Many Australians need help preparing for good health while they travel, writes Karalyn Huxhagen

Customers present to pharmacy with requests and questions about travel on a regular basis.

Many of these customers have no idea that they should consider vaccinations and pre-planning for their travel, whether it is off the beaten track in Australia or on an overseas journey.

Becoming unwell while away from home can be distressing and expensive.

Pre-planning and research can minimise the possibility of issues occurring. Customers can be quite blasé as they are in perfect health and have lived in Australia, which has first world living conditions and quality access to health services.

For many it is a huge shock when they are confronted with questions about their travel plans that include:

  • Health risks associated with long haul flights.
  • Access to medical facilities and support in their destination country.
  • Vaccinations required for endemic diseases that they have never been exposed to.
  • Basic hygiene considerations e.g. how to urinate in a hole without falling in; access to non contaminated water; hand washing.
  • Preventing diseases borne by mosquitoes and things that bite.

There are many websites to refer travellers to for good information. I have attached my ‘go to’ list at the bottom of the article. This is just a snapshot of what is available.

One of the good reference sites available to pharmacists who are counselling customers planning their travel is the Australian Immunisation Handbook. Just put travel in the search bar of the web page you will gain a great deal of information.

One of the areas that I am tasked with regularly is the traveller who has decided at the last minute to look at vaccination and they do not have the time frame to complete the required schedule for vaccination. The handbook gives you a guide for the ‘fast’ immunisation protocols and also has a guide for the ‘catch up’ vaccinations for those customers that started a schedule of vaccinations and never completed it.

This infographic from the hand book is a really good guide as to what the traveller should consider. A discussion about travel requirement is an excellent chance for a MedsCheck as you are discussing all of the requirements a customer will need and your recommendations will be based on their health needs as well as basic requirements such as:

  • Flight socks
  • Nasal spray
  • Cold tablets
  • Painkillers
  • Band aids/blister kits
  • Eye drops
  • Water purifying tablets and so much more

The other area that really needs to be discussed is health risks. If we lived in Europe, the pharmacist would be providing subsidised services of a travel health check and providing recommendations to the customer.

While Australia does not recognise this service as a travel health check pharmacists can manage this service either as a fee for service payment where the customer pays for the pharmacist to perform a complete ‘travel health check’ or using the Medscheck program or a combination of the two.

Some of the areas of risk for travellers are:

  • Cardiovascular risk – flying for long distances increases the risk for patients with cardiovascular disease
  • Patients with diabetes. Rheumatoid arthritis, MS, Parkinson’s and other chronic diseases who need to keep their medications refrigerated and who may require access to medical services while travelling are at a higher risk
  • Patients with sleep apnoea who cannot access appropriate electricity for their machines
  • Patients requiring dialysis or regular pump infusions e.g. Duo Dopa find travel very difficult.
  • Age and physical ability of traveller-travel can be tiring –lack of stamina is a risk
  • Loss of luggage that contains vital medicines is a risk

When performing a risk assessment for a person travelling vaccination recommendations should be based on the following:

  • Health status
  • Age
  • Lifestyle
  • Occupation
  • Previous vaccinations – have they completed the full course?
  • Travel itinerary
  • Activities to be undertaken during travel

The customer who is planning to travel, either alone, or with a group or family, is a customer that may not know what they need to know.

At the very least these customers are an easy Medscheck conversation and at most a comprehensive review should be remunerated appropriately. You may be surprised how many of your customers are willing to partake of a comprehensive travel consultation with their pharmacist.

Karalyn Huxhagen is a community pharmacist and was 2010 Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Pharmacist of the Year. She has been named winner of the 2015 PSA Award for Quality Use of Medicines in Pain Management and is group facilitator of the Mackay Pain Support Group.




SMART TRAVELLER                                                                         







MEDICARE AUSTRALIA          132011                                               







WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION                                                 


AUSTRALIAN CUSTOMS                                                                





AUSTRALIAN IMMUNISATION HANDBOOK                                        




FOREIGN EMBASSIES IN AUSTRALIA                                                                                  







TRAVEL DOCTOR                       1300658844                          


TRAVEL CLINIC AUSTRALIA                                                      






INTERNATIONAL SOS                                                                


SANOFI VACCINES                                                                     


GSK VACCINES                                                                            






NATIONAL PRESCRIBING SERVICE                                                                

















XE – currency converter that works when you have no internet


FLIGHT BOARD – view flight times and the boards of major airports


FLIGHT TRACKER – import flight data and obtain push alerts with real-time changes to your flights


SHIP FINDER – ‘virtual radar’ AIS maps


TRIP ADVISOR  – best places to eat , sleep and party


SKYPE – keep in touch with family and friends




MTA HELPS – New York metro system




PACKING PRO – make sure you pack all the essentials


TRANSLATOR – convert to the language you need. Your device may even be able to speak on your behalf


NOTES – put important information in your notes section e.g. hotel room number or your hotel address.


WORLD CLOCKS –view the time in cities all around the world


fit2travel- immunisation information from GSK











Commonwealth Health Authority                                                1800671738






Medical Advisory Service (for travellers)                                    0299711499





Tropical Health Program                                                                1800269917