By Crystal Sweeney, APN, FNP-BC, OSF HealthCare
Traveling to some countries can pose serious health risks without the right precautions.While traveling, you may experience sudden and significant changes in altitude, humidity, microbes, and temperature that can cause illness. Serious health risks may be an issue in areas with the following characteristics:
- Poor accommodations
- Inadequate hygiene and sanitation services
- Lacking medical services
- Inadequate clean water supply
If you are traveling for business, enjoyment, or on medical or church missions, you should meet with a health care provider to understand the health risks you may face and what immunizations you need before traveling. At OSF HealthCare, we saw the need for this service and have launched the Travel Health Clinic at OSF HealthCare Medical Group — College Avenue in Bloomington.
The clinic provides travel consultations and immunizations. Depending on where you’re traveling, the New England Journal of Medicine reports that 22 to 64 percent of travelers report some illness. Most of these illnesses are mild, such as diarrhea, respiratory infections, or skin disorders. Some travelers return home with preventable life-threatening infections. Yet 20 to 80 percent of people do not see a doctor before embarking on their travels.
The best time to see a travel health provider is at least four to six weeks before your trip. When visiting with the specialist, be prepared to provide information:
- Where you are traveling within a country
- The length of your trip
- What types of activities you might do
- Other personal information such as your age, medical and vaccine history, and any current health issues
Make sure your routine vaccinations, including the seasonal flu vaccine, are up to date. You should also consider any recommended vaccines based on where you will be traveling. You should discuss any allergies, current medications, or other health concerns you have.
Recommended immunizations for international
travelers may include the following:
- Tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Typhoid fever
- Meningococcal meningitis
- Pneumococcal pneumonia
- Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
Pre-travel advice has helped prevent the spread of malaria. Travelers visiting friends and relatives in other countries are most at risk of contracting malaria and typhoid. This group requires special attention to illness prevention and education. You may need anti-malaria medication if you’re going to an area where malaria is a problem. The medications should begin at least one week before traveling and sometimes will need to be taken up to four weeks after returning home.
At the OSF HealthCare clinic, travelers are immunized and provided educational material on food and water safety, what to pack in a traveler kit, and how to prevent traveler’s diarrhea. An advanced practice provider is available for consultations from 8am to 4pm on Tuesdays and a registered nurse is available 8am to 4pm, Monday through Friday to answer questions, book consultation appointments, and provide vaccinations that may be part of a series.
Crystal Sweeney, APN, FNP-BC, of OSF HealthCare Medical Group, is a member of the International Society of Travel Medicine. She provides consultations at the Travel Health Clinic at OSF HealthCare Medical Group — College Avenue in Bloomington from 8am to 4pm on Tuesdays. For a travel health consultation with Crystal, call 309-664-3201. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/travel or the World Health Organization at www.who.int/ith/en/ for travel advisories and information on vaccines and outbreaks by travel destination.