5 steps for travelling in good health

When travelling or vacationing abroad, remember to mitigate health risks during and after your journey by scheduling an appointment with your pharmacist. You can thus take advantage of various tips, tricks and travel health clinic services, including certain medication prescriptions, immunization and much more.

Travel health tips from your pharmacist

There is so much to think about when preparing a trip. Between passports, visas, itineraries, reservations and packing, health considerations, which can be multifold and significant, can sometimes take a back seat.

Thankfully, your pharmacist affiliated with Accès pharma chez Walmart is never far and can answer your questions, advise and coach you in your travel health-related plans.

We have put together the essential information for you to keep in mind, in 5 steps. That way, you can travel to and from your destination in good health!

Step 1 – Before you book: visit a travel health clinic

Don’t jeopardize your trip!

In order to travel to certain destinations, you may need some vaccines that you did not receive as a child. Proof of immunization, indicating that the required doses were administered within a certain timeframe before your date of departure, may be required. That is why it is paramount that you visit a travel health clinic prior to your trip.

Which vaccines are required for travel? 

When it comes to immunization before travel, each person’s needs are different. Vaccines that are recommended and required depend on the state of your health, the duration of your stay, your destination and the nature of your journey. 

A person who is planning a jungle expedition and another who will spend one week relaxing on a beach have different requirements to meet. See your pharmacist for more information.

Travel health clinic services 

All “travel clinic”-related services are provided by your pharmacist affiliated with Accès pharma chez Walmart. All you need to do is schedule an appointment online to easily obtain a consultation at your convenience.

Our services include the administration of travel vaccines and the issue of immunization certificates, medication prescriptions such as malaria pills and, of course, rapid COVID-19 tests.

Furthermore, your pharmacist can provide tips for preventing or relieving certain health issues that are common during travel, such as traveller’s diarrhea or motion sickness, by recommending precautions to take and OTC products that can be of help.

Learn about the situation at your destination in terms of health

For instructions and recommendations in effect regarding COVID-19 and public health in general, it is important to do your own research and stay on top of news regarding the area of the world where to plan to travel.

The following are some useful government sources: 

Step 2 – Before you zip up your suitcase: make sure you’ve packed everything

To help you remember everything, here is a list of items not to forget. Store your important documents in your hand luggage, in case you are required to present them. 

It is recommended that you pack sufficient quantities of your medication to last longer than your intended stay abroad. That way, in case your return trip becomes delayed, you won’t have to try to obtain your medicines at the place where you are staying.

Essential health documents for travel

  • Your up-to-date vaccination booklet (as it is sometimes required)
  • A copy of your documents or cards outlining your travel health insurance
  • An emergency prescription in case you lose your medicines or they get stolen/damaged
  • A note from your doctor explaining the reasons for your treatments

What to pack in your luggage and first aid kit 

  • Your medication, in its original prescription bottle/package, labels on
  • Alcohol-based disinfectant, for times where you may not have access to soap and water
  • Oral rehydration salts (ORS, e.g., Gastrolyte®)
  • Insect repellent and, ideally, a mosquito net if you are travelling to an area where stinging/biting insects pose a problem
  • Sunscreen with a skin protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, 50 being ideal
  • Adhesive or other bandages (e.g., BAND-AID®)
  • Topical antibiotic ointment (bacitracin/polymyxin B sulphate, e.g., Polysporin®)
  • Diarrhea medication: loperamide (e.g., Imodium®), bismuth subsalicylate (e.g., Pepto-Bismol®)
  • Constipation medication: psyllium (e.g., Metamucil®), lactulose (e.g., Apo®-Lactulose), bisacodyl (e.g., Gentlax®·S)
  • Pain and headache medication: acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol®), ASA (acetylsalicylic acid, e.g., Aspirin®), ibuprofen (e.g., Advil®)
  • Creams in case of a mild sunburn (topical vitamin A- and D-based creams; emollients, e.g., Lubriderm®; lidocaine, e.g., Xylocaine®)
  • Nausea medication: dimenhydrinate (e.g., Gravol®), diphenhydramine (e.g., Benadryl®), scopolamine (e.g., Transderm-V®)
  • Allergy medication: diphenhydramine (e.g., Benadryl®), cetirizine (e.g., Reactine®), loratadine (e.g., Claritin®)

Step 3 – On your way to your destination: avoid any malaise 

By car, bus, train, boat or plane: motion sickness

Consisting primarily in nausea and vomiting, motion sickness symptoms may include headaches, feeling warm, a general feeling of being unwell, paleness, abdominal discomfort, perspiration and dizziness. Children from the ages of 3 to 12 are particularly prone to motion sickness, but it can also affect people of all ages. 

