Posted on January 23, 2018

As the school term break approaches and residents begin making travel plans, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is offering advice and tips to avoid travel-related illnesses.

Dr. Mohamed Abu Khattab, Consultant, Communicable Diseases and Travel Medicine at HMC, is advising residents who plan to travel during the coming weeks and months to consider visiting the Travel Clinic at HMC’s Communicable Diseases Center, or another health center that provides travel medicine services.

“Visiting a travel clinic and meeting with a travel medicine expert should be part of your vacation planning process. Travelers should plan to visit a travel clinic at least four to six weeks prior to their scheduled travel date to receive appropriate vaccinations. This advice is especially important for individuals with pre-existing health conditions, in particular, chronic diseases. Patients with chronic diseases will need to discuss potential modifications or changes to medication routines and will also need to ensure they have enough medication for the duration of their vacation; this is particularly important for diabetics using insulin,” said Dr. Abu Khattab.

He added that recommended vaccines and drugs can vary from one country to another, depending on the type of prevalent diseases. He also highlighted the importance of obtaining health insurance to cover any medical treatment expenses that could be incurred abroad and advised travelers to research the road conditions and traffic laws in the country they are visiting.  He also recommended that travelers limit their exposure to theft by not carrying valuable belongings or walking in remote areas. Caution when consuming food and drink was also recommended.

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“It is important to drink plenty of water and other liquids, especially during hot weather. To avoid diarrhea and infections such as hepatitis A and typhoid, travelers should take care when making food and beverage choices. Carbonated water is considered a better replacement for juices because it contains anti-bacterial gases and bottled water is generally considered safer than tap water. It is important to be vigilant and avoid eating uncooked food or drinking water that may be contaminated. Also, ensure vegetables and fruits are properly washed before eating,” said Dr. Abu Khattab.

Travelers are also advised to take the necessary clothing to avoid communicable diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, Dengue fever, and the Zika virus being transmitted through mosquito stings. Experts recommend wearing colorful long-sleeved clothing, applying anti-insect creams (containing a 30-50% DEET concentration), and using anti-mosquito nets during sleep. Exposure to influenza and meningitis can be limited by avoiding overcrowded areas, where possible. Travelers who experience abnormal symptoms within one month of returning from their trip are advised to visit the Travel Clinic at the Communicable Diseases Center. Symptoms or signs of certain diseases can develop weeks after travel and some travel diseases may have an incubation period of one month.

Assessments will vary from patient to patient and depend on the traveler's age, the nature of the diseases enquired about, the destination country, purpose of travel, planned activities, and the provision of necessary vaccinations. Travelers may be provided with certain medications such as travel-related diarrhea drugs (antibiotics, anti-stomach cramps, and vomiting) and anti-malaria drugs, if needed. To book an appointment for a travel assessment, the Travel Clinic can be contacted on 4025 4003. 

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