Travel & Culture

Your Top Travel Worry Shouldn’t Be Lost Bags

March 7, 2023

Lost luggage, flight delays, and bed bugs—that’s what’s on the minds of Canadian travellers in the lead up to the busy March Break travel season, according to new research. While it’s (mostly) out of our hands to ensure our bags make it to our sunny destination, one thing most Canadians aren’t thinking about—but that’s within our control—is preventing travel illnesses. We chatted with a local Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist, Alysha Mankotia, to get tips on how to prep for vacation, so we can stay healthy while travelling and come home with nothing more than memories! —Noa Nichol

Hello Alysha! Please tell us a bit about yourself to start.

Hello! My name is Alysha Mankotia, it’s an absolute pleasure to be speaking with VITA Daily. Currently, I’m the Pharmacy Manager for Shoppers Drug Mart Store in West Kelowna, British Columbia. I am a graduate of the PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy) program at the University of Waterloo. I’m so excited to be working with Shoppers Drug Mart and my pharmacy team to serve the community. Travel medicine is a new area in the expanding scope of practice for pharmacists, and it is a topic that pharmacists receive training in within their pharmacy degree programs. However, a travel health consultation is a specialized clinical service available only at select pharmacy chains and stores. Today, I’m excited to share my travel tips with VITA Daily.

With many Canadians prepping to travel in March and beyond, what are some of the health-related issues that can arise when on the road?

Canadians have the travel bug, and they plan to flock to beaches and all-inclusive resorts south of the border. But, before they can even leave on their vacation, Canadians are worried and stressed out about things outside of their control such as lost luggage and flight delays. What they might not be thinking about is the one thing they can control though – protecting themselves against common travel illnesses. Some of the more common health-related issues that can arise with travelling include (but are not limited to) contracting illnesses such as travellers’ diarrhea and hepatitis A. It is important to recognize that many of these preventable travel illnesses are specific to your travel destination and your risk of illness can depend on your medical and vaccination history. That’s why I encourage travellers to book an appointment to speak with their local Shopper’s Drug Mart pharmacist to receive a personalized and tailored travel health consultation.

What are your top tips for prepping, health wise, for vacation?

The reality is travellers’ diarrhea and other tummy bugs are prevalent in popular sun destinations, but with a little planning and a trip to the pharmacist, you can make sure you stay healthy while travelling and come home with nothing but lasting memories. Here are my top tips.

Seek expert advice: Whether you’re travelling to a tropical locale or an overseas adventure, your local Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist can provide you with a personalized travel health consultation to help you navigate potential travel-related illnesses prevalent in your destination of choice.

Recognize the risks: There are a lot of common vacation activities that people don’t know can put them at risk of travel-related illnesses, such as having drinks with ice, frequenting a salad bar or eating fresh or raw seafood/shellfish. Consuming contaminated water or food is one of the top ways Canadians contract illnesses like travellers’ diarrhea, which is the most common travel-related illness. In fact, according to the new survey by Shoppers Drug Mart, while over three quarters of Canadians know they’re at risk of contracting diarrhea or a stomach bug on vacation, 55 per cent still say they would have a drink with ice, 53 percent would eat fresh seafood and/or shellfish, and 45 per cent would eat from a salad bar. To keep healthy on vacation, drink bottled water instead of local tap water. Ask for drinks without ice and be mindful of local fresh vegetables and fruit. To be best prepared, before travelling consult your local pharmacist to see if getting vaccinated is recommended for your destination.

Always plan ahead
: Research your destination! Whether you’re on a cruise or at a wellness retreat in Mexico, it’s not only important to know about the sights you’ll want to see, but also any potential health risks. I would recommend bringing things like Imodium, anti-nausea medication like Gravol, anti-histamines in case of allergic reaction or bug bites, and of course any of your regularly prescribed medications as well.

Are experts like yourself available for consult before travel? What would a consultation with a pharmacist look like?

Yes, absolutely! To ensure you and your family have a safe and healthy vacation, you can book a personalized travel health consultation with a pharmacist at your local Shoppers Drug Mart (SDM), by visiting or through the PC Health App.. An SDM travel consultation is a personalized risk-assessment specific to you and your travel itinerary, conducted by your local pharmacist. The pharmacist will educate you about any potential health risks, and recommend any precautions you can take, including preventative travel medications and vaccines. The pharmacist can also recommend a range of other travel-related items to put on your packing list such as first aid supplies, over-the-counter medications, travel-sized essentials and more.

Once you have booked your appointment, you will also be asked to complete a travel consult form online. This form should be completed before your appointment. On the day of the appointment, you should bring (if available):

  • A complete list of all medications you take including non-prescription medications, vitamins and supplements.
  • List of medications you have received in the past 10 years.
  • An extended health care benefits card.

Ideally, you should talk to your pharmacist 6-8 weeks in advance of your planned departure date to allow time for some vaccines and medications to take effect. If you are travelling less than six weeks from when you book your appointment, that’s okay! Your pharmacist can still provide information and recommendations and ensure you are prepared by:

  • Determining which (if any) immunizations are recommended based on your travel destination; and when possible, administering the required vaccines for a fee.
  • Providing you with a current list of all medications to take with you on your travels.
  • Ensuring you have enough supply of your current prescription medications while you are away.
  • Identifying any needed prescription or over-the-counter products; and
  • Advising on the safest way to travel with your medication.

Do different travel plans/destinations/itineraries require different sorts of prep/protection, health wise?

Yes, different destinations may be associated with unique health-related risks, and the severity of these risks can vary from person to person, depending on an individual’s medical history. Your pharmacist can help you navigate these risks and provide travel tips specific to your travel destination to facilitate a safe and enjoyable trip.

What are some high-health-risk travel activities, and how can we enjoy these while still protecting ourselves?

Some common activities that can put travellers at risk are (but not limited to):

  • Swimming or bathing in contaminated water
    • Contaminated water could expose you to many different types of bacteria (including E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella and Campylobacter), parasites (including Giardia, Crytosporidium, Cyclospora and others) and viruses (such as norovirus and rotavirus) all of which can cause travellers’ diarrhea.
  • Eating at a salad bar
    • Raw vegetables could be contaminated during preparation, and many germs and bacteria can’t be washed off with water alone (which could also be contaminated).
  • Eating fresh seafood and/or shellfish
    • Shellfish and seafood (if uncooked/not cooked properly) can be a common source of bacteria which can cause travellers’ diarrhea as well as Hepatitis A.
  • Indulging in having drinks with ice
    • Contaminated water made into ice poses risks of contracting travellers’ diarrhea, as well as Hep A.

During your SDM travel consultation, your local pharmacist can discuss which activities you can avoid or provide preventive measures based on the travel itinerary provided.


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