What is Travel Medicine Consultation?
Travel medicine consultation is a custom-tailored service in which travelers consult with medical practitioners regarding the health risks associated with their upcoming trips. By acquiring a comprehensive understanding of the specifics of the upcoming trips and the risks associated with the respective destination, travelers are better equipped to make informed decisions regarding their health far in advance of their trip. As a result not only can they enjoy their destination with greater peace of mind, but if necessary, they will also be able to start preventative or therapeutic medication or anti-malarial treatments in advance of their vacation.
Overview of Travel Medicine Consultation
A travel medicine consultation typically starts with the traveler filling a detailed questionnaire with information about their travel plans, the vaccination status of the traveler, and their personal medical history. The next step of the process involves a face-to-face or telephone consultation with an experienced and qualified travel medicine expert, during which the consultant will discuss the traveler’s vaccination status, risk of infection as well as the available preventive measures such as vaccinations, antimalarials, or other prophylactic treatments. Relevant travel advice with respect to regional diseases, local systems of health services, and psychological health are also provided by the consultant, who can also provide a tailored list of personal health supplies to be carried by the traveler for any eventuality.
Benefits of Travel Medicine Consultation
Travel medicine consultation offers travelers the opportunity to receive personalized advice and information about the health and safety risks associated with their upcoming trips. Some of the other benefits include:
- Provides travelers with a thorough understanding of the health risks associated with their upcoming trip.
- Allows travelers to begin necessary preventative treatments such as vaccinations or anti-malarial treatments prior to their trip.
- Enables travelers to understand the local health systems available at their destination.
- Provides travelers with personalized advice regarding their vaccinations and medication.
- Informs travelers of the vast range of health and safety issues that may arise during their travels.
Expected Results of Travel Medicine Consultation
The expected results of travel medicine consultation depend largely on the scope of the consultation itself. Travellers that have obtained a comprehensive travel medicine consultation should expect to feel better informed and prepared before their journey and during their stay in their destination country. They should also feel more knowledgeable about the general risk avoidance strategies associated with the destination they are travelling to.
The other expected results of a travel medicine consultation are as follows:
- Travelers will receive professional advice regarding the health risks associated with their destination and the necessary precautionary measures to be taken.
- Travelers should have a greater understanding of the types of vaccinations and vaccinations schedule available for their destination.
- Travelers will receive advice regarding the requisite conditions for taking certain medication and the necessary precautions to be taken on the trip itself.
- Travelers will have the opportunity to discuss any other issues related to travel health such as jet lag, food-borne diseases, psychological health, travel insurance, etc.
- Travelers may acquire a list of personal health supplies to be carried on the journey.
Travel medicine consultation is becoming increasingly popular as travelers become increasingly aware of the health risks associated with traveling. Not only does such a consultation provide travelers with the needed knowledge to make informed decisions regarding their health, but it also enables them to understand the local health systems and to know what to do in the event that an emergency medical situation arises. As a result, travel medicine consultation is becoming an essential part of the planning process of any traveler, and travelers are encouraged to seek out the advice of travel medicine specialists before any upcoming trip.
Definition and Overview
Travel medicine, also known as emporiatrics, is a field of medicine that involves health management and the prevention of health issues that patients traveling internationally might encounter. There is a high risk of disease and other medical issues involved in traveling to different parts of the world, as the individual is exposed to different people, conditions, and environments. There are identified disease hotspots in the world, including tropical climates and other parts of the developing world, and travelers who will go to such destinations should be amply prepared.
There are different areas in the field of travel medicine, with many of them dealing with preparing the traveler before he goes to the destination where disease is a high risk. Prescribing and delivering vaccines or other preventive medication play a big part in pre-travel medicine, as prevention plays a big part in ensuring the traveler’s health. The human immune system is often unprepared for new diseases it might encounter during international travel, which is why it is highly important to undergo preventive measures to minimize risk and ensure the traveler’s health, welfare, and safety.
