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Summit Medical Group of Oak Ridge

Thoughts on Travel Health – By Dr. Michael Henderson

Fever of 104 degrees welcomes a traveler back from their recent vacation. Joint pain, swelling, malaise, and rash soon follow. A visit to the ER and the primary care physician helps minimally with some “comfort” meds and “pushing fluids”. Finally, 8 days later the illness begins to release its grip and now a vacation and eight days later the traveler is buried in work and wonders if the vacation was worth it…

Most travel related health risks are treatable or preventable. Arming yourself with information about your travel destination can help keep a great trip from becoming a regret.

A great place to start is CDC.gov (The Centers for Disease Control) website. There you can type in your destination and find out what diseases are prevalent and ways to prevent common ailments from traveler’s diarrhea to heat related sickness. In addition, you can select special travel circumstances such as immunocompromised travel, cruise ship travel, or pregnancy to insure optimal safety in those conditions.

A visit to your primary care physician can help to make sure you are set for a safe trip. With certain diseases like measles making a resurgence it is important to be up to date on immunizations. Unfortunately, there are not immunizations against all transmittable diseases you may encounter while traveling. However, prevention and or treatment with proper knowledge is still possible. For example the traveler in our introduction may have been suffering from the Chikungunya virus which is transmitted by mosquitoes. Proper use of insect repellant such as DEET and permethrin treated clothing can make all the difference in warding off such disease.

Proper hygiene and food preparation should be followed while traveling to help prevent food borne illness. All too often individuals still suffer from traveler’s diarrhea. Your doctor can help you decide the best timing and how to treat this nuisance. Antibiotics are not necessarily the first line but you may want these in a medical kit if your symptoms progress. Additional prescriptions may include inhalers, sea sickness patches, high altitude sickness treatment, and pain medication if you are going to a remote area. The CDC has a nice list of what you should pack in a first aid kit. Put one together and have your doctor and the nursing staff review what you have included.

Travelers should check with their insurance companies to check for gaps in coverage. Purchasing evacuation insurance may be worthwhile.

A little planning by reading up on a destination, checking for medical alerts, and discussing your specific needs with your doctor can make an exciting trip stay exciting for the good reasons!