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The Role of Pharmacies in Travel Health

Edited by Claire Butler

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Summer has arrived! With the weather getting warmer and COVID restrictions slowly easing, rates of travel are likely to increase. There are various health risks that travellers expose themselves to when visiting different geographic regions, including airborne, food-borne and insect-borne diseases, environmental hazards, and high altitudes. Pre-travel assessments are recommended for travellers visiting tropical or developing countries and are available at medical clinics. The purpose of the assessment is to evaluate your medical history, assess for any health risks (both personal and destination specific), and determine any precautions that should be taken before, during, and after travel. Medications may be recommended or prescribed your trip, and this is where pharmacies come into the picture.

Pharmacies are one of the most available healthcare settings. They supply medications, both prescription and non-prescription, and staff pharmacists who can provide consultations and information about medications. Pharmacies also carry items that are good to have handy prior to flying and travelling. These include vaccinations, medications, and first aid items. While travelling, it may also be difficult to access medical care or treatment if you become ill. Therefore, it is important to be prepared for any situation that may occur overseas.


There are 3 types of travel vaccines:

  1. Those required based on international health guidelines

  2. Those recommended based on destination risk

  3. Routine vaccinations

Assessments for travel vaccines should be conducted at least 6 weeks before travel to account for multiple doses for some vaccines. In Canada, pharmacists are authorized to administer certain vaccines in certain provinces and can help travellers receive the vaccines necessary for their travel. To determine which vaccines are needed for travel, you can consult online sources, your local healthcare provider, or travel clinic. Some online resources we recommend include:

With COVID-19 restrictions varying by destination, it is also important to check your destination’s requirements. Downloading or printing your vaccine receipts as well as having an up-to-date vaccination record such as through the CANImmunize App can also make preparing for your trip and transit through different countries as smooth as possible. All travellers returning to Canada are also currently required to upload their proof of vaccination and check their symptoms with the ArriveCan app.

Travelling with Prescriptions

If you are taking prescription medications, it is important to ensure you have enough supply on hand for the length of your trip. If you are travelling for more than three months and are covered under insurance, you will need to contact your pharmacy to request a “vacation supply” to allow a larger dispensed quantity of medications to be covered at once.

Medications can also be prescribed specifically for your travel. These may include antibiotics for traveller’s diarrhea or antimalarial agents depending on your travel destination. Your pharmacist can review your travel itinerary and provide instructions as to when each medication should be taken.

Travel Health Kit

Aside from prescription medications, there are several other items that are useful to have on hand when travelling. Creating a travel health kit with enough supplies to prevent illness, handle minor injuries and illnesses, and manage pre-existing medical conditions for longer than the duration of your trip is important no matter where you travel. You may want to include first aid products such as bandages, gloves, gauzes, antiseptic wound cleanser, a thermometer, sunscreen, and hand sanitizer. Non-prescription medications to consider include:

These products are readily available at pharmacies and pharmacists can help make recommendations best suited to your needs and destination. Consult your pharmacist to check if these medications are right for you.

With warmer weather here and travel restrictions loosening, travel rates for 2022 will most likely be higher than the previous two years. Pharmacies can help play an important role during your travels by providing you supplies and information you may need while you are away from home.

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  1. Travel to Canada: Requirements for COVID-19 vaccinated travellers. Government of Canada. Updated March 25, 2022. Accessed March 26, 2022.

  2. Houle SKD. Pharmacy travel health services: current perspectives and future prospects. Integr Pharm Res Pract. 2017;7:13-20. doi: 10.2147/IPRP.S142982

  3. Johal A. Information for the Traveller. Compendium of Therapeutics for Minor Ailments. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Pharmacist’s Association. Updated September 1 2018. Accessed March 26, 2022.

  4. Travel vaccinations. Government of Canada. Updated May 4, 2020. Accessed March 26, 2022.

  5. Ontario College of Pharmacists. Pharmacists now authorized to administer additional vaccines. OCP. Published Winter 2017. Accessed March 26, 2022.

  6. National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI): Statements and publications. Government of Canada. Updated March 22, 2022. Accessed March 26, 2022.

  7. Use ArriveCAN to enter Canada. Government of Canada. Updated June 10, 2022. Accessed June 12, 2022.

  8. Pack Smart: Travellers’ Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated January 22, 2019. Accessed March 26, 2022.

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