Travel Doctor: Your Guide To Staying Healthy While You Travel


People of all ages love to travel and more are exploring remote areas of the world. But as our desire to visit exotic places increases so does our concern about staying healthy while we travel.

The Travel Doctor addresses all the health concerns confronting today's traveler -- whether traveling for business or for pleasure -- in a very comprehensive, common-sense way.

Armed with this book the reader will foresee health issues that may be ...

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People of all ages love to travel and more are exploring remote areas of the world. But as our desire to visit exotic places increases so does our concern about staying healthy while we travel.

The Travel Doctor addresses all the health concerns confronting today's traveler -- whether traveling for business or for pleasure -- in a very comprehensive, common-sense way.

Armed with this book the reader will foresee health issues that may be encountered on the trip (while there is still time to prevent them) and learn how to avoid potential health hazards after arriving.

The Travel Doctor covers:

  • planning the trip -- what are the health risks at the destination?
  • vaccinations and medical supplies to take along
  • problems while traveling -- motion sickness, jet lag
  • maps illustrating the locations of common infectious diseases
  • standards of medical care available abroad
  • what to do about too much sun, high altitudes, snake and spider bites
  • how to deal with illness after returning home.

Throughout, cartoons give a light-hearted glimpse into the possible repercussions of not following Dr. Wise's advice.

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Editorial Reviews

Globe and Mail - André Picard
This is a worthwhile purchase for travelers: an affordable, easy-to-use survey of health challenges on the road, from your vacation's start to finish.
Canadian Jewish News - Sheldon Kirshner
A sensible compendium that covers all situations.
New Brunswick Reader - George Fetherling
The most comprehensive and commonsensical I've seen. It's also the most up-to-date ... Such a book is a public service.
Canadian Family Physician, Journal of the College - Eric S. Lane
Mark Wise has written a great book on travel health, obviously with a wealth of professional experience on the subject. His passion for travel and adventure is evident in his writing.... The book provides a balanced perspective on the realities of health risks in the distant corners of the globe. This is coupled with measures that can be taken in order to travel there, enjoy oneself, and appreciate other places. The Travel Doctor should be of particular interest to, and a good resource for, anyone with an interest in travel and to physicians who care for such people.... I highly recommend this book
Andre Picard
This is a worthwhile purchase for travellers: an affordable, easy-to-use survey of health challenges on the road, from your vacation's start to finish.
Globe and Mail
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781552976685
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 7/29/2013
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Wise is a Family Doctor who specializes in Travel and Tropical Medicine. He received his medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1975 and his Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene from the London School of Tropical Medicine in England in 1978. In addition to speaking to many medical and non-medical groups, he has also managed to travel to most parts of the world.

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Table of Contents


Part One: Before You Go

  1. Getting Ready
  2. The Common Sense Guide
  3. First Aid
  4. Medical Care Abroad
  5. Region-by-Region Guide

Part Two: Infectious Concerns

  1. Pretravel Inoculation
  2. Traveler's Diarrhea
  3. Malaria
  4. Other Insect-borne Diseases
  5. Sexually Transmitted Diseases
  6. A Few Other Concerns

Part Three: The World Around Us

  1. The Joys of Flight
  2. Motion Sickness
  3. Culture Shock
  4. Your Personal Safety
  5. The Sun Did It
  6. Into Thin Air -- Altitude
  7. Snakes, Scorpions and Other Scary Creatures

Part Four: Specific Concerns

  1. The Business Traveler
  2. Women and International Travel
  3. Let's Take the Kids -- The Young Traveler
  4. The Traveler with Medical Conditions
  5. Traveling to Adopt

Part Five: Now that You're Home

  1. Hey Doc, I'm Home

Sources of Information

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First Chapter

Chapter 1: Getting Ready

"Uncertainty and anticipation are the joys of travel."
Ken Hundert

Once you have decided to go away, whether for a week or for two years, the fun begins. That is, unless you just found out that you are leaving tomorrow. In any case, you will undoubtedly have many things on your mind, such as planning your itinerary, preparing a budget, deciding what to pack, getting to the airport on time ... and much more. Hopefully, one of the items on your list will be your health while you are abroad. With this in mind, you should probably ask yourself some questions, such as:

- Do I need any inoculations or shots before I go?
- Where can I get them and how soon should I begin?
- Will I be traveling in malarious areas?
- What medications should I be taking along?
- What other medical supplies will I need?
- Are there any safety precautions I should be aware of?
- Am I healthy enough to travel? Would it be best to see my doctor before I go?
- Does the fact that I plan to climb Mount Kilimanjaro three weeks after my heart attack make a difference?
- I may be pregnant. Is that OK?
- Where will I get clean water?
- Is there anything else over there that I don't know about, but should?
- What do I do and whom do I see if I become sick while I'm away?
- If something's the matter with me when I get home, who's going to figure that out?

