With the bitter cold, Canadians are heading to warmer locales, from South America to the Caribbean to Asia. But are you sure you’ve covered your bases when it comes to vaccines and the medications you may need before you go?
“A lot of people are very good at packing the items they have to bring with them like hairbrushes or swim trunks but oftentimes people don’t do as good of a job staying prepared health-wise. They don’t think about that until it’s too late,” Victor Wong, a Canadian pharmacist and owner of two Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies, told Global News.
“We find it often the case that people come last minute inquiring about vaccines. With vaccinations it’s very important to start thinking of these things weeks before you travel,” said Wong.
You need to see your doctor, get prescriptions, make sure your vaccinations are up to date and get the shots you need before your vacation, especially if you’re headed to a destination with certain diseases spreading.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for example, just issued a level 2 travel alert for Brazil due to Yellow Fever while tourists to south Asia are at “highest risk” of typhoid.
Wong explains what you need to know about appropriate coverage before you start your vacation.
Do your research: If you’re heading to the Caribbean, such as Mexico, Cuba and Jamaica, you may be worried about travellers’ diarrhea, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, while you could be worried about Zika virus and Dengue fever in some parts of South America.
Get the vaccines and medication you need: Book a doctor’s appointment in advance, especially if you need Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, malaria or typhoid shots. Chances are high that you haven’t been vaccinated against these diseases yet.
“Most of us who are born in Canada are vaccinated against measles, mumps and polio but because these other diseases are found in countries overseas, we’ve never been immunized against them unless you’ve travelled there before or you work in a health care facility,” Wong said.
A titre test, in which a doctor draws blood from an individual and a lab checks to see what the patient has immunity against or is susceptible to, will uncover any missing vaccines you may need.
Work in buffer time so your vaccines can kick in and to make sure you have time to pick up your prescriptions and take medication.
There are drugs to treat travellers’ diarrhea, altitude medications and other issues that might crop up.
You can also check in to refill prescriptions if you’re going on an extended vacation, Wong said.
“It’s also really important to identify how to carry the medication. Some climates are hot and cold and may require special precautions or devices to carry them,” he said.
Use time to your advantage: If you’re planning a backpacking trip through Southeast Asia, you can get your required vaccines ahead of time instead of waiting before leaving. Coverage can last for months, Wong said.
With Dukoral, users take the medication two weeks beforehand. The last dose should be taken one week before actually leaving.
Don’t forget to stock up: Epipens for allergies, Imodium to stop travellers’ diarrhea, Gravol for nausea. You’ll need to make sure you bring medication to keep any illnesses at bay.
If you or your kids have allergy sensitivities, bring antihistamines, while Tylenol and Advil also go a long way to tame headaches and other pains.
“These little things get left out because you’re in a rush but you may not find these exact medications on your vacation or you may not have ready access to a pharmacy or drugstore,” Wong warned.
Get ready for mosquitoes: With Zika virus touching parts of Asia and virtually every part of the Americas, except Canada and Chile, you need to make sure you have mosquito repellent on hand.
If you’re wearing sunscreen, mosquito repellant goes on last, Wong said. Then reapply both throughout the day.
If you’re pregnant or family-planning, your best bet is to visit the doctor if you’re going to a Zika-affected region, too.