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Your health and travel: vaccinations and other recommendations

To the point COVID-19 restrictions are now one of the first things to check before a trip. What about other aspects of health?

The pandemic persists, but although restrictive measures are in place, it is possible to travel.

Being vaccinated to be allowed to travel is not a new concept. However, there are many other aspects of health that should not be forgotten!

A visit to the pharmacy or a travel health clinic should not be out of the ordinary for a regular traveller.

Since the epidemiological situation and recommendations differ from country to country, a meeting with a professional is suggested. Consider consulting between six and eight weeks prior to your departure to ensure that you have the specific immunities for your destination.

Now, the pharmacist is able to advise and prescribe the necessary medications and vaccines.

However, some vaccines are sometimes out of stock and are more often found in travel health clinics.

Diseases contracted by insect bites

The best way to protect yourself is to prevent bites.

So the first thing to do is to cover up and limit your exposure time, especially at sunset.

The use of a mosquito net and a DEET-based insect repellent is also recommended.

Dengue fever

The only prevention is to avoid bites and there is no treatment.

Most of the time, this fever does not cause any symptoms and goes away by itself. When there are symptoms, the main goal is to control them.

The first infection is usually mild, but the second is often much more severe. Exposure to the disease does not confer any particular immunity to subsequent infections with other strains of the virus.

Moustique

Yellow fever

This fever is a disease found in tropical countries; the virus attacks mainly the liver and causes yellowing of the skin.

The yellow fever vaccine is very effective against this very severe disease. Immunization is therefore recommended for travelers over 9 months of age in high-risk areas.

In the past, full-dose vaccination provided 10 years of immunity. The scientific community has now agreed that protection is for life and that a booster dose is no longer required.

If your yellow vaccination card shows an expiry date, there is no need to get another one.

Certificat vaccination fièvre jaune

I mention the full dose because in recent years there has been a shortage of yellow fever vaccine.

The vial was therefore split up for the immediate needs of the travellers. The partial dose provides immunity for one year only.

Some countries require proof of vaccination if you have stayed, or even just had a stopover, in a risk area.

The areas at risk are both rural and urban in many African and South American countries.

Fièvre Jaune

Malaria

Malaria is a potentially fatal infection if not treated promptly. This infection is mainly transmitted in tropical, rural and low altitude areas.

This disease can have serious consequences, as the malaria parasite clings to the blood vessels. This can lead to anemia, hypoglycemia and brain problems.

If left untreated, malaria can lead to coma, long-term damage and death.

Malaria

Preventive pills can cause unwanted side effects. In addition, they do not guarantee protection against the disease. These medications help to alleviate the symptoms and get rid of the parasites.

Also, even if you take these tablets as a prophylaxis, you should still consult a doctor to rule out malaria in case of fever.

Pilules

Finally, depending on the region, malaria parasites may be resistant to one type of drug more than another. A professional will be able to advise you and prescribe what is necessary in your situation.

Japanese encephalitis

This disease is very common in Asia, but it is generally harmless.

In rare cases, it can cause encephalitis (swelling of the brain) which will result in fever, headache, nausea, confusion, etc.

A vaccine is available for travel to a high-risk area for more than four weeks.

Lyme disease

Transmitted by an infected tick, this disease is treated with antibiotics.

If left untreated, the infection can affect the joints, heart and nervous system.

Rabies

This acute infection is transmitted through the saliva of infected animals following a bite. This virus attacks the nervous system and is usually fatal if left untreated.

All mammals can spread rabies, but the main culprits are dogs, cats, bats, raccoons and skunks.

A vaccine is available, but several doses must be received, so the immunization schedule must be planned.

In case of a risky bite, a vaccinated person still needs additional antibodies. The latter are only available in large cities.

Rage

Pregnant women

Babymoons are quite popular; what better way to have a “last” couple’s trip before the arrival of the baby?

Best time to travel

First of all, check with the airlines, as they have different policies regarding women who are expecting a baby.

Therefore, they have the right to ask for written confirmation from the doctor that the pregnancy is low risk.

For most, it is possible to board a flight up to 32 weeks of pregnancy.

The best time to travel pregnant is during the second trimester between 18 and 24 weeks. Within this window, the risk of complications and preterm births is lower.

Babymoon

Insurance particularities

For emergency medical insurance, companies generally offer coverage up to 30-32 weeks gestation.

However, it is very important to note that in the case of an early delivery abroad, the newborn child may not be insured. Details vary from company to company, so it is imperative to check your contract before you leave.

