Many of us enjoy having the opportunity to get away from our usual routine and see something different. Before 2019, international travel was an important part of life for many Americans. Between 2015 and 2016, there was a 5% to 10% increase in overseas travel each year. Although most months of 2020 saw year to year declines in international travel of 60% to 90%, during 2022, travel rates approached prepandemic levels.1 Approximately 71% of Americans travel to another country during their lifetimes, whereas 14% visit 5 or more countries, and 11% visit at least 10. Individuals with a college education, men, and White and Hispanic Americans travel internationally more.2
Although the quality and availability of health care for travelers to places such as Western Europe, Oceania, and parts of Asia may rival that which they expect at home, there are many international locales where it may be challenging to receive even rudimentary care. Travelers also face exposures to unfamiliar infectious diseases and risks of injury due to differences in both the man-made and natural environment. Travelers can mitigate some of these risks through a pretravel medical consultation.
Section One of this edition of FP Essentials reviews pretravel counseling for healthy individuals, and Section Two discusses travelers with preexisting conditions. Section Three addresses illness while traveling, and Section Four examines special issues in travel, including emergency preparedness, inherent risks of certain types of travel, and risks of travel for specific populations.
As family physicians, we have the background to prepare our patients for the risks they face when they travel. This edition of FP Essentials provides the information needed to confidently provide an appropriate pretravel consultation for the majority of your patients.
Ryan D. Kauffman, MD, FAAFP, CCFP, Associate Medical Editor
Family Medicine Physician
Erie Shores Family Health Team, Leamington, Ontario, Canada