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Travel Health


by: Claire Newell

A recent study by Leger and Valneva indicates that approximately 88% of Canadian familiesare planning to travel together in 2017. That's a 10% increase over last year. Another interesting statistic related to this part of the study is that 40% of families will be traveling together for the first time.

The research also showed that the Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America will overwhelmingly be the most popular destinations for Canadian families traveling outside of Canada and the US. So given this information, here are some tips for keeping your family healthy if you plan to travel this year.

First, make sure you have travel insurance. We have all heard those horror stories of massive medical bills incurred by travelers in other countries. This is the result of travelers forgetting to get coverage or simply not thinking they will need it. Check any work benefits and credit card coverage you may have to ensure you are protected. If not, don't leave the country without emergency travel medical coverage at a minimum. I never travel internationally without comprehensive travel insurance, including health coverage. Remember, it's always better to have more coverage than less.

Next, make sure you pack a medical kit with all of the items you might need in case you get sick or injured. The last thing you want is to try to find a pharmacy for common things like bandages, cold medicine or alcohol wipes when you are feeling under the weather. Also, make sure you have all of your prescriptions in their marked containers and bring some extras just in case your flight is delayed.

A couple months before you leave, be sure to visit your doctor and/or a travel clinic to find out what vaccinations you may need. For some destinations you might require proof of vaccination certain diseases. Something more common that you might not realize is that there are also vaccines available for common travel-related illnesses you could get from contaminated food and water. There is a specific strain of E. coli called Enterotoxigenic E. coli, or ETEC which causes the majority of cases of travelers' diarrhea in places like Latin America, Mexico and the Caribbean. However, there exists a vaccine that can help to protect you against this. When you travel, you want to be able to enjoy some of the local cuisine while taking some precautions and not be constantly worried about spending the rest of your trip stuck in the bathroom. Again, make sure that you ask your family doctor or pharmacist about vaccinations and find out what vaccines are right for you and your family.

Finally, download a travel health app to store your medical information on your device. The app ICE — In Case of Emergency allows first responders to access information about your medical situation, emergency contacts, travel insurance and more. The great thing about this app is that it appears on your phone's home screen so when your phone is locked it can still be seen by those looking for medical info or contacts.

Checklist for Traveling Anywhere Outside of Canada

  • Register your trip on travel.gc.ca so Canadian Government can contact you in an emergency
  • Look into vaccinations
  • Visit a healthcare professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before departure
  • Fill all prescriptions
  • Obtain travel and health insurance
  • Check where the nearest hospital/clinic is at your destination
  • Find out the 911 equivalent for the country you are visiting
  • Bring a cell phone battery booster to ensure you are always connected
  • Download an ICE (In Case of Emergency) app