Now that you've asked all these questions, you should probably arrange to see your doctor. If he or she isn't able to provide the accurate, up-to-date advice you need, then you should probably head off to see someone at a travel clinic. Whether it's a doctor or a nurse, this someone should know a great deal about travel medicine.

What Is a Travel Doctor ... or Nurse?

Most doctors cannot truly empathize with their patients. If that were so, the cardiologist would need to undergo a coronary artery bypass, the gastroenterologist a colonoscopy, the gynecologist, childbirth (especially the male ones) and the urologist ... well, figure it out. But for the travel doc (or nurse), things are much easier. You pick your destination, book a flight, get some shots and pack some Imodium(r), and you're off. It's certainly how I have picked up a lot of practical information.

Your travel medicine professional must have a broad knowledge of many fields of medicine in order to advise the young and the elderly, the pregnant, the infected, and people with chronic illnesses or disabilities. The professional will also require a good understanding of tropical medicine -- malaria, typhoid fever, hepatitis A through E, schistosomiasis, trypanosomiasis, filariasis, onchocerclasis, and many more exotic and unpronounceable infections ending in "iasis." Not all that ails us is infectious. jet lag, culture shock and altitude sickness are only a few of the other discomforts that may need to be considered prior to travel. It is very helpful if your doctor knows the destinations to which you are going. Most doctors, and most other people for that matter, wouldn't know which way to head if they were off to Bhutan, Burkina Faso or Bolivia. Finally, your adviser should be well versed in world climate, local geography, religious customs, global politics, festivals and human behavior. Being a travel doctor, I can tell you that this is the most interesting part of the job. A few masks or photographs on the wall may suggest that the doctor has been there, or at least knows someone who has.

The travel doctor can only advise the traveler on vaccines, antimalarials and precautions. "The doctor advises ... the patient decides." Travelers may base their decisions upon several factors, such as their perception of the risks, their love of needles and their budget.

Pretravel advice should be about much more than just needles and pills. You should also learn how your own personal behavior can greatly lessen the likelihood of most infections and other catastrophes. As well, you should find out how to deal with certain medical problems, should they arise.

When you go for your medical advice, there is the very real chance that you will be left with the message, "Don't eat, don't drink, don't drive, don't go outdoors at night, don't leave your hotel, don't meet anyone ... don't have any fun." This should not be the message. However, if I may be a bit facetious, the minimum message should be, "Have a great time, but at least don't have sex without a condom and mosquito repellent while sipping local water in the back of a moving bus at night in rural Nigeria or Brazil or Thailand."

I hope that the following chapters provide you with much of the information you will need to know. So on your mark, get ready ... get set!

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"Travel expands the mind ... but loosens the bowels" are the words you will hear most often from the mouths of travel medicine professionals. And while the latter will often be true in spite of reading this book, it's the former that is by far the most important. The reasons we travel are as infinite as the number of travelers. We travel abroad to study, to work and to volunteer, to relax, to pray, to adopt children, to visit friends and family and to explore. No corner of the world is too remote. And when we do explore, it's not just places we discover, but people, cultures, smells, colors, tastes and ideas and so much more about ourselves.

My interest in travel and travel medicine began in the mid 1970s, when I spent three months backpacking through South America in search of Butch Cassidy's resting place. My friend and colleague Dr. Howard Hamer and I never found that spot (we did find Simón Bolivar's resting place), but my memories of Cartagena, Riobamba, Otovalo, Ayacucho, Machu Picchu, Rio de Janeiro, the Pampas, Iguassu Falls and Cochabamba are all still clear in my mind. So is that near fatal flight from Rio to Santa Cruz.

Since that time, I have been most fortunate to be involved in the fields of tropical and travel medicine. I have had the pleasure of doing predeparture medical briefings for scores of remarkable young, and not so young, people from all walks of life. In addition, I have provided pretravel advice in my office to many thousands of travelers. And while my work and family have taken me to most corners of the earth, I am probably also one of the world's most experienced vicarious travelers.

