What is a travel physical and why do I need one?

The novel COVID-19 pandemic caused much disruption in the way of travel, especially internationally. Now that countries are reopening, it is important to take essential medical precautions to prepare for travel.

One way to ensure you are prepared is to have a travel physical with a licensed medical provider. As the world has become more mobile, travel medicine has grown into an important aspect of health care. Different countries around the world have requirements for entry and a physical with a clinician well-versed in travel medicine will be key to you staying safe and prepared during travel.

Why do I need a travel physical?

Prior to becoming a travel medicine provider myself, I utilized the travel clinic for a trip to Kenya several years ago. At that time, I felt overwhelmed by the idea of travel and had many questions about how to keep myself safe while away. What vaccines are required? What do I do if I get sick or injured while traveling? What medications should I take with me? What are the do’s and don’ts when eating in another country? Can I drink the water? These are all concerns a travel medicine provider is able to discuss fully during your visit.

What happens during a travel physical?

When I first arrived at the travel medicine clinic, I was welcomed by the front office staff and given some paperwork to complete asking about my medical and travel history. The next part of the visit was much like other doctor visits in that my vitals were taken and the nursing staff entered my information into the computer.

In addition to a wellness exam and getting to know my medical history, my clinician sat down with me to discuss a travel plan that was tailored to my specific trip plans. Using evidence-based medical recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the travel clinician then went through the specific testing, vaccinations, and medications the destination country required. I learned during that visit that I needed updates on my tetanus and typhoid shots and that the country of Kenya required a yellow fever vaccination. While some of these vaccinations are not routine in the United States, it is so helpful that travel medicine clinics often have these vaccines or can advise how to get the updates in the ideal time frame before traveling.

Travel medications

My travel clinician took the time to discuss food and water safety with me, which was a great time of learning. At that time, I didn’t know that water can carry organisms that cause sickness, so I was thankful for tips on how to stay healthy during the trip. Did you know you can get sick from ice cubes that are made from contaminated water?

Additionally, certain countries may have high rates of malaria, so I was given a prescription for a medication to prevent this infection. I was also provided an antibiotic to take care of traveler’s diarrhea in the event that I got sick while away (I needed it! TMI?). Your travel medicine provider is up-to-date on common illnesses you may encounter while away and will be sure you are prepared to prevent or manage the illness effectively.

Lastly, my clinician made sure I was prepared with everything I needed for this trip and gave me advice on how to stay healthy while traveling. I received packing recommendations and copies of my medical history and vaccinations in case this was needed while out of the country.

see your provider before your trip

Travel is picking up after a long 20 months of social distancing and Covid-19 worries. Being an important aspect of mental health, travel is an essential part of finding that balance again. After a long period of solitude, we are all ready to get back to it. While many previous recommendations remain, COVID-19 has added further travel requirements for many countries. In order to be fully prepared for travel and complete the conditions of your destination country, it is ever-important to discuss these matters with a travel medicine clinician. Happy travels!

Planning to travel soon, or have an upcoming trip you need to prepare for? Our travel medicine providers are here to help you determine how to travel safely depending on your destination, itinerary and medical history. Visit the DMU Clinic website or call 515-271-1710.

Disclaimer: This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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