Travellers bring home unwanted health ‘souvenirs’

Montezuma’s revenge or the trots is called “traveller’s diarrhea” in medical literature and is the most common health complaint for tourists with tropical destinations. It’s also the least threatening in a growing list which includes cholera, diphtheria, HIV, Hepatitis A and B, typhoid fever, yellow fever, tuberculosis and malaria.

A recent study estimates that one traveller in 12 will become sick enough to seek medical attention during or after a trip. The study is reported in a recent edition of Medscape, an online compilation of medical articles.

Public health threat
Dr. William Paynter from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania writes that medical care for travellers is no luxury but a precaution against potential public health problems.

“Now that more people are visiting Africa, Asia and South America for vacation and business, both the primary care clinician and the specialist will encounter a greater number of infectious and tropical diseases–many unfamiliar–than ever before.”

Dr. Paynter writes that doctors and nurses need to know about travel bugs and how to prevent or treat them. Then they can properly advise travelling patientshead of time–and care for them properly afterwards, it necessary.

Travel medicine interview
He recommends that patients who travel regularly make an appointment to see their doctor a couple of months before their trip.

At this appointment, doctors can do a “travel medicine interview.” It’s a useful tool for advising patients about general travel health precautions, recommending immunizations and protective measures.

One of the simplest preventions a doctor can recommend is frequent handwashing. After that, it’s “boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.” And the best protection against disease carrying insects is to avoid being bitten.

These simple preventive measures are the best and least intrusive defense against travel health problems. Beyond these steps, Dr. Paynter says doctors with a good knowledge of travel medicine can prescribe a number of appropriate prophylactics and medications.