Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

January 22, 2022

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Come home healthy

Family, friends and patients worry about getting sick when they travel abroad. Here are some quick tips to keep them healthy and useful links to sites that will answer most FAQs.

First steps

Take a medical history and ask which country they’ll be visiting. Once you know where they’re going you can determine what kind of risk they’ll face. A good place to start, for both you and your patients, is the excellent website operated by the Committee to Advise on Tropical Medicine and Travel published by Health Canada. Check out their travel health fact sheets for a list of possible diseases.

Shots needed

For travel to a developing country, patients should allow four to eight weeks to get any immunizations they need. You can do routine shots in your office — hepatitis A and B, flu shots, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus updates. For more complex jabs you might want to refer them to a travel clinic. You can find a list under “Travel” at

Things to take

An antidiarrheal and, possibly, an antibiotic. If malaria is a possibility, suggest an antimalarial and remind your patients to take it during and after the trip for another week. Mosquito nets and clothes impregnated with permethrin are also worth packing. Sunscreen, a DEET insect repellent, bandages and water-purification tablets are a good idea too -- so is travel insurance.

Coming home

For those who spend three months or more in a suspect area, suggest they be screened for any infections they may have picked up when they get back home.

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