What is Travel Medicine and Why is it important?

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If you are planning a holiday, one of the most important things to get sorted before travelling is your vaccinations. The kind you need will depend on where you are going and where you might have already been before.

Vaccinations
Vaccinations are essential to gain immunity from a variety of harmful things. You should already be up to date with your regular vaccinations, but if you are travelling to different parts of the world, there are different things you might need to be vaccinated against. There are a few places you can go, but if you live in Canada, a travel clinic based in Ottawa is a good example – they can make sure you are fully protected before your trip abroad. You should ask your healthcare provider about travel vaccinations and find your nearest travel clinic to see if they offer the full travel vaccination package. It is also possible that some vaccinations will be covered by insurance, or if you are living in the UK, you could be entitled to some vaccinations free from NHS providers.

Importance
Whilst vaccinations can be an issue for some faith beliefs, the fact is, you are much safer with them than without. Vaccinations all have to be approved and are completely safe, so you should not have any doubts about getting them done. If you don’t get vaccinated, you are putting yourself at risk of death or lifelong illness. If you are unsure about what vaccinations and medicines you may require, sites such as travelhealthpro can be used to check based on the country you are visiting. Vaccinations exist for a reason, keeping you safe from deadly infections and diseases such as Yellow Fever, Typhoid, and Hepatitis A and B. Some countries require proof of vaccinations before you can visit them, so make sure you check this. Even if they don’t require an ICVP (International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis), it is still a good idea to carry one with you.

When to Get Them
You should get your vaccinations as soon as possible, but at least eight weeks in advance is recommended. Some vaccinations take time or require multiple doses before your body can develop full immunity. If you are working as an aid worker or in a medical setting, you are more likely to be in contact with serious diseases and viruses, so this is something you should discuss with your travel clinic or health provider. If you are working with animals, then you will definitely need your rabies shot.

For those with pre-existing conditions, immunodeficiencies, or pregnant/nursing mothers, you will have to speak to your doctor more about this for advice, as some vaccinations may not be possible.

General Health and Safety
Whilst vaccinations are incredibly important, you should also remember to keep your general health and safety in check. This includes things such as using hand sanitizers when using public restrooms, and before eating and drinking. Good hygiene will help to prevent against stomach bugs and should be part of your regular routine anyway, but can be even more important in countries where there are poorer sanitation levels.

Making sure that you only drink safe water from a genuine source is is essential if you are travelling to most places, as tap water is often unsuitable for drinking for a variety of reasons. Whilst some areas may have tap-water that locals drink and is not polluted or ‘dirty’ in any way, it could still be bad for you if your body is not used to it. Water can carry lots of harmful microorganisms and cause diarrhoea and sickness, or much worse.

Before visiting any country, do your research and learn about the risks and dangers, so you can be fully aware and keep yourself safe. Travelling is great fun, but it’s much more fun when you can enjoy it without putting yourself at risk. Don’t forget to use good sun-protection too!