The Travel Doctor

The Travel Doctor

Travel Tips

Before you leave

  • Educate yourself about health risks in the country you are visiting
    What are common diseases? What insects are there and what would happen if you were bitten? How can you protect yourself from insect bites? The Travel Doctor can suggest educational material that will help you prepare for your trip and your destination.
  • Immunize yourself
    Get vaccinated against diseases found in destination countries.
  • Buy health insurance
    Do not leave home without adequate out-of-province medical insurance. Be sure to read the fine print.


  • Make a list
    In preparing for your trip, make a list of all items you will need and write them down when you think of them. Check off each item while packing -- don't leave it to memory.
  • Packing carry-on luggage
    Keep prescription medications and a fresh change of clothes as a precaution in your carry-on luggage. We all know of those whose checked-in luggage has become lost or delayed.
  • Medications
    If you are carrying any medications, make sure you have a more than adequate supply. They must be kept in their original labelled containers. Carry them in your hand luggage.
  • Pre-existing medical issues
    Should you have any pre-existing medical issues, it may be wise to carry an explanatory note from your doctor.
  • Prevent motion sickness
    If you are travelling by boat, take along something for motion sickness. This could include Gravol, Bonamine the Transderm-V patch, ginger root or one of the commercially available "wristbands."
  • Stay clean
    Bring packets of facial tissues in case the sanitary facilities are less than perfect. It's also a good idea to carry plenty of disposable antibacterial wipes or lotion to keep germ-free. And, don't forget sunscreens and bug repellents.
  • Pack a small flashlight
    You never know when you might find yourself in the dark. Always pack your flashlight in your carry on luggage.

While away

  • Avoid jetlag
    Jet lag is one of the joys of travel. There are a few ways to try and beat it, one of them being getting off the plane in good shape. Try not to overeat or drink too much alcohol during your flight. Drink plenty of water and make sure to get up from your seat to stretch from time to time. Upon arrival, try to adapt to the local time schedule. Adjust your watch, meals and sleeping times to your destination as soon as your can -- even while you're in the air.
  • Prevent altitude sickness
    If you are travelling to a high altitude (more than 6,000 feet), take it easy in order to avoid altitude sickness. Drink lots of fluids and avoid alcohol. Above all, go slowly! It may take a few days to acclimatize. Also, consider the use of Diamox (acetazolamide) for rapid ascents.
  • Be sunsmart!
    Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and cover up. Wear a hat.
  • Wear shoes
    Avoid walking barefoot in places that may be contaminated with human or animal feces. It helps keep worms out of your system
  • Beware of motor vehicle accidents
    Motor vehicle accidents are a serious cause of injury and death abroad. Motor bikes are not a great idea for your safety, and avoid driving at night and crowded buses.
  • Stay away from dogs
    Avoid dogs when you travel. If you get bitten, wash the area and seek good medical care and call the clinic!
  • Protect yourself from STDs and STIs
    Do not return with a sexually transmitted disease or infection. Abstain, or use a latex condom. Avoid foreign needles if at all possible. Have your acupuncture, tattoos and body piercing done at home.
  • Avoid swimming in fresh water
    In certain parts of the tropics with poor sanitation, travellers can become infected with schistosomiasis after exposure to contaminated water.
  • Drink only bottled water
    Never drink water straight from the tap. Don't even use it to brush your teeth. Always assume tap water is contaminated. Microorganisms found in the tap water in many places will surely cause travellers' diarrhea. Even ice cubes made from tap water should be avoided. Safer beverage choices include hot drinks such as coffee, tea or canned and bottled beverages like soda pop, fruit juices and carbonated waters.
  • Avoid raw vegetables, certain fruits and nuts
    Select foods that are well cooked or grilled right in front of you. Fresh fruits with skin that can be peeled off are usually safe choices. Salads and fruits or nuts without a peel should be avoided completely. The heat involved in the baking process kills harmful contaminents, so fresh baked goods like breads and tortillas can be enjoyed without health concerns.
  • Have a fun and productive visit, but be careful
    Remember that the health care facilities Canadians take for granted, like well-equipped hospitals and emergency room facilities may not be the norm in other countries. Even rudimentary health care facilities may be hundreds of miles away, or non-existant. Also, things may not always be necessarily safe in other countries. Canadians expect the government to regulate the safety of vehicles, boats, and other equipment. In many other countries, there is no government regulation.

The Responsible Traveller

Tips from the International Society of Travel Medicine
  1. Be informed
    Travel allows us to discover natural beauty, historical sites and, above all, the diversity of other societies and people. Be an informed traveller before boarding an airplane and discover what the people you'll meet at your destination can teach you.

  2. Be openminded and patient
    Experience other cultures and lifestyles.

  3. Be respectful
    Local people welcome you. Show them gratitude and respect. Also respect local customs with the way you dress, display affection and how you behave at religious sites.

  4. Avoid exploitation
    As travellers we are perceived as being rich. Be generous in a constructive way be promoting the local economy. Do not participate in the exploitation of local people (low salaries, overwork, child abuse and sex abuse).

  5. Protect the environment
    Avoid overuse of water, wasting food, littering and damaging sites.

  6. Leave a good impression
    A positive experience with local people will pave the way for those coming after you leave.

Respect and mutual discovery will make your trip a wonderful experience and will promote your security and health while away. So enjoy yourself and have a good trip!

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