by Angela MacNeil, B Pharm
Spring travel season is here. It’s no surprise that after the last few years, many of us have a case of the travel bug, with two in five Canadians planning to travel in the next six months.
However, even before you leave, a number of elements of travel can be stressful for sun seekers, from the thought of lost luggage to flight delays. While these elements of travel can be frustrating, they are ultimately out of our control. As a pharmacist, I want to remind travelers about the one thing they can control when it comes to travel to exotic destinations – protecting themselves against common travel illnesses.
I’m often surprised in my conversations with patients that many don’t realize the kinds of health hazards people can run into when it comes to travel – even at a relaxing Caribbean resort. There are simple ways people can protect themselves to make sure good times are the only thing they are bringing back from their holiday. According to the Government of Canada, you should consult a health care provider when travelling outside of Canada. A travel consultation is recommended for Canadians whenever you travel. Knowing about the risks of your future destination will make for a safer, healthier, and happier time away!
A travel consultation is a personalized risk-assessment specific to you and your travel itinerary. The pharmacist will educate you about any potential health risks (for example, the likelihood of contaminated drinking water), and recommend precautions you can take, including preventative travel medications and vaccines. The pharmacist can also recommend a range of other travel-related items to put on your packing list such as first aid supplies, over-the-counter medications, travel-sized essentials and more.
As for timing, ideally you should talk to your pharmacist six to eight weeks in advance of your planned departure date to allow time for some vaccines and medications to take effect. But if you are travelling less than six weeks from when you book your appointment, your pharmacist can still provide information and recommendations and ensure you are prepared. Remember, there are vaccines available for hepatitis A and B to meningitis and cholera, all of which are preventable by vaccine.
Know your risks! Consuming contaminated water or food is one of the top ways Canadians contract illnesses like travelers’ diarrhea – the most common travel-related illness. To keep healthy on vacation, drink bottled water instead of local tap water. Ask for drinks without ice and be mindful of local fresh vegetables and fruit. Research your destination in advance. It’s not only important to know about the sights you’ll see, but also potential health risks. And remember, while there are many aspects of travel stress that you cannot control, health is one thing you can. To make sure you are informed, book a personalized travel health consultation.
Angela MacNeil is a pharmacist and owner of Shoppers Drug Mart locations at Larry Uteck and the Hammonds Centre in Bedford, as well as at the Halifax Infirmary.