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If you are travelling outside of the country, the last thing you want is to put a damper on your trip by getting sick. Here are some tips to help you stay healthy during your travels.

How can you catch travel-related diseases?

  • Contaminated food and water can cause diseases like traveller’s diarrhea, hepatitis, and typhoid fever
  • Mosquitoes can transmit diseases like malaria and yellow fever

Vaccines for preventable travel-related diseases

  • Make sure all your regular vaccines are up-to-date
  • Hepatitis A & B are found worldwide
    • Most Canadians have been immunized for Hep B as part of the regular vaccination schedule
    • Hep A vaccination is recommended for many travellers, especially to areas with poor sanitation
    • Multiple doses are required for full protection
  • Typhoid vaccine is available in combination with Hep A vaccine (Vivaxim®)
    • Typhoid requires reimmunization after 3 years (does not give long-term protection)
  • Some countries require proof of meningitis and/or yellow fever vaccination for entry

Medications to prevent travel-related diseases

  • Traveller’s diarrhea
    • Often gets better on its own after 3 – 4 days
    • Most important way to prevent is by watching what you eat & drink (see question below)
    • Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) can be used for prevention
      • Do not take if you have an ASA (Aspirin) allergy
    • Over-the-counter loperamide (Imodium) can be used for treatment, but does not prevent
      • Avoid if you have a high fever or bloody diarrhea
    • Malaria
      • Prevention depends on the area that you are travelling to, as resistance has developed to some medications
      • Your health care provider may recommend a prescription anti-malarial medication

What other preventative measures can you take?

  • Remember for food: “Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it!”
  • Use bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth
  • Wash your hands properly before and after eating
  • Prevent mosquito bites by using insect repellent such as DEET
  • Avoid being outdoors at times of peak mosquito activity (usually twilight)
  • Cover skin by wearing long-sleeved clothing and using netting while sleeping

Talk to your pharmacist or healthcare provider at least 6 weeks before leaving for your trip, as vaccines take time before becoming effective. They can advise you on what preventative measures are appropriate for the specific area you are travelling to. You can also visit the Travel Health Page on the Public Health Agency of Canada Website for up to date information about your travel destination.

References: Canadian Pharmacist’s Letter. Preventing travel-related illnesses. 2011. http://canadianpharmacistsletter.therapeuticresearch.com/ce/cecourse.aspx?pc=11-317&fromce=021811. Accessed Feb 19 2016.

Forrester A. Diarrhea. Patient Self-Care. Canadian Pharmacists Association. Ottawa. 2010

Rxnet is a virtual pharmacy network that helps plan sponsors optimize their drug plan design to obtain cost efficient solutions for their plan members. We also work with clients to provide access to our member pharmacies through text refills and online refills. This article was provided by Samantha Thai, PharmD from McMaster Health Campus Pharmacy.

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