This content was derived from an article that originally was published by iJET® International.
From infectious diseases and physical injuries to exacerbating pre-existing medical conditions, travelers can face a variety of health-related threats during their journeys abroad. Fortunately, many of these issues can be mitigated or even prevented prior to your departure. Let’s take a look at some basic pretravel health measures to take before your next big international trip.
Consult a healthcare physician
One of the first calls you should make after booking your trip? To a healthcare professional’s office to find out which vaccines you should get and how you can prevent any other infectious diseases.
A health professional who specializes in travel medicine — aka a “travel medicine specialist” — may know more about the current health risks of the country you will be visiting than a general practitioner or family doctor. An online directory of private travel clinics around the world can be found on the International Society of Travel Medicine website.
To ensure you have enough time to complete any vaccine series you may need and give your body time to build up immunity, schedule your appointment at least four to six weeks before travel, if possible. Of course, business travelers often don’t have that much time ahead of a trip, but even a last-minute visit can be useful. Some vaccines can be given on an abbreviated schedule or may offer partial protection.
During your medical appointment, be thorough about all the potential destinations you may visit and activities you will participate in. Make sure you are apprised of all health issues relating to your itinerary and counseled on specific risks related to chronic medical conditions.
Also, be sure to ask your primary healthcare provider if you are up-to-date on all routine vaccinations. These vaccinations include but are not limited to: chickenpox, hepatitis A and B, influenza, measles, mumps, and rubella, pertussis (whopping cough), pneumococcal pneumonia, tetanus and diphtheria. Because not all diseases can be prevented with vaccines, speak to your doctor about the health risks at your destination and what else you can do to stay healthy.
Contact your health insurance carrier
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 percent of international travelers visiting developing countries become ill during their trip. Since medical assistance abroad can be extremely expensive, it is important to ensure you have adequate health insurance before leaving.
Contact your health insurance carrier to determine if your policy will provide coverage in a foreign country. It is important to note that you may need supplemental travel insurance to ensure you are adequately covered for medical emergencies and evacuations.
While traveling, carry your health provider’s name and contact information in case of an emergency. If you have a chronic or ongoing health problem that may require treatment while abroad, be sure to carry a copy of pertinent health records.
Properly pack medications
Travelers with chronic diseases that need to bring medications with them on their trip will need to do their homework. Medications that are legal in one country may be highly regulated or even prohibited in another country. Failure to follow local laws may result in confiscation of medications, imprisonment for drug trafficking and even the death penalty.
While the following offers some basic guidelines for traveling internationally with personal medication, the guidelines below are not universal since individual countries are continually modifying their laws and regulations. Therefore, we highly recommend that you contact the country’s embassy regarding specific instructions for the importation of medication.
- Obtain and pack a copy of your prescription and a letter from the prescribing medical practitioner stating the name of the drug, dosage and quantity prescribed, and the reason the drug is being prescribed. While some countries will allow you to carry a 90-day supply of medication, other countries limit this to a 30-day supply or less. Therefore, a certificate/letter from your prescribing medical practitioner can be a useful document if you have to obtain a prescription from a medical practitioner in the country you are visiting.
- All prescription medications and any related documentation either should be carried or stored in a carry-on luggage, since checked luggage can be lost, misplaced or delayed. Travelers should keep all prescription medications in their original containers/packages with the active ingredients of the medication clearly labeled on the container for easy identification at checkpoints. Different medications should not be combined into one container. Travelers should make sure the name on the prescription, the container and their passport match. Medications should be packed in a clear bag.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) medications should be kept in their original container and clearly labeled. They can be packed in checked luggage; however, travelers should consider packing OTC medications in their carry-on luggage, especially if the medication is needed during the flight, near the time of arrival and/or if it is regulated by the destination country. They also should be packed in a clear bag.
For a more in-depth look into traveling internationally with personal medication, watch iJet’s webinar, Traveling with Medication: How to Navigate International Law.