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Where are you travelling this year?

Where are you travelling this year?

By Dr Maria Boulton

Where are you travelling this year? Are you going anywhere exciting for Christmas? No doubt you have your flights booked, your hotel sorted and your passport ready. But have you thought about what vaccines you may need? Or what medications you should take with you in case you get sick?

Getting sick or injured during your travels is a sure way to ruin your holidays. That is why it is so important to schedule a travel medicine consultation with your GP at least 6 weeks prior to your trip. 

One of my patients went to Bali recently on a girls’ trip she and her friends had been planning for a long time. On the second day of her trip, they went to visit the monkeys. She followed the instructions of the staff but was sadly bitten by one of the monkeys. Monkeys, like any mammal, can carry rabies. Rabies is a virus that is transmitted through bites or scratches. My patient was bitten on her finger. She had the usual first aid to avoid infection and then the race was on to find rabies preventive treatment in case the monkey carried rabies. This needs to be given as soon as possible. In the end, she wasn’t able to source this in Bali and had to be airlifted back to Australia to receive this. Her holiday was cut short. As a doctor, I advise travellers to avoid contact with mammals but the truth is that most people who travel and are exposed to rabies do so by accident, they didn’t travel with the purpose of coming in contact with animals. Rabies vaccines are not something that people regularly ask for but certainly worth considering depending where you are travelling to.

At Family Doctors Plus we use several resources we use to source the latest travel medicine advise. One of these is https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. This is the travel site for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. It has useful links such as how to avoid traveller’s diarrhoea, what diseases are found in the different countries and what countries the Zika virus can be found in.

Zika infection causes severe brain defects in 5-10% of babies of women with confirmed Zika virus during pregnancy. It is well known that Zika spreads by mosquitoes. However, it can also spread through unprotected intercourse and it is essential that couples planning on becoming pregnant where one of the partners is travelling to a country where Zika is found take added precautions. If this is you speak to your doctor before you travel. 

Your doctor can also review your medical history and ensure you don’t need to take any other precautions. I care for patients who have had blood clots in the past and need blood thinners when travelling. I make sure they have the correct dose of blood thinners, a letter for customs stating that they are travelling with sharps and a contaminated waste bin where they can dispose of their used needles if using injectable blood thinning medication. Some of our patient travel with medications they can use if they get sick, for example, with diarrhea or urinary tract infections. We prepare a travel pack for them with medications and instructions. 

If you are travelling overseas at the end of this year, please consider seeing a doctor as part of your travel preparations. As someone who is well travelled I can tell you it is much easier to prevent disease by being mindful of what you eat or drink, mosquitoes and vaccination; and have access to medication in your travel pack than to find a doctor in a foreign country that may or may not speak your language.

Dr Maria Boulton

Dr Maria Renee Boulton, GP, wife and mother of 2, has enjoyed working in general practice for 12 years. 

Dr Maria has always enjoyed working with mothers, babies and children, all the more so since starting her own family. Dr Maria works in general practice at Family Doctors Plus in Windsor, Brisbane, Australia.

She has recently published her first book “Mum’s Guide to Pregnancy”- a must have for women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy. You can contact Dr Maria at maria@drmairaboulton.com.au or visit her websites drmariaboulton.com.au or familydoctorsplus.com.au. You can follow her on Facebook on facebook.com/DrMariaBoulton.

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