One of the first steps you should take 4-6 months prior to embarking on a RTW is schedule your appointment with the doctor (in Portugal we call it “consulta do viajante”) and dentist. No matter where you’re going, you should have all the necessary information to ensure your health is protected and you’re travel vaccines up to date.
Traveller’s Health Dictionary
- doctor: get your consult with a doctor with expertise in contagious diseases or tropical medicine; in Portugal we have a specific appointment for travellers (“consulta do viajante”) that is with a doctor specialized in attending travellers;
- why go? to get advice on the best prevention measures for the before, during and after trip (travel vaccines, malaria prophilaxys, personal hygiene recommendations, eating recommendations, among others);
- mandatory travel vaccines: yellow fever, polio, meningitis (specific to Saudi Arabia);
- other travel vaccines: cholera, difteria, japanese encephalitis, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, flu, rabies, tetanus and typhoid fever;
- where to get it: local health facilities or your personal doctor.
For more information on the subject, if you live in Portugal, go to: consulta do viajante.
Take a small tour of the world. First thoughts?! India and Immodium, Nepal and the Hymalayas, Asia and Malaria…! Ok, not exactly like this, but trust us that, in the middle of your preparations, the will to get a few needle stings (aka travel vaccines) on our skins to prevent certain diseases is certain!!!
We recommend you start thinking about your doctor’s appointment with some time in advance (we had ours 3 months in advance).
In our case, we went to the traveller’s appointment at Port of Leixões on April 16th, 2013. The entrance is on the Matosinhos side of the canal, close to the roundabout that enables a driver to cross the bridge. Everyday they only receive a fixed number of travellers, probably around 20. There are other places where you can book the appointment in Porto, we simply found this one to be convenient. You need to call or e-mail in advance to pre-book your appointment, but there is no fixed hour for the appointment, it’s on a first come, first served basis. The appointments begin at 9 am and if you want to be among the first people to have your appointment, you should plan to get there 20 to 30 minutes in advance (we got there 10min in advance and already had 5-6 people ahead of us).
Don’t forget to bring your ID and vaccine card with you. You can have the appointment with this last document, but it is highly recommended you take it with you to avoid getting travel vaccines you don’t need or not getting a vaccine that they can assume you’ve had in the past (tetanus for instance). If you can’t find your vaccines card, get it at your local health facility, they can get a copy for you in no time at all.
After filling out a simple form with our personal data, possible health conditions, alergies, medication and countries we plan to visit, you hand the form to one of the nice staff members there and a few moments later they will call out your name.
The doctor will confirm the information you filled out in the form and starts by identifying health hazards in the intended travel areas.
The main things to be on the look out for us, given the countries we plan to visit (such as India, Vietnam, Cambodja and Laos) are about malaria:
- take your daily or weekly prophilaxy, depending on how long your stay is for (since there are no travel vaccines against malaria yet);
- moments of the day when the mosquito carrying the disease is more active (therefore when you should avoid being exposed); usually transition periods – dawn and dusk;
- what clothes to wear; clothes that adequately cover your arms and legs;
- the mandatory use of repellant (at least 50% DEET content; get it on pharmacies or Amazon);
- ideally look for places to sleep where there is AC (these little blood suckers hate cold), ensure the room is well sealed from the outside (mind the window or door cracks) and last but not least, cover your bed with a mosquito net (we got ours at Decathlon);
Other important recommendations, which apply to most developing or under developed countries, are to consume only bottled water, avoid ice on your drink, avoid small seafood/shell fish (small shrimp, clams, among others), which are more dangerous.
At the end of the appointment, the doctor will give you the contacts of that health center and he will let you know that anyone on the staff is available to answer your questions or doubts during your trip, by phone or e-mail. They can also quickly send you health updates regarding potential hazards before entering given countries or specific areas within those countries.
Everyone in the staff was extremely professional and helpful and we got out of there with an inner feeling of peace, which is what I suppose anyone would want, when you’re preparing to visit high-risk locations!
By 10.30 am we were already done, we had our international travel vaccines cards, which are very important to cross some borders and even get VISAs in some of the places we hope to visit!!
This post is also available in: Portuguese (Portugal)