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Future of Pharmacy

The Essential Pre-Travel Checklist: Consulting Your Pharmacist before Travelling Abroad

More than just dispensers of medication, today’s pharmacists can help you with an array of health care needs, including travel health.

Once known as the person who filled your prescription, today’s pharmacist has an ever-expanding role in health care. With their wealth of skills, knowledge, and expertise, pharmacists can support patients with assessments, prescribing, medication management, vaccinations, and other services. “This expanded scope is already occurring in other provinces, and we’re hoping to see Ontario move in this direction because it’s perfectly appropriate to the education and training that pharmacists possess,” says Jen Belcher, Vice-President of Strategic Initiatives and Member Relations at the Ontario Pharmacists Association. “In addition to creating more efficiencies in the system, it improves health care accessibility — something that patients really appreciate, especially if they don’t have a primary care provider.”


One area where patients from across Canada can take advantage of this expanded scope is travel health. Your pharmacist can assess the health risks of your travel destination and counsel you on measures that can be taken to avoid being sick with diarrhea during travel or by mosquito-borne illnesses, two common travel-related ailments.

“For diarrhea during travel, the risk varies by destination and the type of pathogen, but often it’s bacterial in nature and can have a significant impact on one’s itinerary because of the need to be in close proximity to a bathroom,” says Belcher. In some cases, the gastrointestinal symptoms can last weeks or months after the initial infection. Additionally, “diarrhea during travel could have a destabilizing effect on a person’s other medical conditions, like diabetes, for example, because of the dehydration and reduced oral intake,” says Belcher.

Unpredictable mosquito-borne illnesses range from viral infections like Japanese encephalitis and chikungunya to parasitic infections like malaria. “While they tend to be rare, especially for travellers who are on shorter itineraries, they can make you quite ill,” says Belcher. 

Your pharmacist is your solutions provider

Your pharmacist can be an invaluable source of information in helping you avoid these diseases. “When we think about either one of these illnesses, there are a variety of very important conversations that a travel health professional will be having with the patient, including what preventive steps they should be taking,” says Belcher. “These cover everything from practicing good hand hygiene, water and food safety precautions, and mosquito bite avoidance to various vaccine and medicine options.” The pharmacist can also advise in which areas of the globe the risk of either disease is most common.  

Vaccine options include a preventive oral vaccine, which does not require a prescription, to prevent a common strain of bacteria that can cause diarrhea during travel and a vaccine against mosquito-borne diseases such as Japanese encephalitis. Pharmacists can also help inform patients about the duration of protection of any of their vaccines and whether they require a booster, as well as what to do if they do fall ill, what types of medications to pack for both prevention and treatment of diseases such a malaria.

When visiting the pharmacy for sunscreen, insect repellant, or a vacation prescription, consider booking a travel consultation with the pharmacist. Or, if you’re in for a flu or a COVID-19 vaccine, let the pharmacist know of your travel plans. “It’s an opportunity to learn what protection you need for a variety of different diseases while travelling,” says Belcher. “In Canada, we have access to a variety of preventive medicines, and coming out of the pandemic, we should try to avoid introducing extra burden or challenges to strained health care systems in other countries that we visit by doing all we can to remain healthy.”

To learn more about mosquito-borne diseases, visit


This story was created by Mediaplanet on behalf of a Canadian biopharmaceutical company.

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