Home Health & Safety Health tips for traveller. Dr. Katri Vilkman answers.

Health tips for traveller. Dr. Katri Vilkman answers.

by Heini Hirvonen
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Almost all travelers experience some kinds of difficulties when traveling, especially families with kids and on longer trips abroad. We for sure have gone through quite an array of disease and sickness.

Emma enjoying life without the support cast for a broken leg. Gili Air, Indonesia.

Interview with Dr. Katri Vilkman

Who better to speak about traveler’s health than a doctor dedicated to the cause? Attached you’ll find health tips from Dr. Katri Vilkman of Aava Medical Centre on traveler safety – everything from vaccinations to the most important items of a traveler’s portable mini-pharmacy.

At the end of the interview you can also find a recap of useful health websites, from which you can, for example, check the malaria areas, or first aid for the most common travel illnesses.

Traveler’s guide to health
Dr. Katri Vilkman


Arja Mäkinen giving Timo a vaccination at the Kivenlahti Health Centre.

What are the basic vaccinations that a Finn ought to keep current?

  • dT (diptheria, tetanus) every 10 years
  • MPR (measles, mumps, rubella)
  • Hepatitis A (to almost everywhere)
  • Polio (basic coverage)

What’s the best way to find out about extra required vaccinations?

National Institute for Health and Welfare’s “Infectious Diseases.” Traveler’s guide to health.

What information is required for charting the travellers potential risks or making the vaccination plan?

  • Basic illnesses, hyper-sensitivity, and medication
  • Travel destination and trip duration
  • Time of year; when will the travel take place
  • OAdditional information, for example: countryside vs. city; work trip; visiting relatives or going on a tourist trip; what are the planned activities at the travel destination; what is the route to the destination.
  • What does the traveler consider as her/his risks and how does s/he want to protect her/himself against them
  • How much money does one want to use in preventative actions. In the light of this, the actions with the best value for money are prioritized.
The Vivotif-vaccination against typhoid fever is taken orally at home.

How far in advance before the trip should you get the vaccinations?

The timing depends on the vaccinations. Yellow fever, for example, must be taken at least ten days before, and two doses of Hepatitis A and B at least a month before the trip. The more vaccinations are required, the earlier you should begin planning.

Is it possible to get several vaccinations at once?

Yes it is.

Do vaccinations come with side effects? If so, what?

  • Tiredness and pain in injection spot.
  • Weakened live virus vaccines: some people get fever about a week after the vaccination.
  • Serious detriment, such as a strong allergic reaction, is extremely rare.

Where and how the vaccinations be administered? How much do the vaccinations cost?

  • The vaccinations that are part of the national vaccination program, such as Td, polio, and MPR, can be taken for free at one’s own health centre.
  • Almost all of the vaccinations can be administered by a public healthcare professional.
  • The orally administered vaccinations, such as Vivotif (against typhoid fever) and Dukoral (against kolera) can be taken a home.
  • The vaccinations can also be administered at a private doctor’s office. This way you don’t need to get the vaccinations from the pharmacy. It is especially noteworthy that if you leave vaccinating to last minute, the health care centres won’t have available times. At private clinics and doctors’ offices the vaccination fee is usually included in the visit fee. The fee for having a nurse administer the vaccinations is smaller.
Hanna getting a feel for the floor bacteria in Indonesia.

What other medication could one need on a trip around the world? What is the child aspect to these?

  • Medication against malaria is needed on risk areas. Kids have their own dosage amounts of the medications, such as Malarone, Rumbabor and Lariam.
  • There is medication against mountain and travel sickness. They all have a specific dosage for kids.
  • The website Fitfortravel comes handy for checking the malaria situation in the travel destination. Attached, as an example, is a malaria map of Thailand


Travellers health advice

Gili Air, Indonesia.

Why do small children get sick so often? Do they have weaker resistance than adults?

Children’s resistance is still developing. They are also prone to a lot of diseases at, for example, the day care centers.

Can children’s or adults resistance be boosted before a trip abroad?

You can take care of your resistance with normal procedures such as good hygiene, parents not smoking, and through vaccinations.

The bacterial strain abroad is different. What can I do on my trip to prevent getting sick?

Follow the basic instructions on hygiene, carry hand disinfectant with you, wash your hands when going to the bathroom, and think about where you eat. In general, just use common sense!

What are the most common travel ilnesses and what’ the best way to deal with them?

  • Travel diarrhea. Make sure you stay hydrated and your salt-sugar –balance is in order. Diarrhea can be treated with, for example, Osmosal – salt-sugar-liquid.
  • Upper respiratory infections. Regular treatment, based on symptoms.
  • Skin problems. Cortisone-based lotions help with most skin problems.
Being silly at Gili Air, Indonesia.

What medicatoin/health-inducing products do you recommend for a family with kids to carrry with them?

Paracetamol, salt-sugar -solution as powder, a thermometer, band-aids, and antiseptic disinfectant (loperamide).

Is there something else that a family with kids should take into consideration on a long trip abroad?

  • The expiration dates for vaccinations
  • Health risks per country
  • Travel insurance. Make sure, that the travel insurance covers the entire trip and also find out what it covers. Also pay attention to the definition of “child”: usually a 15-year-old already requires her/his own insurance, but younger children are included in their parents’ insurance.
  • Stray dogs/cats/ monkeys. In case of an animal bite, an immediate visit to the doctor is in order due to the rabies risk.
  • Traffic. Protecting from insect bites.
  • Protection from the sun.
  • Sea currents.
  • Seeking a doctor, also after the trip
  • Protecting from mosquitoes, for example malaria or dengue-fever.
Gili Air, Indonesia

A warm thank you for the interview to Dr. Katri Vilkman and the Travel Clinic at Aava Medical Centre!

Sources and more information about traveler health

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