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What is Pre-Travel Consultation: Overview, Benefits, and Expected Results

Definition and Overview

A pre-travel consultation is a medical appointment scheduled before a person departs for a trip. This is highly beneficial for those who are scheduled to go abroad for a vacation, a business trip, or for other travel reasons. During the consultation, the patient will undergo a health assessment to check whether he might be in need of additional medical care or immunization prior to departure, taking into consideration the potential health hazards he might be exposed to during his trip.

Who Should Undergo And Expected Results

Anyone who is going to travel outside of his home country should undergo a pre-travel health assessment as a preventative measure. This visit informs patients of what preparations they need to undertake prior to their trip to ensure their health and safety despite the risks they might be exposed to. Some examples are health risks due to:

  • Existing illness (i.e. chronic disease, autoimmune conditions, or allergies)
  • Medical condition (i.e. recent surgery or recent hospitalization)
  • Common health problems during travel (i.e. traveler’s diarrhea, jet lag, or motion sickness)
  • Country-specific risks

Country-specific risks are those that may be picked up in their destination, such as foodborne, waterborne, bloodborne, and respiratory diseases. Many of these can be easily prevented with the appropriate vaccine/immunization and advice on how the diseases are commonly transmitted. Some examples of country-specific health risks include:

  • Malaria
  • Yellow fever
  • Cholera
  • Hepatitis A
  • Middle East respiratory syndrome
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Tickborne encephalitis
  • Typhoid

Additional precautions are also necessary for:

  • Infants and children
  • Pregnant women
  • Elderly people

The goals or expected results of the consultation include:

  • To give advice about health risks in the destination country
  • To provide appropriate vaccines
  • To provide medications for self-treatment that may become necessary during the trip

How the Procedure Works

General practitioners and family doctors are best able to provide medical services for frequent travelers. Children who are traveling may also be brought to a pediatrician for assessment.

The effectiveness of the consultation in protecting the traveler will depend on how much information is conveyed during the appointment. Thus, it is important to inform the consulting physician regarding:

  • Trip itinerary
  • Trip schedule and duration
  • Purpose of travel
  • Activities during the trip, i.e. extreme sports, diving, climbing, etc.
  • Manner of travel, i.e. independent trip, group tour, or cruise ship
  • Likelihood to try exotic cuisine or engage in “adventurous eating”
  • Modes of transportation
  • Accommodation during the trip, i.e. luxury hotel, beach resort, budget hotel, host family, outdoor camping, etc.

During the consultation, the doctor will discuss the following:

  • Specific health risks they might be exposed to
  • How travelers can avoid becoming ill
  • What they need to do if they become ill
  • How to get medical treatment when they are overseas

If necessary, the doctor may administer vaccines as well as provide prescriptions.

Possible Risks and Complications

The results of a pre-travel consultation ultimately depend on the effectiveness of the communication between the patient and the doctor, on the knowledge and expertise of the physician regarding disease epidemiology, and on the patient’s own determination to heed medical advice and preserve his health during his trip.

References:

  • Arguin P. Approach to the patient before and after travel. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 294.

  • Basnyat B, Ericsson CD. Travel medicine. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2011:chap 84.

  • Fairley JK, John CC. Health advice for children traveling internationally. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, et al, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 168.