Dr. Jeff Pernica, infectious disease specialist, Hamilton Health Sciences
So you’re going on vacation. Lucky you! I’m jealous.
It may be easy to get wrapped up in visions of beaches and buffets, but before you hit the road, there are some important things to take into consideration.
When you travel, the health care resources you’re used to add home may not be readily available. There are also different risk and infections that you can be exposed to away from home.
Follow these recommendations for a safe and healthy vacation.
BEFORE YOU GO:
1. Check Health Canada’s website to see if there are any travel advisories for the place you’re visiting. The website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control can also tell you which vaccinations you may want to consider.
2. If you’re travelling outside of Canada, purchase comprehensive health insurance that covers medical procedures in other countries and/or the cost of getting you home if needed. Make sure you keep this documentation on your person while travelling.
3. Book an appointment with a travel health clinic if you’re travelling outside Canada and the U.S. to learn about the specific risks of the place you’re visiting, and get any necessary prescriptions for vaccines or medications.
4. Research the health care system of your destination so you know what your options are if you get sick or injured.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE:
1. Watch what you eat and drink. Water in many countries contains bacteria or parasites. Drinking tap water, using ice cubes, or eating fresh fruit or vegetables that have been washed in that water can increase your risk of infection. Pay close attention to how your food is cooked and served. Avoid food that has been left sitting out, or isn’t cooked all the way through. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it!
2. If you’re visiting a country a disease that is spread by insects, wear long clothes and bug repellant that contains at least 20 per cent DEET or icaridin.
3. Protect your skin from the sun. Wear a cover-up if possible, and use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.
4. Avoid high-risk activities. Take precautions like wearing a life jacket or helmet if you ride on a boat or ATV. Remember – scuba diving and mountain climbing activities can be dangerous if you are not experienced.
5. Remember- sexually transmitted infections are generally much more common in countries outside North America and Western Europe.
For more information on how to protect yourself, and additional precautions you may need to take, visit a travel health clinic. You can find a list of clinics on Ontario here.