Travel Planning

Why you need to see a travel doctor

Passport renewed? Check.

Visa approved? Check.

Travel blog e-mailed to friends and family? Check.

If you’ve made it this far in your plans, give yourself a pat on the back. However, there’s one more thing you want to add to your check list before you jet off on your international adventure. It’s something that most of us never even know to do, much less remember to do, and yet it’s probably one of the most important: visit a travel doctor.

That’s right ladies, a travel doctor.

Just like making sure your passport is ready and you’ve packed the right kind clothes, when you leave the country you need to be sure that you are prepared medically. Are there any health risks you should be aware of? Any vaccines you need to have?

It sounds easy enough but travel medicine can’t be practiced just by clicking on a few web sites.  If it were that simple, you could do it yourself. If you’ve ever Googled a health issue and ended up convinced you have an incurrable disease, you know why.

For example, a specific vaccine may be suggested for a destination on the CDC web site, but may not be necessary on your trip for a variety of reasons.  In addition, travel medicine is much more than just travel shots.  There is a wealth of travel safety information and resources you need to stay safe that will be customized to your itinerary.

Fine, you might be saying, so I need to check in with my doctor before I head out. But here’s the thing – most physicians do not provide travel advice because international disease threats – typhoid, malaria, yellow fever, rabies Japanese encephalitis and intestinal parasites – are not familiar to practicing doctors.  For example, if you mention to your own doctor that you will be studying for a semester abroad in eastern Uganda or that you will be taking a 2 week business trip to Mumbai, India, your physician will likely refer you to a trained travel doctor.

Travel physicians will answer questions that you don’t even know to ask like:

If I get sick abroad, how do I find an English speaking physician?  

Are blood transfusions safe in foreign countries?  

Does it make sense to purchase medical evacuation insurance?

Is the food and drink in my hotel safe?

Unfortunately, the world is teeming with bacteria, viruses and parasites that are hungry for visiting tourists who likely have very limited immunity to these infectious agents.  Accidents and injuries – which can be prevented – have turned many pleasure trips into nightmare.  And if we have anything to say about it, the only nightmare you should be experiencing is the one you have from falling asleep after eating waaay too much Tapas…

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