Ask Your Pharmacist
I will be travelling to a resort in the Dominican Republic with my family for spring break. Is there anything I should do before I go?
As a health professional that has practiced from coast to coast, I believe there is no greater investment we can make as New Brunswickers than to create an environment that attracts and supports the learning of future health-care professionals who will revitalize and sustain our health-care system. This week, I’ve invited fourth-year Student Pharmacist Esmee Setzke to write a guest column.
– Dr. McLaughlin
Many New Brunswickers now feel more comfortable returning to the skies this winter to escape the cold and snow. Taking necessary preventative measures gives you the best chance to be healthy during your vacation and to stay healthy upon your return.
Travel-related pharmacy recommendations vary considerably depending on location of travel, duration of stay, and activities planned. Discuss your travel plans with your pharmacist to get advice on any vaccines or medications to guard against preventable illness related to travel.
Make an appointment with your pharmacist, and allow a minimum of one month prior to your intended date of departure to allow time to build sufficient immunity if travel-related vaccinations are required.
If you have your immunization history, bring it with you, or you can obtain a copy from your primary care practitioner. In some cases, your pharmacist may be able to look up your public health vaccine history.
Your pharmacist will look to ensure your routine immunizations, influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations are all up to date. Depending on your immunization history, health conditions and travel plans, you may also need to be immunized against Hepatitis A and B.
Think about your prescription and non-prescription medications prior to travel, and make sure you have enough medication for the duration of your trip. If you are going to require a prescription refill prior to your trip, ensure that you give sufficient time to get an appointment with your prescriber to obtain those refills.
Your pharmacist can also provide advice on how to present your prescriptions to customs representatives in a foreign country. Remember, you are subject to the laws of the country you are visiting, and that includes laws governing medications.
For narcotic prescriptions and benzodiazepines, it’s a good idea to get a copy of the original prescription from your pharmacy so that it’s available if requested in your destination country. For non-prescription medications and supplements, ensure they are in an appropriately labelled container.
Remember that it is illegal to leave or re-enter Canada with cannabis, even if authorized for medical purposes. Discuss alternative treatments with your pharmacist prior to travel.
Your pharmacist can also give advice on the best products to help reduce minor illnesses like traveller’s diarrhea, sunburns, and dehydration, and allergies. If you’re travelling to a sunny area, wear sunscreen with at least SPF 30 protection. To avoid diarrhea when travelling, wash your hands frequently, drink bottled water, avoid undercooked or cold foods such as salads, cold sauces or unpasteurized dairy products.
Some pharmacists have taken specialized training in travel medicine that allows them to assess, prescribe, and administer certain additional vaccines, such as Typhoid, that may be required for travel. A list of pharmacies with travel pharmacists can be found on the New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association website under Find a Pharmacy.
While there is no guarantee you won’t get sick, taking preventative action before your trip will likely result in a much better vacation in the end.
Esmee Setzke is from Darlings Island and will be valedictorian when she graduates from Dalhousie University this spring. She works as a pharmacy student at the Hampton Pharmasave, and is currently completing her final practical community rotation at Shopper’s Drug Mart Westmorland, in East Saint John.
Dr. Kevin McLaughlin (PharmD, BScPharm, BSc, ACPR) is the Director of Professional Practice with the New Brunswick Pharmacists' Association. Kevin's home practice is at Kennebecasis Drugs in Rothesay, New Brunswick. His opinions are published in several newspapers for educational and informational purposes only. They are not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have a question you’d like to see answered in his column, you can send it to him at AskYourNBPharmacist@gmail.com.