This is a guest post from a local medical professional who has spent more than 10 years working in hospitals and medical centres across the Mornington Peninsula.
In my experiences working at medical centres and hospitals I have discovered when it comes to travel health consultations, including travel vaccines, there are two types of people. Those who schedule a visit at the clinic before they go overseas, and those who turn up with all kinds of interesting ailments when they return. Which would you rather be?
Sure, there are many examples of people having travelled healthily and without any problems, but is it really worth the risk? Especially when the effects of not being properly vaccinated can ruin that trip you have been excitedly planning all year.
Personally I love travel, and have spent as much time as possible backpacking through Asia the last couple of years. I’ve seen the temples, the beaches, the people, the food and yes, the inside of a doctor’s clinic. While most doctors overseas speak English you may end up, as I did, needing to seek out a doctor in a small transit town with a suspected DVT or other equally scary ailment. Believe me, it’s very helpful to have an idea of what could be wrong before you speak to the local doctor.
This is where your Australian GP can help.
With the number of Australians travelling overseas increasing it is important we all understand the health risks that can be associated with international travel. Standard vaccinations for things like Hepatitis, Typhoid, Rabies, Yellow Fever and Polio can be extremely important depending on the area and are discussed at length here, but there is other equally important location specific information a GP can share with you. Did you know your GP can help you avoid the dreaded ‘Bali belly’ or recommend the best insect repellants for travelling in the tropics?
Some things to discuss with your GP before you travel;
Is there a risk of Malaria?
Your GP will be able to discuss with the the number of days you may be travelling within malaria afflicted areas, what anti-malaria medication you may need and work out the specific amount you will need depending on the length of time to continue taking this medication for.
Should you take antibiotics?
Worried you may get sick in an area with no medical help available? Your doctor can recommend the best combination of antibiotics to take in your trip in case of emergency.
Gastrolytes & Imodium
You may need to prepare yourself for things like poor quality or limited access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation facilities. Your doctor may recommend Gastro-Stop or other products they know of to help combat this environment ensuring your trip remains fun and relaxing (or crazy and hectic, if that’s what your after).
Should I take a first-aid kit?
A GP can recommend the most useful items when packaging a first-aid kit. Remember, you don’t want to pack everything in there as you will most likely come to resent it and halfway through the trip get rid of the item you discover you need the following week (been there).
Taking Personal Medication
Do you have medication you take for a certain problem, condition or just general health? Your GP can help you determine the amount you may need to take travelling and what to ask for in overseas pharmacies. Also remember to ask your doctor to provide a written letter detailing any prescription medications you need to travel with. Nobody wants to be stuck at customs in a foreign country attempting to explain exactly what those little white pills are for.
Are you travelling with children?
If you are planning on going overseas with the kids make sure you also discuss any extra medical necessities they may need. Especially with kids, it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.
Always remember overseas health and medical care is erratic at best. Sometimes finding help can be easy, other times difficult. In some places extremely difficult! The level of health risks will vary with individual factors, including your underlying health and physiological state, your planned activities and the duration of exposure to various hazards during travel. At the end of the day travelling should be fun. Visiting a GP before you leave isn’t about taking away that fun or preventing you from doing the things you want to do overseas. It’s about making sure you enjoy every day of the trip – right up to the end. Along with checking smartraveller, seeing a GP is an easy way to make sure your trip is all you desire. Don’t be another Aussie coming home needing a holiday from your holiday.
So next time you travel, book in an appointment with your GP before you go and avoid the otherwise inevitable post-trip appointment medical professionals have become so used to dealing with.
For medical professionals: A great article on the travel consultation can be found here.
P.S. Don’t forget to enjoy the country you visit, it’s people and local food!
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