Travel medicine concerns itself mainly with the health risks when we "go over there," and that's what most of this book addresses. But often travelers "come here" -- and their diseases (e.g., tuberculosis) travel along. Sometimes everyone stays put and the organisms do the traveling, which is what happened in 1981 when cholera traveled by boat from Asia to Peru and reintroduced this dreaded infection to the Western Hemisphere. Guatemalan raspberries contaminated with Cyclospora have turned up in our desserts in North America. West Nile fever probably hitched a ride on a bird or mosquito from the Middle East.

This book began several years ago as a series of newsletters called The Travel Clinic News. The newsletters evolved into Malaria, Montezuma and Me, a guide written with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) Canada volunteers in mind. (This nongovernmental organization is one of many excellent organizations sending people abroad to share their skills with those in less fortunate countries.) The Travel Doctor is more comprehensive, aimed at providing just about every traveler with the health information they will require.

There is a saying, "You've got nothing unless you have your health." Perhaps that's not entirely true, but it sure helps, especially when you travel abroad. When we get sick at home, we have quick access to our family doctor and specialists, the local walk-in or emergency clinic, the latest technology, the Internet and our mother. We speak the local language and understand the treatment we receive. In the middle of Borneo, everything is different, including the diseases you may have. When it comes to malaria, there are more conflicting opinions than there are species of mosquitoes. Therefore, I strongly believe that all travelers should be equipped with knowledge of the health risks to which they may be exposed. A well-informed traveler is more likely to be a healthy traveler.

The purpose of this book is to provide you with the necessary information so that you will be in the best position to stay healthy while abroad. It's not a substitute for going to your doctor or a travel clinic. But I am certain it will make your visit that much more worthwhile. In fact, I am confident that the doctor or nurse in the clinic will use this book as well. Being realistic, I have also tried to give you some tips about what to do should you fall ill. And yes, I must admit that in spite of my best intentions, some of my most vivid memories over the years have been of dysentery in Ecuador, sunburns in Guatemala, scorpions in Burkina Faso, bedbugs in London and jet lag in Toronto.

I have divided the book into five main parts, which tend to overlap. Part One looks at what you need to consider during the planning stages. Where do I find out about the health risks, what medicines and supplies should I take along, what will I do if I get sick abroad? Next, people tend to worry the most about infectious diseases, especially when they go to tropical destinations. As you'll read in Part Two, some of these can be prevented with vaccines, some with condoms and others with pills; but most important is your personal behavior. Not all that might ail you is infectious. Part Three covers all these concerns -- too many time zones, too much sun, too much altitude, not enough heat, too much heat, snakes and spiders, and a totally different culture. Each traveler is unique. Your age, purpose for travel and underlying medical problems are all important when it comes to maintaining your health while away. In Part Four you'll probably find a chapter on yourself or your travel companion. Finally, what do you do when you get home and your temperature hits 101.5°F, your bowels let loose, you can't stop scratching ... and more? You'll find the answers -- and the answers to all sorts of other questions --in Part Five.

There are no absolute responses to all the issues: Who needs what inoculation? Which antimalarial is best? What do I take for diarrhea? How can I beat jet lag? Am I fit to travel? Even travel medicine professionals have trouble agreeing on everything. But let's hope the information provided in this book will help you make informed decisions.

This book contains quite a bit of medical information. Doctors have a bad habit of speaking a language that no one else understands. That's why we studied Latin. Wherever possible I add an intelligible explanation for any medicalisms used. Specific medications are written in both their generic and brand names. Units of measurement have taken on an American form in most cases, despite my roots in Canada.

It's quite easy to read a book such as this, which dwells on watery diarrhea, 30-inch worms, treacherous roads, deadly viruses, sharp needles and bugs galore, and decide not to go anywhere. That's not the idea. As I tell all my travelers before they leave:
- There are lots of interesting infections and conditions out there.
- With a little bit of knowledge, common sense and luck, I'm sure you won't encounter most of them.
- I think that you should know about them anyway.
- You just might feel better than ever while you are away.

So, regardless of where you are going and what you will be doing, I hope that you enjoy this book and find it helpful. Have a great trip, and stay well.

This book is dedicated to all those who travel, especially the ones who are forced to do so out of fear of persecution.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2004

    Excellent Info

    This book is filled with medical info much needed on foreign travels. Once stumped about what to include/exclude in my first aid kit for travels to third world countries, I have now compiled the perfect kit using the info in this book as a guide.

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