Providence St. Vincent Traveler's Clinic
International travel is an exciting and potentially dangerous endeavor. Travelers will encounter different public health standards and environmental conditions while away from home, and these can lead to illness. If you are going abroad, we can help you plan a safe and healthy trip.
Here are some key items to consider while planning your trip:
- Post-travel care if you became sick while traveling or shortly after returning home.
- Preventative and treatment plans you may need to take in advance of your trip.
- Travel health screening and risk assessment.
- Travel prescription for antimalarial drugs if you will be visiting an area that has malaria.
- Make sure all of your routine immunizations are up-to-date for you and your children.
Providence St. Vincent Traveler's Clinic intake form
Print and fill out this form to bring with you to the Traveler's Clinic.
CDC Encyclopedia of Health and Safety/Topics A to Z
View the alphabetical list of health and safety topics covered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
U.S. Department of State - Consular Information Sheets
We provide information on every country in the world. For each country, you will find information like the location of the U.S. embassy and any consular offices; whether you need a visa; crime and security information; health and medical conditions; drug penalties; and localized hot spots. This is a good place to start learning about where you are going.
U.S. Department of State - Foreign Embassy Information & Publications
The Office of the Chief of Protocol publishes the Diplomatic List, which contains a complete list of the accredited diplomatic officers of foreign embassies within the United States, and publishes Foreign Consular Offices, a complete listing of the foreign consular offices in the United States.
U.S. Department of State Passport Information
State Department's website with information about how to obtain a passport.
U.S. State Department: Safety and Security Update
The State Department’s Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management (ACS) administers the Consular Information Program, which informs the public of conditions abroad that may affect their safety and security.
World Health Organization
WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system.
Preparing for health risks is especially important if you are visiting developing countries, such as those in most parts of Africa and Asia and many parts of South and Central America, where expert medical care may not be readily available. Before you go, you should be aware of any needed immunizations or medicines, disease outbreaks, food and water precautions and any other preventive measures to take.
Check with a travel medicine clinic at least six weeks before traveling so that you'll have time for immunizations and other health precautions that may need to be done in advance. Better yet, talk to your doctor as soon as you know you will be traveling. There are some shots that need to be given more than once, and you may need more than six weeks in some cases. Most of these clinics can give immunizations and prescriptions for antimalarial drugs. If not, ask to be referred to a clinic that specializes in travel health.
International travel is an exciting and potentially dangerous endeavor. Travelers will encounter different public health standards and environmental conditions while away from home, and these can lead to illness. If you are going abroad, Providence Traveler's Services can help you plan a safe and healthy trip.
Keeping the common cold and influenza at bay is a constant part of our daily lives. This seems to be especially true during the winter and early spring months. There are many simple ways to limit your exposure to viruses, such as regularly washing your hands. For some people, a flu vaccination might be the best option.
How can I avoid getting sick?
The flu shot is the single best way to prevent the flu. You can also avoid getting and spreading viruses by:
- Washing your hands often with soap and warm water
- Avoiding people with colds when possible
- Cleaning surfaces you touch with a germ-killing disinfectant
- Using a tissue when you sneeze or cough
- Not touching your nose, eyes or mouth before washing your hands. Germs can enter your body easily by these paths.
Is it the cold or flu?Symptoms of a cold usually include a stuffy nose, sore throat and sneezing. Signs of the flu include tiredness, fever, headache, a bad cough and major aches and pains.
What can I do to feel better?
- Stay home and rest, especially while you have a fever
- Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke, which can make cold symptoms worse
- Drink plenty of fluids like water, fruit juice and clear soups
- Gargle with warm salt water a few times a day to relieve a sore throat
Should I take medicine for a cold or the flu?
Medicine can't cure a cold or the flu, and antibiotics don’t work against viruses. Over-the-counter (OTC) medicine can, however, help relieve some of your cold or flu symptoms. Read labels carefully. If you have questions, talk to your physician/provider or pharmacist. The ingredients listed below are found in many cold and flu medicines:
- Analgesics such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) relieve aches and pains and reduce fever
- Antitussives with the active ingredient dextromethorphan (Robitussin) may help with a cough
- Oral decongestants with the active ingredient phenylephrine (Sudafed PE) can reduce congestion
Who should get a flu shot?
In general, anyone who wants to reduce his or her chances of getting the flu can get vaccinated. However, certain people who are at high risk of having serious flu complications, or people who live with or care for those at high risk for serious complications, should get vaccinated each year:High-risk groups:
- 6 months to 5 years of age
- Pregnant women
- People 50 years of age and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
- People who live with or provide care to children less than six months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for serious complications
- Health care workers
- People who living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
Each year, new flu vaccines are made to protect against the types of influenza expected to cause illness that year. Contact your medical provider or Providence Medical Group to determine if you should get a flu vaccination this year.
