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May 2011
Medical Advice for International Travellers
Dr. A. N. Venkatesh
With rapid globalization and technological improvements, from flights to Internet technology, all have connected the world and made it a smaller place.

People travel to international destinations more than ever before. More and more Indians are travelling across international boundaries in the last decade than ever before for tourism, humanitarian efforts, industrial globalization or as migrant workers. Evidence suggests that only a small number seek pre-travel health advice. So the next time you travel let your motto be, “Be prepared”!

Getting Vaccinated
Ideally, set up a pre-travel consultation 4 to 6 weeks before your trip. Most vaccines take time to become effective in your body and some vaccines must be given in a series over a period of days or sometimes weeks.

Routine and recommended vaccinations are
  • Hepatitis A & B
  • Typhoid
  • Rabies for people who will spend time outdoors or come in contact with dogs, bats or wild animals
  • Measles mumps and rubella (MMR) – two doses recommended for all travellers born after 1956, if not previously given
  • etanus and diphtheria recommended every 10 years
Vaccination required for travel
  • Yellow Fever vaccination is required by International Health Regulations for travel to certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America
  • Meningococcal vaccination is required by the government of Saudi Arabia, for travel during the Haj
Medical kit for travel
While travelling always pack a travel health kit. It will help you avoid inconvenience and discomfort should you need medications during your travel. If you're travelling abroad, inform yourself about the health care facilities of that country and find out the local emergency helpline number beforehand.

To cover the basic minor illnesses and injuries, it helps to include the following items in your travel kit:
  • Fever thermometer
  • Standard over-the-counter pain reliever/fever reducer (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen). Depending upon your individual circumstances, you may want to discuss with your physician if taking a small amount of a more potent prescription pain reliever may be appropriate
  • A few adhesive bandages in different sizes; gauze pads and first-aid tape
  • Antibacterial hand sanitizer gel
  • Antibiotic cream (such as neosporin) for minor cuts and wounds
  • An antacid preparation (tablets may be more convenient than liquids)
  • Anti diarrheal medication (such as loperamide, sporlac)
  • Packets of Oral Rehydration Solution
  • Tweezers and needles to remove splinters
  • Oral antihistamine such as diphenhydramine or one of the non-sedating antihistamines such as levocetrizine
  • Sunscreen (with SPF 30 or higher)
  • Any prescription medications and supplies you may require, in their original packaging, enough for your entire trip plus a small surplus
  • Epinephrine injection (e.g. EpiPen) - for those with a history of allergies to insect stings or other severe allergic reactions
Depending on your travel plans, you may also want to consider adding some of the following items to your kit:
  • Moleskin or other blister relief products if you plan to do a lot of walking
  • Insect repellant
  • Lighter or matches to sterilize instruments
  • First aid manual
  • Eye washing solution
  • Elastic (Ace) bandage
  • Drugs for motion sickness (eg. promethazine)
  • Sleeping pills (for jet lag)
  • Drugs for sea sickness (eg. scopalmine – transdermal patches are available for long action)
Always make sure that you carry a personalised medical history card in your wallet or purse that specifies your blood group, medical illnesses, allergies and your physician’s contact details. Be advised that special precautions are needed in special populations like pregnant women, children and the elderly.

Always eat well-cooked food and drink clean boiled or bottled water. Make sure you follow these basic health tips and your journey will be healthy and happy.

Consultant & HOD Emergency Department Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore

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