Despite the recent volcanic eruption and its impact on airspace and the increasing price of fuel and air travel, people are still keen to travel to exotic places. Going to tropical locations does carry the risk of coming into many infectious diseases, so it is vital to ensure visit a travel clinic to receive travel health advice and and make sure you are protected before you leave. Immunizations, inoculations and preventive medicine are all available for various parasitic, bacterial and viral infections and it is sensible to check out what is available and make sure you are up to date.
Travel advice and preventive medicine for those going abroad used to be provided by GPs, but changes in contract now mean you may need to find a private travel clinic. So how do you find a travel clinic and what services can they offer?
This article on finding a travel clinic is written by Kathryn Senior, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
When to look for a travel clinic
If you are travelling abroad, whether for holidays or business, it is vital that you are vaccinated against any diseases that you might encounter. Diseases such as malaria are easily caught in areas where they are common and can spoil your holiday and your health for weeks afterwards.
Changes in GP contracts mean that many GPs may no longer offer travel clinics, or only offer a very basic, limited travel clinic service. It is worthwhile talking to your GP, to see what is available on the NHS, but be prepared that you may need to pay for vaccinations at a private travel clinic.
You should talk to your GP at least 8 weeks before you intend to travel, and even earlier for more exotic countries with complex travel vaccination needs. Your GP will be able to help you find a private travel clinic in good time if they are unable to offer all the travel clinic services you require.
What can they offer?
Travel clinics offer a full and flexible service, with convenient appointments in the evenings and at weekends. What’s more, because they are specialists in the field, they will have a complete range of vaccinations in stock, including less common drugs that your GP may need time to source.
The vaccinations you need from your travel clinic will depend on a variety of factors, including:
- the country you are visiting (e.g. South East Asia and parts of Africa are particular risk areas)
- the season (in some countries, the rainy season brings increased malaria risk)
- the location within that country (urban areas tend to have less risk than rural)
- the duration of your stay
- your own personal health history
Travel clinics can offer vaccination protection from a wide range of diseases including:
- Hepatitis A & B
- Yellow fever
- Japanese encephalitis
Travel clinics are also able to offer you medication to protect you from malaria and you will probably need to continue taking this medication throughout your trip.
It is worth remembering that, simply because you have been vaccinated against a disease in the past, you are not automatically covered for life. Most vaccinations require regular boosters to provide continuing protection.
You should also check that your UK standard vaccinations – such as tetanus – are up-to-date. Most people have these vaccinations through their GP or school as a matter of course, but it is always worth checking that you are fully covered and that your regular boosters are still valid.
As well as providing vaccinations, a reputable travel clinic will also offer a comprehensive review of your travel arrangements and provide you with a report detailing a range of other advice for healthy travel. For example, MASTA – the Medical Advisory Service for Travellers Abroad, offer a Travel Health Brief for £3.99 including details of vaccinations, health risks and how to avoid them and detailed maps of areas with malaria risks.
Private travel clinics can be especially helpful if you are planning a multi-country trip, resulting in complex health requirements, or if you are making a last minute trip and are unable to get an appropriate appointment with your GP.
Travel clinics are staffed by qualified doctors and nurses who can offer all the advice you need to travel safely and with complete peace of mind. In many cases, this advice is backed by research teams who constantly monitor the health situation worldwide to ensure that the advice on offer is as accurate and up-to-date as possible.
Your GP will be able to advise you on local travel clinics that are suitable for your needs. Alternatively, you can visit NHS Direct or the specialist NHS Fit for Travel website at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.
The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) can help you find a vaccination centre for yellow fever. Alternatively, as discussed above, MASTA, the UK’s leading private travel clinic, offer a choice of 51 branches across the country. There are many other travel clinics available, and these can be found quickly and easily online using your usual search engine.
Beyond the travel clinics
Various helplines have also been created to offer general health advice on travelling abroad and you don’t need to visit a travel clinic to access these:
- Hospital for Tropical Diseases - 09061 337733 (50p per minute)
- Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine - 09067 010095 (50p per minute)
- Malaria Reference Laboratory - 09065 508908 (£1 per minute)