Travelling overseas – see your doctor before you go

One aspect of international travel that is often overlooked is a visit to the doctor before you travel.

Looking after sick kids at home is difficult enough but looking after sick children while on holiday, or having to look after children while you yourself are unwell, is the pits.

While illness abroad may not be entirely avoidable, a visit to your regular GP or a doctor with expertise in travel medicine will help to prevent this. Ideally this visit should occur 6 weeks before your departure date.

At your pre-travel consultation your doctor will be able to advise you:

  • if your destination warrants any special vaccinations
  • what precautions are necessary to prevent mosquito spread infection
  • what steps you should take to avoid food and water borne infection; and
  • whether you should take any additional medications with you.

Even travel to North America and Europe warrants a pre-travel medical visit so you can be informed of any current outbreaks disease that you need to be alert to.

For example, the United States recently experienced epidemics of both influenza and West Nile virus (a disease spread by mosquitoes), potentially serious infections.

Family members with a pre-existing medical condition may require changes to their management depending on where you are planning to travel. My own son suffers from asthma and in preparation for our recent visit to Shanghai, his preventer medications were increased as the smog levels in China could exacerbate his condition.

Overseas holidays can be tiring enough on children, let alone if they get sick while you are away.
Overseas holidays can be tiring enough on children, let alone if they get sick while you are away.

Further examples of risks in popular overseas family holiday destinations include the potential for dengue fever in Singapore, the potential for hepatitis A and typhoid infection in Fiji, and the potential for hepatitis A, typhoid and malaria in Vanuatu. Your doctor will be able to give you advice concerning what precautions are necessary in these, and other destinations, based on your accommodation and itinerary.Finally, all international travellers should ensure they have travel insurance that covers them, as the cost of health care if they require it overseas as well as medical repatriation home if necessary.

This guest post was written by Danielle Esler, a general practitioner and public health medicine specialist.  She is also the mother of two small boys and blogs about family travel at


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