Medical documents for your trip

I made a post over at about important documents that travelers should carry with them and was just asked to re-post that item overe here: I am getting ready for a trip and have finally made it to the packing stage, I am usually very, very excited!  My packing routine usually consists of a few beers, some Bob Marley and most all of my personal belongings spread out like a “yard sale”, all over my bed.  I even have packing lists, checking off important items such as electricity converters, passport, batteries, phone charger, etc.  Some things I forget to bring, such as when I was recently in Washington, DC and had to find a black belt to match my clothes for an unexpected invitation to a formal and important business dinner, in about 30 minutes.  Some things should never be forgotten and those are documents and records related to your personal health and medical care.

In my job, I see a lot of sick people.  Having access to their medical records and history are very important and help speed up the process of seeking medical care.  I wanted to make a list of things travelers should carry with them, related to their medical history and conditions…


This should include the medication names, doses and frequency you take them.  Also, a copy of your prescription should be included, in case you lose your supply and need to arrange for more.  A translation of tis list into the local language might also be a good idea.  Don’t forget to include any herbal, over-the-counter or suppliments you may be taking.


This is important, especially if you are traveling in areas know for diseases such as Yellow Fever or participating in a special event that has requirements, such as Hajj.  The World Health Organization offers a card for recording immunizations and is required for documentation of a yellow fever vaccine.


This can be particularly helpful in providing history about yourself, in a quick and easy manner.  List all your medical conditions, including basics such as allergies and prior surgery.  To make it even better, consider adding a note about your history with the illness, such as frequency of hospitalizations, treatments and severity.  Again, this would be a good thing to translate into the local language.


Patients with a history of cardiac problems should carry a copy of their latest EKG with them.  Comparision of one EKG to another is a vital tool in helping diagnose chest pain, and if you find youself hospitalized in a far-away-land, you’ll be very glad you have this.


Don’t forget to bring your medical insurance card, from home.  If you purchased medical insurance for your trip, bring your policy card and a list of contact information for your provider.


Taking the time to write down your personal doctor’s name, location and contact information can be very helpful, especially when trying to get medication refills or medical records. 


One other nice trick that I have used in the past is to scan these documents and email them, to yourself.  This allows you to have a paper copy, in your bag and a e-copy that can be printed out from virtually any internet site on the planet.  This can be very useful if you lose your originals.

Paking for your trip should be a fun experience and I actually enjoy packing, for the most part.  Next time your are getting ready to go and making sure your iPOD charger is packed, take a second to think about getting together a few papers about your personal health.  Keep these with your passport and hopefully, shred them when you get home, because you never needed them!

Lost vaccine records

Thanks for putting together your website. It’s very informative! I have a quick question I’m hoping you can help me with. I’m about to do some long-term travel either in Eastern Europe or Latin America or perhaps both. My problem is that I really don’t know my adult vaccination history (I’m 38). I noticed that you mention a blood test that can tell if you’ve been immunized against Hepatatis B. Are there other tests that can tell what other vaccines I’ve had?
Thanks in advance,

Thanks for the kind words, first off! This is a very common problem and easy to take care of. Either the records got lost, misplaced or destroyed, some people don’t have copies of their childhood immunization records. 

Blood titers can be drawn by your doctor and can tell if you have immunity to a certain disease, either through exposure to the illness or a vaccine. Some common disease titers include:
Hepatitis A and B
Varicella (chicken pox)

There are others on the list, as well as these. If you are unsure of your “level of protection” with respect to a certain disease, before you get the vaccine, check your titer. It may save you an un-necessary shot!


Measles Cases in Italy

Eurosurveillance Weekly Release features an article on an Italian Student that was the center of a measles outbreak in the Piemont Region of Northern Italy.

From September to November 2007, a total of 46 cases were linked by contact with the 17 year old girl. The student returned from an international study trip in Cambridge, England immediately prior to appearence of symptoms. She flew with 54 classmates and toured London, as well. The dates fo her trip were Spetember 2nd through 15th. She developed fever 2 days after return to Italy, and rash 2 days after fever. She was un-vaccinated. Two other students on the trip were also un-vaccinated and developed symptoms similiar to the girl.

The siblings of the 17 year old girl, also unvaccinated, developed symptoms of fever and rash 10 days after their sister’s return. Both siblings developed symptoms on October 1st and were vaccinated on October 3rd. However, they had already become symptomatic.

By November 19th, a total of 33 cases were reported, mostly by young adults, who lived in the town of or attended classes with the original case (17 year old girl).

Outbreak measures were initiated and vaccinizations issued to unimmunized persons. The cases were reported to the EU to allow further tracking.

Adventure Doc Survival Article

I grew up in Southern Arizona, the center of the Sonoran Desert. For people not used to the heat down there, it can be overwhelming. A really cool website, called, has an article by Felice Prage about “Surviving in the Sonoran Desert“.

The article contains loads of good information from sun protection and safe desert travel to special survival gear for deserts. I really liked it!

I have a page on Hot Climates over at

Sri Lanka Viral Fever Spreading

TamilNet has an article about a febrile illness that is spreading accross Sri Lanka. The Jaffna Hospital has been overwhelmed with nearly 700 patients.

Sri Lanka has a history of Chikungunya virus outbreaks, especially this rainy time of year. Chikungunya is a viral illness spread from the bite of an infected mosquito. Similiar to Dengue fever, chikungunya is considered less severe and self-limiting.

Dominican Leptospirosis Outbreak

In the wake of flooding from Tropical Storm Noel,  last month, there is a outbreak of leptospirosis in the Dominican Republic. The article, from Reuter’s also went to to say that there has been 25 deaths and almost 200 illnesses.

Leptospirosis is a spirocheate that is most commonly acquired through skin contact with infected fresh water. Animals such as rats carry the disease and shed the infective organism in their urine. The usual method of infection is the hiker or forest walker, with a few cuts on their legs, gets splashed or wades in standing fresh water and acquires the infection. Symptoms include fever, headache, jaundice and leg pains. This infection may progress to a fatal meningitis/encephalopathy, if untreated. Treatment is with an antibiotic (penicillin) and there is some literature to suggest prophylaxis with weekly doses of doxycycline.

To learn more about leptospirosis visit the adventure doc leptopsirosis page

Pet Related Infections Article

A very good article on Pet Related Infections can be found at the American Family Physician website (Am Fam Physician 2007;76:1314-22). The article, written by an MD and two vets, covers zoonosis very well. Most of the illness are not specific to household pets and have application to wild animals and travelers, as well.  This is a very informative and well written piece that deserves to be read by any person who treats people in contact with animals.


Adventure Doc


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