How to bug your Travel Doctor;
A tongue in cheek look at questions/problems we face.
Below are some of the day to day questions asked to Travel Doctors.
‘—[insert well-meaning friend, relative, person over the back fence or doctor] said I wouldn’t need that’ .
This remark is particularly pertinent to the rabies vaccination. While you may be low risk, high risk or even no risk [-people do go to New Zealand] if you’re travelling to an area that has rabies, which is most places in the world, it’s impossible to say a dog on the street won’t bite you. The solution is to vaccinate if appropriate and /or at least discuss post bite strategies. It’s not knowable to say you won’t need it .
‘Malaria tablets can make you sick’
While this may be true, everything that has an effect can have a side effect – that is how medications work. Fortunately malarial medication is generally well tolerated and there is a choice available if you are one of the few that has had a bad experience. Hundreds of thousands of people die every year from malaria -very few [none?] from the medication to prevent it.
‘I’m off to ————— so what do I need.’
We have all been cornered on the street, waiting room, at the beach or in a bar by this question. The answer is always ‘it depends’. Knowledge of the place, the duration, the style and purpose of travel are vital to plan appropriate travel advice hence it always ‘depends’ and a comprehensive consultation is what’s needed.
‘I’ve been researching this and I found………’
Patients often feel that they have researched a topic and some do an excellent job; however for others it means googling the topic after dinner with a glass of chardonnay in hand. The internet is a wonderful source of information, as well as mis-information and sometimes it’s difficult to tell which one you’re reading. A couple of reliable websites are wwwnc.cdc .gov/travel and www.tripprep.com and www.travelmedicine.com.au. It’s also important to keep in mind that your travel doctor has done a whole heap more than just looking at click bait on the internet.
‘I prefer to use homeopathic vaccines’
They don’t work – not in our version of the multiverse – not now or ever. There is no wiggle room here. There is no evidence they work and plenty of evidence that they do not.
‘I only want what I really need.’
We all only want what we really need but choosing this can be a little more complicated. If you mean only what is REQUIRED i.e. to cross international borders then that means Yellow Fever .There is no LEGAL obligation for anything else [a few small caveats may apply like the meningococcal vaccine when travelling to the Haji] so yes, you can stop there legally, but this differs from what may be beneficial for your health.
Remember that Required vaccines are to protect others from you [though of course you may benefit as well] while Recommended vaccines are the ones specific for your risks and your health. It is also worth being up to date with routine vaccinations as they are also important. These vaccines should be up to date even if you’re not travelling. Destination, risk tolerance, behaviour, other health issues and what you’re willing to pay to cover yourself determine ‘Only the ones you need’.
I said it was a bit more complicated. You as the patient get to choose but we suggest you do it with your eyes open.
‘I hate needles’
You get my sympathy …… and my needles just the same.
‘I don’t like antibiotics’
Yes you do. If you’re hiking to Everest base camp and get a cough, fever and a rattly chest you love antibiotics. It’s all about their appropriate use.
’I don’t believe in vaccinations’
If you do, you’re probably not reading this blog anyway.
Dr John Kenafake
Sunshine Coast Dive and Travel Medicine,
150 Horton Parade, Maroochydore, 4558
Travel Medicine Alliance