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Travel Health – Preparing your patient to travel safely abroad

Aisha Khatib

Aisha Khatib will be presenting at Pharmacy U Toronto on April 1, 2023

As travel and tourism re-emerge from the obstacles faced during the pandemic, the way in which travel medicine is being delivered is changing, with travellers increasingly turning to their pharmacists for last-minute travel advice and vaccinations.

With the rapid resumption of travel, travel medicine providers need to be prepared to identify high risk travellers, as well as to provide the appropriate recommendations for travellers to help prevent travel-related diseases.  Moreover, with the closure of public travel medicine clinics and re-deployment of public travel nurses in several jurisdictions across Canada, there will be an increasing demand and need for reliable and accessible information for travellers.

Pharmacists are in a unique position to provide counselling to travellers within the context of understanding their risks based on their comorbidities, the medications they are taking, and knowing their patients, their families, and their travel plans through having built relationships with them over their continuous encounters.  Often the pharmacy is visited by travelers pre-, during, and post- travel, whether looking for preventative and prophylactic medications, or for symptomatic relief of bites, diarrhea and other ailments that can arise during or after travel.  There is opportunity to educate patients on the importance of common vaccine-preventable diseases before travel; but also an avenue to potentially recognize warning symptoms and know when to advise the traveler to seek more urgent medical care, which can also be life-saving after travel.

Pre-travel preparation includes an understanding of destination specific disease and exposure risk.  The pre-travel consult covers a risk analysis for the need for travel-specific vaccines, such as typhoid, influenza, COVID19 and hepatitis vaccines, based on risk and epidemiology and may require multiple visits for vaccine series administration.  Pre-travel counselling covers topics of food and water consumption advice, prevention and management of travellers’ diarrhea, jetlag, insect and animal bites exposure risk prevention and treatment, sexual risks with infection and pregnancy prevention, sun and skin exposures, motion sickness, altitude sickness, allergic reactions, injury and first aid management, medication review, and interactions with the use of potential chemoprophylaxis for diseases such as malaria and HIV.  A layer of complexity can be added when dealing with more special or vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, pregnant women, or the VFR (visiting friends and relatives) traveler.  

The pharmacy is well situated to advise and also provide the appropriate medications and supplies needed for some of these issues, whether its compression stockings or insect repellent, and can help to prepare and assemble the ideal travel health kit. 

At PharmacyU, we will explore the role of the pharmacist in assessing basic travel health risk and recommending travel measures to prevent and treat common travel-related diseases, such as travellers’ diarrhea, to ensure patients stay healthy while travelling abroad.  With a goal to expand and enhance the pharmacist armamentarium in travel health, we will also highlight best practices and several resources that can be used to help guide travel health education to better prepare yourself and patients for safe travel.

Aisha Khatib will be presenting at Pharmacy U Toronto on April 1, 2023

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