Vacations are supposed to be a time of relaxation, exploring, and fun. Don’t let this great time be ruined by health emergencies. While not everything can be predicted, if you plan ahead, you can avoid most of the healthcare headaches faced by travellers all over the world. Hours of planning go into booking the perfect trip, ensuring that everything from your hotel to your excursions is the best fit for you. Be sure to set aside some planning time for your health to be sure that all the effort you put into making the best vacation doesn’t get ruined by illness.
Proper vaccinations and medications are essential when planning a trip to a different country, and even a different region. We often take for granted that some diseases are no longer a threat or have disappeared over time in our country. But the reality is, a lot of places in the world still face deadly diseases that many of us have forgotten about. For example, diphtheria, , malaria, pertussis, hepatitis, and tetanus are still common illness in some countries, many of which are popular tourist spots.
The very first thing you should do in order to protect yourself is research the country you are travelling to, factoring in different variables such as length of stay, time of year, activities you plan to do, and amount of time before your departure. This information is available on the Internet, in many travel books, and through your travel agent. Remember, researching beforehand can save you time (and especially money!) during your trip.
The second crucial step is to talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or health-care professional. Many of these people have information about the most common vaccines and medicines taken by tourists to different regions. Still, come prepared with your own research and do not hesitate to ask about your own specific health needs. Additionally, specialized vaccination clinics are located in major cities across the country to learn more about the health risks you could face if not protected. The health care system is an essential stop to receive the information required, but also to get the vaccines and medications recommended.
Long before you leave on your vacation, you should ensure that your immunization and vaccines are up to date. Many people in North America are vaccinated young, but remain unaware that these shots needs to be updated throughout their lives. Be sure that everyone on your trip, including children, are up to date on the required and recommended vaccines for that region.
Keep your personal records current and be sure to check expiration dates for the most common vaccines (for example, some may be required every 5-10 years, while others can last for your life time). Some countries may require proof of vaccination to enter. It will save you plenty of hassle now and in the future to keep certificates of your vaccines and the dates you received them. Health care providers will provide this information upon request and there are even computer or phone applications to help you keep this in order.
If you have chronic illnesses, prescription medications, allergies or other health concerns, it is very important that you leave home prepared for any unforeseen events. Pack your medications with all receipts and labels attached to avoid issues crossing international borders. Prepare a list of medications you are travelling with and keep essential, life saving medications with you at all times (such as an Epi-pen or seizure medication).
If you have complex health issues, bring a short letter describing the problems and keep it with you, such as in a wallet or with your passport. That way, if there is an emergency and you are unable to explain the particulars of your illness, health care workers will be able to understand. If these issues are life threatening, consider having the document translated into the official language of the country you are visiting.
Even if you are not taking prescription medication, it is a good idea to pack some basic health remedies to help you with potentially uncomfortable concerns. Basic painkillers, anti-inflammatories, diarrhea remedies, vitamin supplements, anti-nausea pills and allergy medications should always be in your bag. Plan to bring additional medical supplies if you plan on major excursions, particularly hikes or underwater adventures. Keep in mind that certain items such as a small First Aid kit could save your life!
The Public Health Safety Agency of Canada publishes a comprehensive travel health guide that is very useful to any traveller going outside of Canada. The guide provides a listing of countries and the various diseases and illnesses that can be contracted in these countries to help you determine which vaccines you require. Keep in mind that some vaccines must be administered weeks and even months before departure, so do your research early. Remember, a little time and thoughtful recording now will save you many headaches during your dream vacation.