For example, for the National Bank’s World Elite Mastercard® the definition of a dependent child is:

a child of the holder, or of the holder’s spouse, who is over 30 days old

Zika

Countries at risk of the Zika virus should also be avoided by pregnant women as well as those who wish to become pregnant.

The father should also refrain from visiting these places until six months before conception.

Zika

Water and food

In some countries, caution is required, especially when tap water is not drinkable. When this is the case, ice should also be avoided as it could come from tap water.

In addition, it is often forgotten, but fruits and vegetables are mostly washed with this water. So try to avoid fresh salads and fruits that you can’t peel . Then, brush your teeth with bottled water.

Leau

On the food side, dairy products from some countries are not pasteurized and can cause listeriosis infections. In the case of pregnant women, these can be fatal to the baby.

When it comes to raw food, there is no need to worry if it is very fresh. For example, in Japan, the standards of raw fish preparation are very high unlike in other places.

Traveler's diarrhea

The famous “tourista” is very common and can be caught regardless of the destination. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses or by eating contaminated food and water.

The most important treatment is rehydration. So drink plenty of water and take electrolytes to speed up recovery.

Powdered electrolyte sachets are available in pharmacies. Otherwise, drinks like Gatorade can help.

The oral vaccine Dukoral exists, but it is only effective against cholera and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli diarrhea.

Tourista

Hepatitis A

The hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all travellers. This disease is often related to unsanitary conditions.

Contamination is oral, mostly through food or ice.

Immunization against hepatitis A is basic protection and is usually combined with hepatitis B (transmitted through body fluids).

Typhoid fever

This bacterial infection is transmitted through contact with the stool of a contaminated person or animal. It is more prevalent where hygiene is inadequate or where hand washing is less frequent.

This disease can be fatal without treatment. A vaccine is also available for travellers to higher risk areas.

Stays in high altitude

When travelling at high altitudes, it is important to allow adequate time for acclimatization and not to make too much physical effort.

Elevation

Health problems at altitude are said to occur when the altitude exceeds 2,500 metres. The higher you go, the more oxygen is scarce, which poses a risk.

An altitude between 2,000 and 3,500 metres is moderate, whereas it is very high between 3,500 and 5,500 metres. A human being cannot survive at more than 5,500 meters for a long period of time.

Mt Everest

Acute mountain sickness

When the body is starved for oxygen, serious complications can occur. For example, edema (pulmonary and cerebral) and hypoxia (inadequate oxygen supply).

Learning how to recognize the symptoms is also very important. Cerebral oedema is particularly manifested by an acute change in behaviour.

Other factors to consider are the decrease in temperature and the increase in UV radiation.

Although there is no scientific evidence, many professionals advise against high-altitude travel for children under 18 months.

Mt Everest
Mt Everest

The destinations

The main tourist destinations that can cause acute mountain sickness are:

  • Peru
  • Bolivia
  • Himalayas (Tibet, Bhutan, Everest)
  • Ethiopia
  • Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)
  • Shangri-La (China)
  • Ecuador
  • Colombia
  • etc.

Dental Health

We often forget our teeth!

I would advise you to go to the dentist for a little check-up, especially if you are going away for a long time.

Although dental care is available around the world, the notorious toothache can, in most cases, be avoided.

In fact, dentists are able to predict many problems.

For example, when extensive decay is left untreated, it is a typical time bomb situation! The last thing you want is for acute pain to appear during the trip.

Insurance companies may refuse to pay for emergency dental care if the problem was present before the trip. Extensive cavities do not appear overnight, but the pain does!

Santé dentaire

First aid kit

Every year I update the contents of this kit by refilling and getting rid of expired medications.

Obviously, I’m still thinking about points so I try to time this task to unlock a welcome bonus (most pharmacies take Amex!).

  • tylenol (painkiller and antipyretic)
  • advil (anti-inflammatory)
  • imodium (diarrhea)
  • laxative
  • anti flatulent/gas
  • melatonin (jet lag)
  • antihistamine (allergies)
  • gravol (nausea)
  • hydrocortisone cream (anti-itching)
  • antibiotic cream (healing/anti-infection)
  • mouth ulcer cream
  • electrolyte powder (dehydration)
  • dry eye drops
  • antiseptic wipes
  • band-aid
  • sunscreen
  • thermometer

You can buy what you need at your destination, but this little kit doesn’t take up too much space and I like to have everything at hand.

When I go to more remote areas where care is more scarce, I review my kit more carefully before leaving.

Official resources and information

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!

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