The following are the top 3 reasons to see a doctor before you travel:
- You could need vaccinations – routine and otherwise. Recommendations for vaccines depends on a number of personal health factors that are specific to each person, where they are traveling, and what types of activities they will do on their trip. Your doctor will be able to verify whether you are up-to-date on your routine vaccinations, including seasonal ones like the flu shot, and help you get the recommended vaccinations for your destination.
- You’ll know what to do if you’ve been sick recently. If you’ve been sick recently, your doctor can help you determine whether it’s safe to travel and what precautions you may need to implement on your trip if you do decide to travel.
- You’ll be protected if you have a pre-existing medical condition. If you have a health condition that’s well-controlled with your current medications, you’ll have that fact documented in your medical records. If you have to seek medical care during your trip and you have coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, that medical care will be covered to the maximum benefit amount listed in your travel insurance plan. If you don’t have a pre-existing medical condition, the doctor’s appointment will make that clear in your medical records as well.
Factors that Affect a Traveler’s Health
There are a number of factors specific to each person that can affect their health during travel:
- Your age, current health, and medical history.
- Your record of getting routine and seasonal vaccinations.
- Your travel destination.
- The length of your trip.
- The time of year you are traveling.
- The activities you plan to do on your trip.
A fit and healthy 28-year old planning a white water rafting trip in tropical South America will find that they have very different vaccination needs than a 63-year old planning to walk the Great Wall of China.
Every region of the world has specific health hazards. Travelers to South America, for example, are recommended to get the yellow fever vaccination; travelers headed to Saudi Arabia need a meningococcal vaccination (it’s actually required by the government).
Vaccinations for Travelers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, divide vaccines for travel into three categories:
- Routine – these are necessary for protection from diseases that are still common in many parts of the world, even if they rarely occur in the U.S.
- Recommended – these vaccines protect travelers from illnesses that are present in foreign parts of the world and to which the traveler is likely not immune. These vary depending on your destination, the time of year, and more.
- Required – these are required by International Health Regulations or by the local government.
The only vaccine required by the International Health Regulations is the yellow fever vaccination for travel in certain countries. See the CDC destination map for regional health recommendations.
Proper Timing for Visiting your Doctor
Vaccines take time to reach an effective state in the human body, and some have to be administered in a series over a period of days or even weeks. The best time to see your doctor is at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip. That will give you, and your doctor, the necessary time to administer any required vaccinations and ensure that there are not adverse reactions.
In addition, this amount of lead time will ensure that you get your health questions answered and have time to purchase any required medications that will be necessary during your trip.
If you will be traveling for any significant amount of time, you’ll want to arrange for and purchase the medications you’ll need on your trip. Keep those medications in their proper prescription bottles, so they are identifiable by TSA and Security officials.