Some tips to minimize motion sickness symptoms 

  • When possible, go outside often for fresh air.
  • If possible, look outside and focus on a certain point of the horizon. If that isn’t possible, keep your eyes closed.
  • Avoid reading, playing video games or looking at a screen. Instead, keep your mind busy by listening to music or relaxing.
  • Eat small snacks instead of large meals, and avoid fatty or spicy foods, as well as alcohol.
  • On planes, choose a window seat in the middle of the aircraft, where turbulence is at a minimum.
  • On cruises, choose a cabin located on one of the lower decks and in the middle of the ship, for the same reasons.
  •  In cars, buses and trains, make sure you are facing forward. Chose a seat from which you can keep your eyes on the road, and if possible, drive yourself.

Motion sickness treatments

People with persistent symptoms can seek the advice of their pharmacist regarding OTC medicines that provide effective symptom relief, such as dimenhydrinate (Gravol®), which is frequently used for motion sickness, or scopolamine patches, useful for long journeys, such as cruises, as their effects are released over several days. 

Unfortunately, both of these medications can cause drowsiness. Ginger’s effectiveness against nausea has been known for thousands of years and may be an efficient solution without side effects. See your pharmacist for advice you can trust.

Air travel: circulatory problems and venous thrombosis

Due to considerable variations in atmospheric pressure, aircraft passengers may experience blood circulation problems. A significant number of venous thrombosis cases are reported on planes. Venous thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms inside a vein due to prolonged sitting.

This health problem remains poorly understood, and it is suspected the people at risk of developing circulatory problems, such as those who have had a stroke, could see their situation worsen during a long flight.

General rules for alleviating circulatory problems during air travel

  • Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water.
  • Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation.
  • Walk up and down the aisle regularly to stretch your legs and properly stretch out your extremities.
  • If you are prone to circulatory problems, especially in your legs, wearing support stockings can provide relief.

Step 4 – During your stay: precautions to take 

Beware of water and raw foods: avoid traveller’s diarrhea  

Most times, traveller’s diarrhea or gastro-enteritis (commonly known as turista) is the result of food poisoning. Indeed, certain illnesses and bacterial infections are transmitted through contaminated water or food. 

In certain parts of the world, public health conditions may not guarantee the safety of drinking water, particularly for foreign visitors whose immune system is not adapted to the local microbiome. 

If there is any doubt regarding water quality, it is recommended to consume only bottled or canned water and drinks. Systematically avoid drinking tap water as well as ice cubes made using tap water. Beware of cocktails, and brush your teeth using boiled or sealed bottled water.

Protect yourself from insects: avoid diseases transmitted by biting/stinging insects  

Mosquitoes and other insects can transmit parasites or viruses causing potentially serious illnesses. It is advised that you take all necessary precautions to avoid insect stings and contamination.

If you are travelling to a place where malaria or the West Nile virus occur and are transmitted through mosquito bites:

  • Avoid low-lying, swampy, marshy places.
  • Use an efficient insect repellent, ideally one that is DEET*-based.
  • Protect yourself using a mosquito net (especially useful at night).

* Note: DEET-based products are not recommended in children aged 6 months to 2 years. If you need to apply a DEET-based product on a child who is 2 to 12 years of age, make sure the DEET concentration is lower than 10%.

Beware of sunburns and heat stroke, whether it’s sunny or not

A sunburn, also called erythema, is caused by an overexposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV rays) emitted by the sun. The first signs of a sunburn can take several hours to appear, and its full effects can take up to 24 hours or more to appear.

Signs of a sunburn 

  • Skin that is red and sensitive to heat or touch
  • Blisters that appear after a few hours or days
  • Skin that is peeling on sunburned areas, several days following overexposure

Although a mild sunburn can be treated at home, a severe sunburn requires immediate medical attention. For more information on actions that must be taken in such cases, read the Canadian government’s First aid advice for sunburn and heat illness.

Symptoms of sunstroke or heat illness

  • Fever, chills
  • Skin rash
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Cephalalgia (headache)
  • Rapid breathing or rapid heartbeat
  • Extreme thirst (dry mouth or thick saliva)
  • Infrequent urination, urine that is darker yellow than usual
  • In children, changes in behaviour such as drowsiness or fits of anger

You can prevent skin cancer by protecting your skin and that of your children against harmful UV rays.

Step 5 – Upon your return: watch for symptoms

Monitor your symptoms 

An illness contracted abroad may manifest itself once you’ve returned from your trip, sometimes weeks or even years later. Symptoms of certain serious diseases, such as malaria , may be confused with those or a benign condition such as the common flu.

Symptoms of malaria

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea or vomiting

See a doctor immediately

Listen to your body and take symptoms seriously – see a doctor without delay, making sure to mention your trip abroad to allow for proper diagnosis.

Your pharmacist, your healthy travel ally  

To set your mind at ease and have everything you need for worry-free travel, don’t wait until the last minute. Because when it comes to travelling far, as the saying goes, you’re “better safe than sorry!

To best prepare your travels abroad, don’t wait – schedule an appointment with your pharmacist affiliated with Accès pharma chez Walmart and find out about our travel health services.

To print out a handy checklist, download our free Travel Health Access guide • Accès pharma chez Walmart.

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