Travel Medicine (cont.)
Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP
Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Why should travelers see a physician before they leave on a trip?
- What diseases occur in travelers, and how can disease be prevented?
- Traveler's diarrhea
- Meningococcal meningitis
- Yellow fever
- Hepatitis A
- Typhoid fever
- What about diseases for which there is no vaccine or preventive medication?
- What is safe to eat and drink while traveling?
- What can I do to avoid insect bites?
- What should be in my travel first aid kit?
- What are the medical concerns with jet lag?
- What if I have a medical condition or a chronic disease?
- What if I'm pregnant?
- What about traveling with children?
- Where can I find additional information?
- Find a local Family Physician in your town
What if I have a medical condition or a chronic disease?
Careful preparation will allow most travelers with medical conditions to have a safe and enjoyable trip. See your physician before traveling to be sure your understand how to manage your condition while traveling. In some cases, an exercise regimen may be recommended to get in shape before the trip. It is important to check with your health-insurance provider to determine what is covered in the destination country.
Travelers with diabetes may need to adjust their insulin-dosing schedule if they cross several time zones. Frequent monitoring of blood sugar (glucose) by finger stick is usually recommended. Remember to carry insulin in your carry-on baggage (otherwise it will freeze in the cargo hold). An identification bracelet showing that you have diabetes is also recommended. Carry a source of sugar in case your blood glucose drops. Remember that exercise may cause blood sugar to dip, so always carry your supplies on hikes, etc. Finally, keep up with your fluids. Hydration can help avoid complications if your blood sugar jumps.
Travelers with heart disease should carry a recent electrocardiogram and a list of all current medications. Medications should be kept in carry-on luggage. If you have a pacemaker, you should know the name of the company that made it and how to contact someone if it stops working. Travelers with unstable heart disease (unstable angina, severe heart failure, recent heart attack, or unstable heart rhythm) should delay travel until their condition is stable.
Travelers who have problems with their immune system due to active cancer, chemotherapy, or AIDS may encounter special problems. In general, vaccines made from live organisms are usually avoided in people with significantly impaired immune systems. Even non-live travel-appropriate vaccines may not work as well as usual, but they are still beneficial and should be given. Consider delaying travel until the immune system is back to normal, if this is possible. Consultation with a disease specialist and a travel-medicine specialist before departure is strongly recommended.
Travelers with disabilities should know that accommodations will vary widely between and within countries. The Department of Transportation can assist with getting accommodations on airplanes (1-800-778-4838). Service animals such as guide dogs are subject to quarantine regulations and may not be allowed to enter some countries.
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