With over 80 million people traveling to different parts of the world every year, disease and health issues remain a major concern. Aside from the traveler encountering diseases and infectious agents that his or her immune system is not prepared for and suffering the symptoms in a foreign country, the traveler can also bring infectious disease to his home country. This latter risk poses a serious threat particularly to densely populated areas, since such diseases—including the recent outbreaks of SARS, swine flu, and other such epidemics—can infect thousands of individuals in a matter of days or weeks. Traveler’s diarrhea is a common affliction experienced by international travelers, regardless of their destination. This condition involves diarrhea, stomach cramps, bloating, and nausea, and is usually caused by bacteria, viruses, and protozoans. Some cases are mild and usually go away after a couple of days or after the traveler takes diarrhea medication; on the other hand, there are cases so severe that the affliction poses a serious threat to the traveler’s life.
One of the common diseases encountered by travelers to tropical climates and developing nations is malaria, a mosquito-borne disease that causes high fevers, seizures, coma, or even death. As of the moment, there is no vaccine for malaria. Travelers who might be at risk of being bitten by malaria-carrying mosquitoes will be provided with a medical orientation prior to their departure to their destinations.
In the event that the traveler contracts a disease while traveling internationally, professionals trained in the field of travel medicine are also equipped to help them manage symptoms and treat the disease.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Travelers who will go to an identified disease hotspot, including destinations in the tropical region and the developing world, should visit a travel medicine specialist before he or she departs. This is to provide the individual with vaccines or with advice that will help prevent disease. Travelers returning to their home countries who observe symptoms should also come in for a check-up or a consultation to determine if they have contracted the disease during travel. People with pre-existing medical issues and diseases should also come in for a consultation. Research shows that cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death during travel, which makes it highly important for people with heart conditions to check with their primary care doctors for precautions to take before, during, and after travel. Injuries and accidents also rank high among the leading causes of travel deaths.
Pregnant women, needless to say, are also highly encouraged to visit their OB-GYN before and after traveling, to ensure their good health, as well as the child they are carrying within them. Specific travel activities such as attending mass gatherings or pilgrimage events, diving, traveling on a cruise ship, exploring remote areas, or embarking on wilderness expeditions will also require travel medicine to ensure that nothing untoward, health-wise, will happen to the traveler.
Expected results of a travel medicine consultation are minimizing the risk of disease and other medical issues, providing the traveler with knowledge on how to deal with potential encounters with diseases and infectious agents, and determine the cause or source of symptoms observed after returning from international travel.
How is the Procedure Performed?
The field of travel medicine is also very broad, with practitioners specializing in infectious diseases, public health and epidemiology, high-altitude physiology, travel obstetrics, tropical medicine, occupational medicine, migration and military medicine, environmental health, and even psychiatry.
There are many clinics providing this service to travelers, but it is best to get in touch with a clinic or health establishment that is certified by or has updated information from the Centers for Disease Control or the World Health Organization. Monitoring disease outbreaks and keeping track of possible preventive measures and treatment options are vital parts of travel medicine.
The World Health Organization also recommends that pre-travel consultation should take place “at least four to eight weeks before the journey and preferably earlier if long-term travel or overseas work is envisaged.” However, it is also important to note that even people who will be going on a last-minute trip should not dismiss going in for travel medicine consultation. A last-minute traveler can go in for a consultation as late as the day of departure itself.
Aside from assessing the current state of the patient’s health, the travel medicine specialist will also provide information about health risks or potentially life-threatening situations the traveler might encounter in his or her destination. The doctor will also determine the need for vaccines and other types of preventive medication. The traveler will also be provided with a list of medication and other medical supplies he or she might need for the trip.
Information on travel health insurance should also be discussed with a doctor or a qualified medical professional before the trip.
Possible Risks and Complications
Other than minor side effects caused by vaccines or pre-travel medication, travel medicine consultations are very safe and can potentially make the difference between life and death during travel.
- Centers for Disease Control
- World Health Organization