“Travel broadens the mind and loosens the bowels,” says Dr Sherwood Gorbach MD. Spending some time consulting a travel doctor before you travel, will help you prevent issues arising while you are away and also better equip you to better deal with common ailments early and potentially avoid the need to seek medical care while travelling.
Most of us love to travel and what better place to start you journey than from Singapore? In a few hours you can be sitting in a bar in Bali or SCUBA diving the waters off Boracay in the Philippines. Attractive as these destinations may be, they do come with some increased health risks. Illness rates in international travellers range between 15 to 55%, with some being serious. Putting in a little preparation by visiting your doctor for a travel consultation is always recommended to avoid your holiday being hijacked by ailments such as “Bali belly” or “swimmers itch”.
You should book in for an appointment around 6 to 8 weeks before travel to allow time for vaccine courses or trials of medication if these are required. You should bring along any previous vaccination records that you have too so the doctor can check those that need to be updated. If for some reason you can not attend that long before your trip, last minute consultations are still valuable. There are still preventative measures that can still be used to make your travel more comfortable.
During the pre-travel medical consultation the doctor will cover any specific questions you have and:
(i) take the opportunity to discuss your relevant current and past medical history, to identify travellers with special needs (for example, children, pregnant women, individuals taking stomach antacid medication, the elderly and those with chronic diseases);
(ii) determine the risk of your intended travel. This includes factors such as the reason for travel, style of travel, length of stay, destinations, accommodation, activities exposures and seasons;
(iii) provide specific vaccination advice and discuss preventative medication including the use of anti-malarial and prophylaxis for altitude sickness;
(iv) provide education on the six “I’s”:
- Insects – how to avoid them with repellants, netting and appropriate clothing;
- ingestion – how to take care with food and water;
- injuries – personal safety, accident avoidance and management of dog bites;
- immersion – the risks of swimming in fresh water in the tropics; drowning risks;
- indiscretions – sexual transmitted diseases and drugs;
- insurance – the need to have adequate health and travel insurance.
The length of the consultation will vary and you may be required to attend on a number of occasions, such as having a course of vaccinations.
IMC also has travel medical kits for purchase which have been specifically designed for particular types of holidays and destinations. These kits contain both prescription medication for the individual and non prescription medication to treat common travel illnesses, the most common of which are travellers diarrhea and respiratory illnesses. These kits are particularly useful when you are in another country and may not know where to easily access basic non-prescription medication.
Remember you may also need a post travel consultation if you have been to a high risk area and certainly if you fall ill after returning from your travels.