Health Travel Tips by Nurse Practitioner at ColumbiaDoctors
By Caroline Sullivan, DNP
Going overseas? Book your shots when you book your flight.
Planning to travel outside the U.S. this holiday season? Check with your primary care provider or travel clinic when you book your flight. You may need to see a provider at least 4-6 weeks before leaving the country to allow enough time to complete vaccinations, says Caroline Sullivan, DNP, an adult nurse practitioner at the Primary and Immediate Care practice at Columbia Doctors. In addition to getting any needed vaccinations, advance planning can give you time to consider other health precautions to consider for your destination, Sullivan says. Sullivan, whose practice provides travel consultations, offers the following tips for trips abroad.
1. Find vaccine recommendations for your travel destination. If your trip takes you to South America, you might vaccines to protect against Yellow Fever or Typhoid Fever. Travel to Africa may require vaccines to protect against meningitis or rabies. If you go to Asia, you might need vaccination for Japanese encephalitis, a virus spread by mosquitos in the region. “People are often unaware that these issues exist, and that there are vaccines for them,” Sullivan says.
2. Don’t forget routine vaccinations. All adults and kids should get a flu vaccine every year. Adults should get the Tdap vaccine, which protects against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria, at least once if they didn’t receive it growing up. Travelers 60 years and older should also get vaccines to protect against shingles and pneumococcal diseases, which cause infections in the lungs, blood, brain, and ears. “Keeping vaccinations up to date should be a routine part of primary care,” Sullivan says. “It’s never bad thing to double check before a trip.”
3. Vaccines aren’t the only protection you need. Depending on where you go and how you get there, you may want to have prescriptions for malaria, altitude sickness, or motion sickness. You should also take precautions with what you eat and drink, consuming fully cooked food and drinking beverages from sealed bottles. You may also need to take steps to protect yourself against mosquitos or other insects, or take precautions to prevent blood clots during flights or diarrhea on the ground. “Travel medicine isn’t just about vaccinations,” Sullivan says. “Other measures are equally important such as food and water precautions and protections against insects.”
4. Know the costs of travel medicine. Insurance may not cover all the shots needed for trips outside the U.S., and travel consultations also have fees that aren’t covered as routine primary care. “If you are traveling on a budget, you should be aware of these out-of-pocket fees,” Sullivan says.#