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Ask Dr. Dunn: Travel abroad

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By Maren Dunn, D.O. Health Writer

If I’m traveling out of the country, do I need to see my doctor first?
-Allison, Big Sky

When planning a trip to another country, it can be helpful to visit your health care provider at least a month before your departure.The information you receive could mean the difference between a healthy, relaxing vacation and one interrupted by illness.

At a pre-travel visit you can expect to discuss your current medical conditions and medications, itinerary and activities planned. It’s also important to share travel specifics such as exposure to high altitude, rural areas or plans for scuba diving. Bring your vaccination record if you have it.

The medical provider’s job is to offer advice regarding routine vaccinations, indicated immunizations for a specific location, other prevalent illnesses and required preventative medicine.

Some vaccines require multiple doses to complete a series, like those for hepatitis A and B, so it’s important to get started on them.

Malaria medication is also commonly initiated 1-2 weeks prior to leaving for an endemic area and continued for a number of weeks after returning. The same is true for the oral typhoid vaccine: it takes a week to complete and another week to be fully effective.

Depending on your destination, your doctor may make other recommendations. For example, a traveler headed to an area where malaria is prevalent will receive suggestions for proper mosquito repellant and other methods for preventing exposure such as bed netting. If planning to hike to extreme elevations, discussions will focus on preventing and treating altitude sickness.

If you’re an experienced traveler, you may have a collection of items you always bring. Over-the-counter items might include Benadryl for allergic reactions or difficulty sleeping, Immodium for diarrhea, and Ibuprofen or Tylenol for pain or fever; depending on your medical history, a medical provider can help make a complete list that’s appropriate for you.

Find Dr. Dunn’s writing regularly in the Health section of the Big Sky Weekly.

Maren Dunn, D.O., is owner of Gallatin Family Medicine, a medical clinic in the Big Sky Meadow Village. Gallatin Family Medical offers reduced cost and free mammogram screening. Have a question? Email Dr. Dunn at

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