Travel medicine is a specialty field which concentrates on the health and well-being of individuals traveling internationally. One of the most important aspects is providing preventive information and medical advice related to the health risks associated with specific international destinations. Travel medicine also provides essential information about the prevention of various infections, local health requirements, personal safety, environmental hazards, immunization and preparedness for complications due to underlying illnesses.
A good example is a consultation we recently had for a family leaving in six weeks for Kenya and Tanzania to dig wells in rural areas and then continuing to a safari adventure. The travel medicine specialist discussed the yellow fever vaccine, which is not only for protection, but also a requirement to enter those countries. Furthermore, food and water safety, risks associated with the lack of accessibility to potable water, and illnesses transmitted through these vectors, including but not limited to polio, hepatitis A, typhoid fever and cholera, were also reviewed during the consultation.
Considering both difficult access to medical care while abroad and sporadic international outbreaks, routine vaccines such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis were also reviewed.
Travel medicine not only ensures safe travel without the discomfort of infection-born symptoms, but also saves lives. Rabies kills one person every nine minutes amounting to a staggering 59,000 deaths per year worldwide. It is fatal once symptoms appear and yet, it is completely vaccine preventable. The travel medicine specialist’s role is to educate travelers on such common diseases and evaluate the risks to best protect them and avoid these needless tragedies.
Additional life-threatening diseases are transmitted to humans through insects. For that reason, prophylaxis and all their possible interactions with current medications are discussed with recommendations on the most efficient and safe insect repellents and preventive measures to use based on each individual, their age, sensitivities and medical history.
All too often, travelers overlook sickness that can result from maladjustment to a foreign environment. For the climbing adventurer exploring the heights of this world, medication such as Diamox may be prescribed to hasten acclimatization to altitude illness, while scopolamine patches can be prescribed for deep sea discoveries. Environmental exposure such as cold temperatures, low humidity, increased ultraviolet radiation and air pressure are all very real concerns that cannot be overlooked and can have life-threatening consequences.
Counseling on environmental hazards and the adoption of safe behaviors that minimize risks of complications or emergency evacuations are all a part of a travel medicine specialist’s services.
Discovering the world and all it has to offer is an amazing life-altering privilege. Ensuring that your international journey enriches your life, and that your return home in full health on your terms, is the goal of a travel medicine specialist. You share your travel dreams; your specialist shares their expertise.
Registered Nurse Jade Bedard holds a Certificate in Travel Health™ and is with Worldwide Travel Health, Inc. in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Tavakoli is medical director of the practice and both can be reached at (760) 895.4097. For more information visit www.worldwidetravelhealth.com.