Traveling outside of the United States offers many benefits, but it also means travelers may be exposed to health hazards. A travel health consultation is an opportunity to determine what the potential risks are and to provide immunizations and self-care strategies. The advantage of this sort of consultation is that the person providing the service is an expert, while a family doctor or clinic may not be up-to-date on the health issues abroad. For example, many family doctors don’t carry vaccines that may be required for a trip abroad.
Each country has specific health issues and risks. For example, malaria may be an issue in the tropics, while travel to the far north may mean a risk of frostbite, and altitude sickness can occur at higher elevations. Unnecessary vaccinations increase the risk of reactions and side effects, while some countries have specific requirements about vaccinations for diseases like yellow fever. Careful preparation decreases health risks and allows a traveler to enjoy the trip.
A travel consult should always include a personal health assessment and the most current information on health risks to countries on the itinerary, as well as an immunization review to update any vaccinations. Travelers in the tropics may need advice about malaria or yellow fever, or the risk of infection with the Zika virus. Prevention is also part of the consult; for example, traveler’s diarrhea can be prevented and treated if it does occur. Other topics for discussion include personal safety issues, such as insect avoidance, the risks of blood-borne illnesses and sexually-transmitted infections, and environmental issues including motion sickness, jet lag, and the potential for blood clots in the leg.
The travel nurse will provide specific written information. If prescriptions are required, those will be taken care of during the visit, and all will have instructions on the bottle or container. The nurse will provide an immunization record and printed information of precautionary measures. She will also review this material with the patient during the visit.