Definitely applies to planning for out-of-country medical care and may, in fact, save your life! The first step is to assess your medical risk looking at the following factors: destination; purpose of travel; style of travel; visiting urban or rural areas; underlying medical problems; age; and time of year of travel.
The more remote, the more the likelihood you will need some type of preventative and/or self-treatment solutions. Rule of thumb is if you can picture “Indiana Jones” there, then you are probably higher risk. (Of course, I assume everyone knows who Indiana Jones is!)
Doctors trained in travel medicine are highly skilled in assessing your needs, however as in all forms of medical care, doctor’s opinions can vary. Find a doctor at a travel medical clinic who comes recommended by a fellow “Indiana Jones” type traveller.
Doctors working in a travel medical clinic will assess your individual needs and recommend the most appropriate forms of protection: injections, prescriptions and OTC medicines and/or common sense information. In order to do their jobs effectively, doctors need to have knowledge of geography, tropical and many other fields of medicine, epidemiology and human behaviour. One size prescription does not fit all!
Do not fear speaking to a professional as they will only advise and recommend, leaving the ultimate decision as to course of any preventative care up to you. All of us should be up to date on routine shots while some countries require you have the necessary inoculations to enter the country and lastly, there are those which are recommended and will depend on your risk factor and personal preference.
Here is a great list of 12 Steps to Healthy Travel from my travel doctor (yes I do sometimes travel like Indiana Jones): Dr. Mark Wise at The Travel Clinic in Toronto:
- Learn about the medical issues before you leave (malaria, diarrhea, bites)
- Find out where you’ll get your medical care before you need it.
- Be proactive about your health (diet, sleep, hygiene …)
- Boil it, bottle it, peel it, purify it, cook it … or forget it.
- Use insect precautions and antimalarials as recommended.
- Try to travel during daytime hours; beware of your method of transportation.
- Be sensible in the heat and the sun.
- Avoid HIV/AIDS and other STDs. Use condoms if sexually active, and beware of medical practices (including transfusions) in foreign countries.
- Be away of your mental health while you are away.
- Learn about environmental risks – jet lag, motion & altitude sickness.
- Avoid dogs, monkeys and other furry animals –no matter how cute! Wash and seek medical care if bitten or scratched… or call your own doctor.
- And last but not least …have a great time!