CPR
Travel medical kits may also include supplementary items like:
- Antiseptic agents
- Nonadhesive wound pads (Telfa)
- Adhesive tapes or bandages
- Sterile gauze pads
- Cotton swabs
- Exam or disposable gloves
- Small flashlight
- Small knife
- Plastic resealable bags
- Safety pins (large and small)
- Digital thermometer
- Antibacterial soap or towelettes
- Hand sanitizers
- Tampons/sanitary napkins
Additionally, things such as a first aid advice booklet, prescription copies, health insurance card and documents, proof of vaccinations and a dental kit can also be part of a travel medical kit. However, your physician or healthcare professional may decide on the composition of your travel medical kit and come out with a customized package that suits you and your travel needs best.
Post-travel Health Examination
It is the examination and treatment of travel-acquired infections such as malaria, parasitic infections, diarrhoea, dengue etc. after returning to your native country.