A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

How to stay healthy when traveling abroad

Illustration - suitcases in front of travel directional signsCollege students, or anyone for that matter, can have all sorts of good reasons to travel overseas and broaden their perspectives on the world. Getting seriously ill while you’re there definitely isn’t one of them.

That’s why Dr. Michael Sullivan, a pediatrician at Marshfield Clinic, sat down with us between patients to share some of his expertise.

Top tip for overseas travel

His most important advice: Make sure to share your child’s travel plans with his or her doctor at least two months ahead of a planned trip if possible.

“A primary care doctor can usually assess your child’s risk and administer vaccines to prevent potentially dangerous illnesses like tuberculosis, typhoid fever, measles, mumps and rubella,” he said. While there is no vaccine for malaria, doctors can usually prescribe medications to prevent it,” Sullivan said.

Marshfield Clinic Urgent Care can provide the yellow fever vaccine.

Check for outbreaks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains maps of disease hot-spots in the world. Your child’s physician should have access to these constantly changing maps. Most often, outbreaks are found in Africa south of the Saharan Desert, and south and central American countries.

“It’s helpful to break it down even further, because there is a lot less risk of contracting a disease in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, if you’re there for the upcoming Olympics than if you’re camping along the Amazon River,” Sullivan said. “The same country but different exposures to illnesses.”

Malaria, on the other hand, can usually be found in a band around the tropical areas of the world. If you or your child is going on a mission trip to Ecuador, for instance, seek out a medication to prevent or at least minimize the exposure.

“Travel advice should be highly tailored to where you are going,” Sullivan said.

Stay current with common immunizations

Few people would expect an outbreak in a European country like France and England, but they’ve had them. And no matter where younger children are going, they should be current with their series of immunizations.

“The big one is measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), which we typically give to children 12 to 18 months, and again at 4 to 6 years,” he said.

When you check with your doctor, don’t forget to ask about any travel advisories or disease outbreaks.

To get more information on immunizations, visit our Vaccine Hub.

Bon Voyage!

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