Today's Medicine

Planning a Trip? Here's When to Visit the Methodist Travel Clinic

There’s a lot that goes into planning a successful trip, but travelers sometimes forget one extremely important thing: health preparations. 

Travel far, wide and smart

While you’re busy booking flights and planning your itinerary, remember to also keep your health in mind. You should be thinking about the risks associated with your plans, as well as steps you might take in the event of an emergency, long before leaving home.

I’m all for you pursuing your travel goals, even ambitious ones. But before you go, remember to:

Be prepared: If necessary, visit your primary care provider before you leave to make sure any medical conditions are controlled and you have all the medication you need. Regardless of your plans or destination, make sure you’re up-to-date on all of your vaccinations. That includes the flu vaccine, hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

Be realistic: Take the time to critically and honestly think about the challenges and physical strains your destination presents. For example, a trip that involves hiking at high altitude looks very different for a fit 40-year-old than a 70-year-old with COPD. Be sure to pace yourself, especially if you’re on a mission or adventure-oriented trip. Get plenty of rest and remember to stay hydrated.

Expect the unexpected: Let’s say you twist your ankle during that hike. Have you considered how you’ll get off the mountain? How you’ll get health care? Have a plan in the event something goes wrong.

Do your homework: Even if your trip is relatively low-risk, it’s important to know how your health insurance coverage applies at your destination. It may be appropriate to purchase travel medical insurance. It’s also a good idea to know before your trip where the closest medical center is to your destination and if English is spoken there. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has more information about getting health care while abroad and other resources for travelers.

Visiting the Methodist Travel Clinic

While your primary care provider can address many routine concerns before a trip, you may benefit from an appointment at the Methodist Travel Clinic.

What a travel clinic visit looks like

Our goal at the Methodist Travel Clinic is to provide you with a health advisory specific to your trip.

During your visit, one of our physicians will meet with you to discuss trip details, your medical history and your current health status. We also provide:

Safe travel advice: We will inform you of general travel health guidelines such as food, water and insect precautions. 

Health alerts: We will advise you of any health risks and disease outbreaks for the region where you plan to travel.

Travel-related prescriptions: Examples of common medications we may send with you on your trip are malaria prophylaxis or prescriptions for traveler's diarrhea.

Immunizations: Using the most current CDC and World Health Organization information, we will advise you of required and recommended immunizations. All vaccines recommended by the CDC are available at our clinic, including yellow fever. (Note: Supplies of the primary yellow fever vaccine, YF-Vax, have been depleted and are expected to be widely available again by mid-2019. The Methodist Travel Clinic currently is one of two clinics in eastern Nebraska offering an alternative vaccine, Stamaril. The vaccine is recommended at least 10 days before travel.)

At the end of your consultation, you’ll receive a packet of information prepared for you and your itinerary. Our goal is to have you prepared for whatever challenges your destination may hold.

Who should visit the travel clinic? 

Generally, travelers heading to Asia, Africa, South America, Central America and some parts of the Caribbean are encouraged to visit the clinic. People traveling within the United States or to Canada, Western Europe, Japan and Australia usually don’t need to contact us.

However, the decision to visit the travel clinic isn’t solely based on destination. For instance, a traveler intending to hike in the Dominican Republic is encouraged to schedule an appointment, while someone headed to a resort in the Bahamas generally doesn’t need to. Traveling with young children or while pregnant are special situations that also may require a medical professional’s advice.

When in doubt, contact us at (402) 345-1530. We can help you decide if a visit is necessary. It’s never too late to visit our clinic before a trip, but the sooner the better. Some immunizations require multiple visits, and most take several weeks for your body to build an immune response. We recommend planning your visit at least four weeks before your trip.

We’re here for you after your trip, too. Most travelers don’t need to visit upon returning, but we do offer post-travel follow-up appointments whether you saw us beforehand or not. We recommend you contact us if you think you have an illness related to your trip.

Enjoy your trip

When travelers take the right health precautions, it’s very rare that they get sick. Wherever your destination, we urge you to be prepared so you can get the most out of your travel plans.

About the Author

Dr. Jeffrey Sartin is an infectious disease physician at the Methodist Physicians Clinic. He is especially experienced with travel medicine and treating orthopedic infections and HIV. What he enjoys the most “is making patients better.”

See more articles from Jeffrey Sartin, MD
Photo of Jeffrey Sartin, MD