If you need help finding a physician who can help diagnose and treat the flu, please call the New Patient Scheduling Line: 503-582-2185.
Many a well-planned trip has been ruined by traveler’s diarrhea, airborne illness and vaccination procrastination.
How can I make sure my next trip isn’t ruined by traveler’s diarrhea?
Traveler’s diarrhea is probably the most common health problem that travelers encounter. Depending on where you go, the risk of contracting it may be as high as 50 percent. To protect yourself, pay close attention to what you eat and drink, and perform good hand hygiene. In many countries, tap water should be considered off limits. Don’t even brush your teeth or rinse your mouth with tap water – it doesn’t take many bacteria to make you sick. Drink only bottled or boiled water. Avoid ice cubes, unless you’ve made them yourself from purified water – freezing does not kill all the bacteria. Cook or peel all fruits and vegetables before eating. And wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and hot water (tap water is fine for washing and bathing). Read more about water and food safety, as well as malaria and other issues, in these International Travel FAQs.
If you do develop traveler’s diarrhea, over-the-counter Imodium can offer some relief. When patients at Providence St. Vincent Traveler’s Clinic tell us that they are planning to visit a country where we know the risk of traveler’s diarrhea is high, we also may write a prescription for antibiotics, which they can fill here and take with them. If problems arise during their travels, they can take the medication, which will speed recovery from three or four miserable days to a vacation-saving 12 to 24 hours.
It never fails - someone on the plane has a cold, and a few days into my trip, I have it, too. What’s the best way to prevent this?The most important thing is to focus on your own hand hygiene. What I do, and what I recommend to others, is to take some alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you and to use it fairly frequently. This is your best line of defense. If you’re seriously concerned, wearing a face mask can offer protection from airborne viruses, as well.
I take medications for a chronic condition - will I have any trouble getting them through customs?
As long as your medicine is in its original bottle, with your name on it and the doctor’s name on it, you won’t have any problem. In some countries, travelers are sometimes hassled for bringing in narcotic medications. But according to international law, if it’s in the original bottle with your name on it and you need it for your health, you have a legal right to take it with you into another country.
What other types of medicines are useful to pack for trips out of the country?
In a basic first-aid kit for travel, the following items might be useful:
- A pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- An antihistamine in case you develop allergy symptoms
- Imodium, which I mentioned, as an antidiarrheal
- A decongestant in case of a cold
- Bandages, which help cushion blisters if you do a lot of walking
- Insect repellant containing 30 percent DEET, if you are going to a country where insect-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever are prevalent
Beyond that, unless you are going way off the beaten path, you can usually buy what you need at a local pharmacy, wherever your destination.
I am traveling to (fill in the blank). What shots do I need?
As a specialist in travel medicine, this is the question I hear most often. To investigate on your own, probably the most user-friendly online resource for this type of information is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which offers a Travelers’ Health website at www.cdc.gov. This site provides some good general guidelines about the immunization recommendations and requirements of different countries. However, it’s important to understand that when you travel outside of your own country, it’s more than just shots that you need to consider. To get more detailed health-risk information, tailored to your health and destination, it’s best to be evaluated in person at a clinic that specializes in travel health.
At Providence St. Vincent Traveler’s Clinic, we meet with you before you travel, do a full risk assessment of your itinerary, and provide you with not only the necessary shots, but also strategies and advice to help you reduce or eliminate a broad spectrum of travel-related health risks. And just in case you do fall ill in another country, we can equip our patients with contact information for English-speaking, Western-trained physicians in almost any country on the planet.
How far in advance do I need to get my shots?The further in advance, the better. Six weeks is ideal, because certain vaccines, such as Japanese encephalitis, take a month to complete the series, plus two additional weeks to build full immunity. That said, if you’re reading this two weeks before your trip, it’s still worth coming in to the clinic. In some countries, certain vaccines are legally required before entering. The yellow fever vaccine, for example, must be given 10 days before you arrive in some countries, according to international law.
I’ve lived in the United States for 20 years, but I grew up in Nigeria, and I’m planning a trip back. Am I still naturally immune to malaria, or do I need to get immunized before I go?
You need to be immunized. Many people believe, incorrectly, that living in a country builds permanent immunity to that country’s most common infectious diseases. It doesn’t. In my experience, the people who are most likely to get ill while traveling are those who bypass vaccinations in the mistaken belief that they are already immune.
Any other advice?
The last word on vaccinations: it’s just as important for adults as it is for kids to stay up to date on routine vaccinations. Keeping current on immunizations against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (which are all included in one shot now), pneumonia, shingles, the flu and other common illnesses are an important part of routine care, whether or not you travel. If you haven’t updated these routine vaccinations in a while, review them with your primary care doctor.
The last word on vacations: Don’t risk an illness ruining the trip of a lifetime. If you want to see the world, first see a travel clinic. Safe travels!