Definition and Overview

Pre-travel follow-up is an appointment with a doctor who specializes in travel-related diseases and conditions after the first consultation.

As travel methods and world economy have improved over the years, more and more people now have the opportunity to step out of their domestic domains and explore other places for work, leisure, and other reasons. However, traveling also has a number of risks, including the increased possibility of contracting a disease.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), travel medicine has become important in fighting diseases that are prevalent around the world or in a particular region such as the tropics. These diseases pose a significant risk to the travelers. Travel medicine covers the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases that may be low risk in terms of exposure but can be potentially life threatening for travelers.

Pre-travel follow-up may also center on the perceived risk of the traveler. This means that the risks are low, but the patient believes the risks are high. This can be a potential problem since it can cause a high level of worry or anxiety. Lastly, it can focus on diseases that may be a potential health risk due to ease of transmission. An example is the recent Ebola outbreak, where the virus has spread among people through contact with bodily fluids.

Pre-travel follow-up can be conducted by a general physician, although it is better if the person approaches a doctor who specializes in travel medicine.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

A person who is planning to travel may be required to go through a follow-up if:

  • He needs multiple shots of vaccine – Immunization through vaccination is one of the effective ways to prevent the disease risk. So far, there are available vaccines against mumps, hepatitis, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, and rabies. Some of the vaccines, however, may have to be administered at different times.

  • The person develops complications due to vaccines – Vaccine complications are actually rare, but the effects can be adverse such as anaphylaxis or severe allergic reaction. A follow-up is performed when the doctor wants to assess the risk or degree of complication of the vaccine.

  • There is new information about the destination – Any new data that may affect the traveler’s health should be discussed during pre-travel. A follow-up is the time to assess this new information, review the previous travel records and recommendations, and determine whether the traveler is still fit to go or not.

  • The patient needs more information about safe health travel – A traveler may approach a doctor even if he has received clearance for travel if he requires more guidelines, suggestions, or information on how he can take best care of his health.

  • The patient has a preexisting condition that can affect his travel – A follow-up can help assess whether the patient can travel despite his condition or whether there is a need to update his medications and treatment to make him fit for traveling.

  • The patient has been denied to travel – A patient may request for a follow-up consultation following the doctor’s decision to not give him clearance. There are many reasons why a person may not be permitted to travel, and these will be evaluated in succeeding appointments.

How Does the Procedure Work?

A person who wishes to travel needs to see his doctor first even if he does not have a serious medical condition. This is to:

  • Assess the general risks of traveling, especially to a particular destination
  • Help the traveler deal with minor medical conditions
  • Minimize the risk of exposure


During the follow-up, the doctor may perform the following steps:

  • Assess the capability of the patient to travel – The doctor will take into account the risk of exposure, age, genetics, environment, and the patient’s lifestyle, as well as his medical and family history. This may be carried out by answering pre-travel questionnaires, reviewing of previous medical records, and conducting health exams.

  • Administer vaccines to significantly minimize the risk of exposure – The vaccines administered depend on age, risk-related disease, and previously administered vaccines. It should be noted, however, that health experts strongly recommend updating vaccines even if there is no plan to travel.

  • Prepare the traveler – Aside from vaccination, those with preexisting conditions may be oriented on what to bring and how to seek help as well as provided with helpful first-aid treatments to increase the chances of survival when traveling.

A follow-up may be conducted at least once and a few days or a week after the initial consultation. Not all travel-related consultations need a follow-up.

Possible Risks and Complications

Some travelers may not be able to take advantage of a follow-up for numerous reasons including lack of time. Motivating travelers to go through the necessary pre-travel doctor’s visits is a collaborative effort that includes both the health agencies and health providers.

Reference:

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