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Spring travel season is here, and it is no surprise that after the last few years, British Columbians  have a case of the travel bug – in fact, 2 in 5 Canadians plan to travel in the next six months. Travelers are also wanting to spend their time away this spring on a ‘nothing-cation’ in sunny locales and tropical resorts, with relaxation and unwinding at the top of their itinerary.

Every parent knows that traveling with children can be stressful at the best of times. And, with recent travel-related issues, worries over lost luggage and flight delays begin to mount even before you leave for your trip. While these elements of travel are frustrating, they are ultimately out of your control – but the one thing parents can control when it comes to travel is protecting your family against common travel illnesses.

Many people do not realize that some common vacation activities can be potential health hazards, even if you are going on an all-inclusive vacation at a five-star resort. While most travel-related conditions such as Traveler’s Diarrhea, Hepatitis A or B are usually not serious, they could definitely put a damper on your vacation plans! The good news is there are easy ways to protect you and your family to make sure good times are the only thing you are catching on your holiday this spring.

3 Tips to Ensure Sun Rays Are The Only Thing You Catch on Your Family’s Next Vacation

1. Do your research

Before heading off on your vacation, it’s a good idea to conduct some research on your destination. Whether you are going on a family beach vacation in Mexico or a Caribbean cruise, it’s not just important to know what sights you will want to see, but also any potential health risks. Depending on your chosen locale, there could be preventative medications, vaccines and recommended precautions you can take to keep you and your family healthy while on vacation.

The Government of Canada recommends consulting with a health care provider when traveling outside of Canada. This includes traveling to destinations such as Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Bahamas and other Caribbean destinations, or for travelers going further abroad to destinations such as Thailand, China, India or Peru. 

2. Seek expert advice 

A travel consultation is recommended for Canadians traveling abroad, to help you and your family stay healthy. Consider booking a travel consultation with a local pharmacist, who can provide destination-specific information and advice. 

During the consultation, you will receive information about suggested precautions for you and your family, including preventative travel medications and vaccines. Pharmacists can also recommend a range of other travel-related items to put on your packing list such as first aid supplies, over-the-counter medications, travel-sized essentials and more. 

Ideally, you should talk to a health care provider or pharmacist six to eight weeks in advance of your planned departure date to allow time for some vaccines and medications to take effect. If you are traveling less than six weeks from when you book your travel appointment, your pharmacist can still provide information and recommendations to ensure you are prepared by: 

  • Determining which (if any) immunizations are recommended based on your travel destination; and when possible, administering the required vaccines for a fee. 
  • Providing you with a current list of all your family’s medications to take with you on your travels. 
  • Ensuring you have enough supply of your family’s current prescription medications while you are away. 
  • Identifying any needed prescription or over-the-counter products; and 
  • Advising on the safest way to travel with your medications. 

3. Recognize the risks

The reality is Travelers’ Diarrhea and other tummy bugs are prevalent in popular sunny destinations, but with a little planning and advice, you can avoid many common risks. For instance, consuming contaminated water or food is one of the top ways Canadians contract illnesses like Travelers’ Diarrhea – the most common travel-related illness. But how can you know what’s safe to consume? One tip is to drink bottled water instead of local tap water and ask for drinks without ice. 

Another common misstep is consuming a lot of raw vegetables and fruit, as they could be washed in contaminated water. While we might want to keep up with kiddos eating their veggies, consider cooked vegetables versus raw and be mindful of frequenting the salad bar as you could ingest germs and bacteria that cannot be washed off with water alone. 

In many sunny destinations, there is often no shortage of fresh seafood and shellfish to enjoy – however, these foods can be a common source of bacteria, especially if uncooked or raw. Be careful about how you consume raw seafood and shellfish as they can cause Travelers’ Diarrhea as well as Hepatitis A.

If you are planning a warm getaway, another way to avoid illness on your vacation is to be mindful of standing water sources as they can be a breeding ground for illness-carrying insects like mosquitoes. Make sure to bring insect repellent for the family, especially for the evenings, and to be best prepared before traveling, consult your local pharmacist to see if preventative medications or vaccinations are recommended for you and your family members.   

While there are many aspects of travel stress that we cannot control, the health of you and your family is one thing that you can. Make sure you are informed about the potential health risks when planning your next family vacation so that all you will come home with are good memories! 

Alysha Mankotia is a Pharmacist and Pharmacy Manager at Shoppers Drug Mart in West Kelowna, British Columbia. To learn more and book a personalized travel consultation, visit shoppersdrugmart.ca/travelhealth or access the PC Health App.

[1] https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/diarrhea.html

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