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Health preparations before departure
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2013-04-06 19:47:05 | Lachine, Quebec, Canada
Keywords: health, preparation
I'm generally in good health but when you're getting ready to jump into a life of full-time travelling, you do have to take plenty of precautions so that illness not only gives you a hard time but could also crush your dreams of permanent travelling. Check-ups, vaccines and travel health insurance should definitely be on your pre-departure checklist. And that could be expensive, so better be aware of it way before departure.

From early stages in my planning (more than a year ago), I had listed all health-related issues I would have to check before departure.  Those were: becoming medication-free, have a final complete medical check-up, including dental, get vaccinated and find a good insurance to cover accidents and other incidents.  I also wanted to have everything related to health closed and taken care of at least a month before departure... so if there was any problems, I'd have time to have it fixed correctly.

I was then taking 3 medication, and I was on a plan to get rid of two of them which were controlling issues on the verge of being fixed.  The other medication I'm taking is non-vital, non-essential, but is a nice to have (to control stomach acidity).  I don't even take that medication daily... only every two days.  It's possible I won't even need it when the lifestyle and diet change... or it's possible I'll need it every day.  As for many other aspects of what's coming ahead of me, I'm aware of various possibilities and I accept not to have all the answers right now... just getting ready to cross a bridge if one is present.  I will bring enough medication to last me a year or so... then I'll see if I can get rid of it or if I need a replacement.

Having only one kidney and since I had diabetes (Type II) for a few years, I was closely monitored by a nephrologist.  I contacted him last fall to do a pre-departure check-up with all the blood works, so we had time to fix anything wrong before my departure.  I felt fine... and that was confirmed by the lab tests.  He wanted to see me again last month... just in case... so I went again and everything is still fine... so I got his green flag for departure.  I will also carry with me his contact info if anything happens abroad.

I then brought back those lab results to my family doctor who also gave me a green flag, plus a prescription for my remaining medication.   I'll bring that prescription with me, in both paper and electronic form.  I also have her contact info, including email, if I have any questions while I'm on the road.

I checked up with my dentist too.  Since I had a few root canals in the past, on top of the usual fillings, I wanted to make sure I didn't need any major repair before hitting the road.  Better be safe than be with a major toothache in a foreign country looking for a dentist and having the language barrier.  Turns out there's one tooth on the verge of major problems... so, after discussion with him regarding my plans... we decided to extract the tooth.  That will be done by a specialist (since it's a back molar) in a few weeks... then a few weeks later, I'll have a minor cavity fixed on the tooth next to the one to be removed.  Everything will be completed by May 13... one month before departure.

Then it was time for the vaccines.  Having always lived and even travelled into "first-world" countries, I didn't have to face travel vaccination much before.  But in 2007 when I was planning to go to Australia, I did visit a travellerís clinic and got very good health advice and a few vaccines.  Back then, it was simply to get Tetanus/Polio and Hepatitis A/B vaccines, the usual precautions when travelling far from home.  This time, I knew it would be more complicated.  I did my research online first, to see what kind of vaccine I would need for my travels to Central and South Americas.  I didn't look for Africa or Asia yet... because I'll go to Europe before that... and I'll do my prevention from there.  I found that I would require yellow fever vaccine.   Rabies were also recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and typhoid was recommended by the US CDC.  I knew I would also need to have information about malaria... for which no vaccine is available at the moment.

So, with all that information in hand, I went to the travellerís clinic and met with a specialized nurse to discuss my plans, etc.  Turns out I had all the right information.  She also recommended to renew my Tetanus vaccine now (ahead of scheduled renewal) because it was now including the one for pertussis which has become more present in the last few years.  So, I went for all four, three of which were done by injection and the one for Typhoid was to be taken through pills.  They hurt my wallet more than my arm.  The most expensive one being by far the one for rabies.  But I figured I should get it since I will explore rural areas to visit some remote UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  Just be sure to enquire about prices beforehand.  I left with a prescription for a malaria medication and maps of the malaria infection zones and also a list of travellers medical clinics along my route.  These clinics are part of the IAMAT organization.  Visit for free information.

The last piece of the health puzzle was the travel insurance.  Most conventional travel insurers won't cover you for more than six months... most without even the possibility to renew or extend the coverage.  There are a few companies out there for longer terms coverage... mostly for expatriates.  Depending on the options you take and the deductible you chose your yearly fee will range from US$1 000 to US$10 000.  Just be sure to read the small prints... some insurers define the deductible per incident (claim), some other per coverage period.    I ran a few scenarios with a few companies... and I opted for a Canadian-based company offering a decent coverage with no deductible for a premium about equal to the monthly average of expenses on the road.  I'll see one year from now if I'll renew the exact same policy or if I'll change strategy.  I never had to pay medical expenses in my life (in Quebec, we have a universal public healthcare program), but I know I'm generally a low consumer of health services.

It's funny to see how insurers worry a lot about what happened in your life 5, 10 years ago... but not if you were responsible enough to get vaccinated just before your trip.  As I read somewhere... they don't pay for you to get protected... just in case you are sick.

With this, I'll all set-up health-wise for departure :-)

Related posts:
Getting closer...
I'm back
Really worried sick...
Convalescence in Cancun
I am still here :-)


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