Making an appointment with a medical clinic before going on an extended overseas trip is a very important way to prepare for travel. I checked this off my to-do list yesterday by going in with the explanation that I wanted to do what I could to make sure I was in good health and avoid any illnesses for the next several months. Here is some advice I gleaned while I was there:
- Get emergency medications NOW. Europe is a good place for Americans to travel to. The water’s drinkable in most places, the food is generally safe, and and pharmacies are abundant and well-stocked. However, my nurse practitioner did mention that it’s difficult when you’re sick overseas to find a pharmacy, describe your symptoms, and make sure you understand how to take the medication- all while you aren’t familiar with the language! Many clinics keep samples of at least some prescriptions stocked. I was fortunate enough that my clinic could give me full-sized samples of ciprofloxacin and azithromycin! Both of these antibiotics can really help with several serious but common illnesses for travelers in most parts of the world. Clinics typically don’t have over-the-counter medication to give out, but they can recommend specific types of meds you can pick up at a grocery store or pharmacy.
- Clean ears are flying-friendly. Do your eardrums feel immense pressure whenever you take off or land in an airplane? When I was a kid, earaches and infections were so common that I would have to get my ears checked before every family vacation, and my mom’s carry-on included an arsenal of chewing gum to help ease the pain. My ear problems are hardly noticeable anymore, except when flying or going underwater. The physical part of my appointment included checking my ears. I was told that getting my ear cleaned out could really help me be less affected by cabin pressure when flying. The nurse was able to complete a cleaning quickly and on-the-spot using special irrigation (or as I like to say, EARrigation) tools.
- The CDC has a TON of health info for travelers. I just went to a small clinic, not a full-fledged medical center. They were limited on the kinds of immunizations they could provide, but told me to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to find out if I should make an appointment for any specific shots, as well as other recommendations for things like food, transportation, and the outdoors. Note that this website is designed for US-native travelers, but may have some useful tips for other travelers. If you are from another country, check to see if your nation has a similar resource.
- Have a mini-physical done. Get your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, ears, and throat checked. If you are feeling any symptoms, have those checked out too. You may not have anything serious, but even if you have even something a little bit wrong with your health, it’s best to have it taken care of in your hometown at your convenience (and with your normal insurance).
- Remember that doctors are travelers, too! Okay, they may not have the same travel style or travel budget as you, but they may still have some general travel tips, encouragement, or inspiration for you. My nurse said she also thinks traveling alone is the best way to go (although we both face some criticism due to this belief). And the nurse practitioner told me she is going to walk El Camino… right around the same time I’m in Spain! I don’t plan to spend much time in that area, but somehow it’s still nice to know that I’ll know someone nearby!