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Health A to Z  —  8 minutes

Planning a trip with your health and safety in mind

December 9th, 2021
Biron Team
Biron Team
info@biron.com

For many of us, winter is a time when we want to escape the cold and travel to warmer climes. But travel, whether to a country where you have never set foot or have visited many times, inevitably comes with certain hazards, especially in the context of a global pandemic. From security risks to post-travel blues to travellers’ diarrhea, being well prepared can save you loads of trouble and help you get the most out of your journey.

Local safety and security conditions

Even if you are travelling to a country you know well, it is always a good idea to check out the latest Government of Canada travel advisories, or follow your travel agent’s recommendations. Doing so will ensure that you have the most up-to-date and reliable information on safety and security conditions at your destination.

This up-to-date advice for each country in the world recommends whether you should exercise a normal or high degree of caution, or avoid altogether, depending on the situation.

In addition to this high-level information, you should take precautions for your health, including getting the recommended vaccinations. Travelling means exposing yourself to a variety of health risks, often unknown and sometimes dangerous, including:

  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Yellow fever
  • Dengue fever
  • Marburg virus disease

In addition, many viruses, bacteria and amoebas are also responsible for widespread cases of travellers’ diarrhea, also called “turista.”

Travel vaccination

Many travel-related illnesses can be prevented through vaccination. You can visit your local travel health clinic to find out which vaccines are available or required, depending on your destination. Keep in mind that your immune system needs a few weeks – and in some cases a second dose – to ensure full protection. For this reason, we recommend you contact your clinic at least six weeks before departure.

While no vaccine ever provides 100% protection – in some cases it can be under 50% – even a moderate level of protection against a disease that can ruin your vacation, or even seriously harm your health, is always preferable.

For an extra-safe vacation, remember to take basic precautions after arriving at your destination. These include eating at places you trust and keeping an eye on how your food is prepared, to make sure that hygiene is up to your standard. Fully cooked foods and fruit that you peel are the safest.

Finally, even if local people drink water from the tap, you should drink bottled water only.

Is traveller’s diarrhea inevitable?

Travellers’ diarrhea, or “turista,” strikes more than half of all visitors to sun destinations, whether from developed or developing nations.

Most cases of travellers’ diarrhea happen in the first two weeks of a trip and last less than a week without need for treatment. This infection occurs through eating and drinking food and beverages contaminated with fecal matter. It spreads easily from person to person.

Travellers’ diarrhea usually clears up on its own within three to seven days in adults and children [1]. However, certain signs or symptoms may last longer and be more severe if they are caused by something other than a common bacterium. In this case, you may need prescription medication to help you recover [2].

How do I tell if my traveller’s diarrhea is serious?

If symptoms last more than a week [3] or your condition worsens, you should seek medical attention immediately in these situations:

  • Dehydration
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Bloody or black stools
  • Fever over 39 °C [4]

A part of the diagnostic process involves determining whether an uncommon bacteria or parasite is present in the body. Most diagnostic sessions focus on identifying fecal bacteria or parasites. There are many viruses that cause diarrhea, but they are traditionally very difficult to identify. Usually, stool cultures for bacteria or parasites are labour-intensive and must be repeated three times.

New analysis techniques, based on identifying genetic material (DNA and RNA) from the microorganism responsible for the infection, can provide a definitive result within one day, using a single stool sample. This type of test allows for the identification of 22 targeted pathogens, including bacteria, viruses and four parasites [5].

After that, the treatment for travellers’ diarrhea is based on relieving the symptoms by taking medication to slow intestinal transit (e.g. loperamide, bismuth subsalicylate), preventing dehydration, avoiding foods that make diarrhea worse (dairy products, caffeine, etc.), as well as taking antibiotics.

Specific anthelmintic (equivalent to a dewormer) and antiparasitic agents can combat parasitic and amoebic infections.

Coping with post-travel blues

Even if your vacation was very enjoyable (and perhaps even more so in this case), you may still experience mild depression after you return home.

Post-travel blues (In French) is a genuine ailment and a common consequence of returning home. Although it usually resolves within a few days, post-vacation depression tends to be more pronounced following long stays away.

It is accompanied by symptoms similar to those of seasonal depression,[6] such as:

  • Sadness
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping

As we write this article, the Omicron variant has been detected in many countries around the world. Its spread could quickly change the requirements to enter certain regions. Be even more vigilant when preparing your trip and, just before you leave, remember to check the latest rules in effect in your destination.
In addition and until further notice, the Government of Canada recommends avoiding non-essential travel outside the country.

When you need professional support, we're here to help.

We offer a range of services that can help your doctor make a quick and accurate diagnosis, and determine the right treatment for your health problems.

Do you have a medical prescription for one of these tests? Book an appointment online or call Biron Health Group’s customer service at 1-833-590-2712.

Sources6
  1. “How Long Does Traveler’s Diarrhea Usually Last?” WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/qa/how-long-does-travelers-diarrhea-usually-last (accessed in November, 2019).
  2. “Traveler’s Diarrhea,” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, May 16, 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/travelers-diarrhea/symptoms-causes/syc-20352182.
  3. “Gastroenteritis (stomach flu),” Gouvernement du Québec, https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/flu-cold-and-gastroenteritis/gastroenteritis (accessed in November, 2019)
  4. Yates, Johnnie. “Traveler’s Diarrhea”, American Family Physician, #71 (June 1, 2005): 2095-2100, https://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/0601/p2095.html.
  5. “Clinical Need and Practice: Integrated Multiplex PCR Tests for Identifying Gastrointestinal Pathogens in People with Suspected Gastroenteritis (XTAG Gastrointestinal Pathogen Panel, FilmArray GI Panel and Faecal Pathogens B Assay): Guidance,” NICE, https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/dg26/chapter/2-Clinical-need-and-practice (accessed in November, 2019).
  6. “Séjour à l’étranger : le choc du retour,” Centre d’aide aux étudiants, https://www.aide.ulaval.ca/psychologie/textes-et-outils/developpement-personnel/sejour-a-l-etranger-le-choc-du-retour/ (accessed on November 19, 2019).
Biron Team
Biron Team
info@biron.com