Traveling overseas for business or pleasure can be exciting, but it can take a toll on your health. Before you hop on that plane, make an appointment with the experts at St. Elizabeth Business Health’s Travel Medicine program.
“Countries outside of the United States have varying standards of care, and disease risks can change by country or region,” said Dr. Patrick Kunkler, a licensed physician with a Certification in Travel Medicine.
St. Elizabeth offers complete business or leisure travel immunization consultations and immunizations led by Dr. Kunkler along with registered nurse, Stacie Begley.
“The first thing you need to know is your itinerary and where specifically you will be,” said Dr. Kunkler. “Are you going to be in a rural area or an urban area? Are you going to be in the mountains or a valley? For example, Brazil is a large country, you could be in the Amazon rainforest or the mountains. That will make a difference in what health risks you face.”
Different countries require different treatment
Once you know where you’ll be traveling, contact St. Elizabeth Business Health as soon as possible. Most vaccines take at least two weeks to become effective. However, some vaccines require multiple boosters. It can require several weeks or months to complete the full schedule.
Different preparation also is required for a person traveling for a couple of weeks versus one living abroad for several years. Some countries require certain vaccinations, while others have little or no vaccine recommendations, which is why it’s important to talk to your doctor as soon as possible to figure out the best way to keep you healthy.
“Coming in at least 6-8 weeks before you travel would be ideal,” said Begley, who works with Dr. Kunkler to determine the best course of action for each patient. “Some people come in later than that, and we work with them, but as soon as they know their schedule, we’d like to get a call.”
In addition to vaccines, the Travel Medicine team may send you abroad with medicines to help protect you from more general health problems like traveler’s diarrhea or malaria, if appropriate.
Health problems at home will follow you aboard
It’s important to manage or prevent any current health issues before travel, as well, Begley said.
“During the Travel Medicine consultation, we encourage our travelers to meet with their primary care doctor, and to take care of any outstanding dental appointments before they leave. You don’t want to have an emergency while you’re away that could have been prevented beforehand,” she said.
Your doctors also can make sure you have enough of your prescription medication(s) to last during your trip.
Unfortunately, no matter how carefully you prepare, emergencies can happen. During an emergency, the team at St. Elizabeth Business Health can connect you with the closest and best medical care in your travel region, Begley said.
“During a Travel Medicine consultation, I will link patients to the closest hospital or clinic in the area that offers treatment as similar to Western standards as we can,” she said.
All services with St. Elizabeth Business Health’s Travel Medicine program are HSA or FSA eligible. For more information or to make an appointment, call (859) 301-7839.