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.

 

GOVERNMENT WEBSITES

 

SMART TRAVELLER                                                                                   www.smartraveller.gov.au

 

 

 

  

DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE                              www.orao.dfat.gov.au

 

MEDICARE AUSTRALIA          132011                                                      www.medicareaustralia.gov.au   

  

CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL  AND PREVENTION                          wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/

 

 
 

 

 

WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION                                                           www.who.int/ith

  

AUSTRALIAN CUSTOMS                                                                          www.customs.gov.au

 

 
 

 

 

AUSTRALIAN IMMUNISATION HANDBOOK                                       www.immunise.health.gov.au           

  
 

 

 

FOREIGN EMBASSIES IN AUSTRALIA                                                  http://protocol.dfat.gov.au/Mission/list.rails                                          

 

 

 

 

OTHER WEBSITES

 

TRAVEL DOCTOR                       1300658844                                    www.tmvc.com.au

 

TRAVEL CLINIC AUSTRALIA                                                                www.travelclinic.com.au

 

MASTA                                                                                                  www.masta-travel-health.com

 

 

 

INTERNATIONAL SOS                                                                          www.internationalsos.com

 

SANOFI VACCINES                                                                               www.sanofipasteur.com.au

 

GSK VACCINES                                                                                      www.myvaccination.com.au

 

 

 

QANTAS                                                                                                www.qantas.com.au/travel/airlines

 

NATIONAL PRESCRIBING SERVICE                                                                          www.nps.org.au/medicines/vaccines_immunisation

 

 

 

 
   

APPS

 

FROMMER’S TRAVEL

 

 

 

WORLD CLOCK

 

AIRBNB

 

FREE WI-FI

 

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

 

LONDON TUBE MAPS

 

MTA HELPS – New York metro system

 

DISNEYLAND EXPLORER

 

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

 

 

CONTACTS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commonwealth Health Authority                                                1800671738

 

 

 

 

 

Medical Advisory Service (for travellers)                                    0299711499

  

 

 

 

Tropical Health Program                                                                1800269917