Canadians love to travel, but they often forget to take measures to protect their health while abroad. The Government of Canada assists thousands of Canadian travellers because of illness, injury and other medical emergencies. Most of these problems could be avoided if travellers took preventive steps. Make sure you are aware of the following travel health tips before leaving Canada to enjoy a healthier and safer trip.
All travellers should get an individual health assessment from a travel health clinic or health care provider at least six weeks before their departure. Certain destinations require vaccines and preventive prescriptions, such as anti-malarial medication. Travellers should bring along a copy of their personal immunization record, if available. A list of travel health clinics across Canada can be found on the Public Health Agency of Canada website. Travellers should consult their health care provider if they’re not feeling well before their trip to discuss postponing their departure. Doing so could help avoid a potential health emergency abroad.
Purchase travel health insurance that covers both illness and injury. Canadian travellers should not rely on their provincial or territorial health plan to cover costs if they get sick or are injured while abroad. Medical evacuations from abroad are costly. Provincial or territorial health plans will cover only part, if any, of the bill and will not pay up front. Even if you are taking a day trip to the United States, purchasing the best travel health insurance you can afford is the key to avoiding expensive medical bills. Travellers should always carry proof of their insurance coverage when travelling and leave a copy of their insurer’s contact information with relatives or friends in Canada. We encourage you to consult the Travel insurance page at travel.gc.ca to be better informed and to select a suitable plan.
Canadian travellers should carry proof of their need for any prescription drugs. Requirements vary from country to country (e.g. a copy of the prescription, an original drug container with a pharmacy label). We encourage travellers to carry essential medication in their hand luggage and to bring more than enough for the duration of the trip. Travellers should also contact an embassy or consulate of their destination country before leaving Canada to make sure the prescription and over-the-counter medications they intend to bring into the country are allowed. We remind Canadians who travel with syringes and needles that they must carry a medical certificate or an explanation from their health care provider.
Read up on health conditions in your destination country. We encourage you to review the country’s Travel Advice and Travel Health Notices on travel.gc.ca before leaving. Travellers should be prepared to acclimatize to jet lag, altitude sickness and the effects of heat. Keeping hydrated, using sunblock and taking precautions when handling food and water is essential to ensure a healthy stay abroad. Also, remember to take extra precautions against insect- and tick-borne diseases by wearing bright, long-sleeved clothes and using repellent, especially in countries where malaria is present.
If you experience illness when returning to Canada, you should seek immediate medical attention. Inform your health care provider that you’ve been abroad, where you’ve been and what, if any, medical treatment has been received. Canadians who travel to malaria-affected areas and develop fever within a year of returning home should visit their health care provider immediately.
For more information, see travel.gc.ca/health. The booklet Well on Your Way also offers valuable health-related advice. Download an electronic copy or order a print version by calling 1-800-267-8376 (in Canada) or 613-944-4000.