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Travel health — prevention over cure

Climate and lifestyle, but also the organization of treatment and the type of health problems (particularly infectious diseases), can be very different from one area of the globe to another. In planning for a trip, the health risks that a sudden, sometimes radical, change in environment can cause must be considered.

Before leaving

Four to eight weeks before leaving, it is important to consult a doctor or travel health clinic to learn about preventive treatments (antimalarials), vaccinations, and the precautions to take depending on the destination. Certain countries require an international vaccination record and an updated vaccination against yellow fever. Here are other precautions to take before leaving:

  • Obtain good travel insurance and bring a list of people to contact in the event of emergency, including your doctor.
  • Put together a medical kit that could contain, depending on needs, antipyretic medications (fever reduction), anti-inflammatories, antalgics (pain reducers), antihistamines (allergy treatment), antidiarrhea medications, a product for disinfecting water, sunscreen with an elevated sun protection factor, repellent, and contraceptives.

  • People suffering from a chronic disease must bring enough medication and syringes for their needs during the stay as well as a medical certificate justifying their use. Prescription renewal must indicate the name of the active ingredient rather than the brand name.

At the destination

In warm countries, the sun represents one of the main dangers. Avoid activities during the strongest hours of sun (between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.), wear protective sunglasses, a hat, and long-sleeved clothes (dark and thick clothes provide better protection from UV rays), stay hydrated by drinking regularly and not waiting until you're thirsty. Showering or sponging also helps to fight against heat.

Upon Return

Upon returning from a country that is at risk for malaria, the prescribed treatment must be followed until it is finished. It is not necessary to consult a physician unless the person who returns from a trip suffers from chronic illness, consulted a doctor while traveling, stay or presents specific symptoms that appeared during the trip and that persist upon return: fever, headache, neck pains, persistent diarrhea, skin problems, urinary or genital problems, cough, or thoracic pains.

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