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About Sickkids
About SickKids

July 6, 2016

Before your next trip, visit the SickKids Family Travel Clinic

By Gemma Villanueva

You don’t have to go very far to make medical precautions part of your next journey! Meet with the team of specialists in travel-related illness at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) Family Travel Clinic, located in Clinic 7 on the Main Floor of the Black Wing. It offers pre-travel care for families and individuals. The clinic is open to the public.

The clinic is a nurse practitioner-led initiative with the support of collaborating physicians and Debra Louch, Nurse Coordinator in the Division of Infectious Diseases at SickKids. Services include one-on-one health advice, as well as travel consultations and immunizations for children and adults. Having an onsite pharmacy allows clinic customers to receive their consultation and vaccinations in the same visit.

“Travelling to an international location may expose you to infectious risks not present in our everyday environment,” says Ray Lam, Family Practitioner & Paediatric Specialist in the Division of Infectious Diseases at SickKids. “Luckily, travel vaccinations or immunizations can help prevent or reduce the risk of getting sick while travelling abroad. Some vaccines are given as shots and others as liquids, drops or capsules to be swallowed. Your body responds to vaccines by producing antibodies to protect you if and when you are exposed to a disease while travelling.”

The clinic can administer travel vaccinations and medications protecting against diseases such as malaria, meningococcal meningitis, hepatitis A and B, rabies, yellow fever, typhoid fever, Japanese encephalitis and travellers' diarrhea. If routine vaccinations are needed, it is encouraged to get them administered by your family practitioner free of charge.

The booking process for a travel consultation starts by email or by calling 416-813-7654 ext. 227555. A pre-assessment form must be completed; it asks for information such as health history, immunization records, trip itinerary, level of any travel-related risks or planned activities and any drug plans. Once submitted, you will be contacted to book a time at the clinic. You can usually be seen by a specialist within one or two weeks.

“First, the clinic reviews the form. Based on level of risks, where you travel, vaccination and medical history, I then provide an email with recommended pre-travel care and information about booking time in the clinic,” says Lam. He also provides supplementary literature about any recommended or required travel vaccinations or medicines.

Before the appointment, you can discuss your travel vaccinations and medication list options with a specialist by email or phone. Once everything is confirmed, your prescription is written and sent to the Shoppers Drug Mart located within SickKids. This process saves you from the additional trip to the pharmacy to drop off the paper prescription. On the day of your appointment, you are registered at the clinic’s reception desk. If there aren’t any immediate concerns, you can pick up your prepared medicine at Shoppers Drug Mart. You then return to the clinic for your travel consultation, with the entire process lasting 15 to 45 minutes. A specialist discusses general travel-related health tips, preventive measures to avoid exotic infections and makes recommendations based on your travel plans. Vaccines are then administered at the clinic, if needed.

All proceeds from the clinic help support SickKids research and patient care. For more information or to book an appointment, please email travel.clinic@sickkids.ca or call 416-813-7654 ext. 227555. Clinic hours are Tuesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon by appointment only.

Ray Lam, Family Practitioner & Paediatric Specialist, Infectious Diseases, shares some tips to prevent or cope with travel-related illnesses:

Tip #1: Visit a travel clinic preferably one to two months before your trip.

Seek travel advice, so you can get the appropriate vaccines to help protect you. If your trip will take you outside of Canada, your first step should be to consult a travel clinic to see if you need intervention.

Tip #2: Avoid food poisoning while travelling!

It’s important to protect yourself from food- and water-borne diseases such as travellers’ diarrhea. Lam suggests that one should always be careful of what they eat or drink, and should follow this simple slogan: “Boil it, Cook it, Peel it or Forget it.”

Tip #3: Use insect repellent that contains 30 per cent or more of DEET.

Help protect yourself against mosquito-borne transmitted diseases such as Dengue fever, Yellow fever, Chikungunya and Zika virus. Apply an insect repellent containing up to 30 per cent DEET to skin, clothing and bed nets.