by TravelSafe Clinic TravelSafe Clinic No Comments

The Road Less Travelled: Driving and Traffic Safety Tips for World Travellers

The Family Truckster and Other Dangers on the Road 

If you were alive in the 80’s, you’ll most likely remember lol’ing while watching Chevy Chase careen off dirt roads, or drift into oncoming freeway traffic in the iconic, yet extremely ugly, “Wagon Queen Family Truckster.”

Indeed, the National Lampoon, Vacation movies mythologized and hyperbolized the age-old family vacation experience. Of course, talking to most people, you’ll find they have their own “travel disaster stories,” some of which rival those of the sophomoric comedy franchise!

Truth, as they say, is often stranger than fiction.

While those events may make for great cocktail party stories, in the moment, they are anxiety-inducing and even terrifying. Perhaps, more to the point, many of these disasters could’ve been avoided if travelers took the time to take a few easy precautions. Here are some helpful travel hacks to consider before heading out on your next adventure!


Know the Traffic

A staunch New Yorker, Woody Allen famously criticized Los Angeles, lamenting, “its only cultural advantage is that you can make a right turn on a red light.” Whether that’s a fair assessment of LA is, perhaps, fodder for another blog, but what is a valid point is that traffic laws, patterns, and rules differ vastly depending on what state, country and continent you’re traveling in. Case in point, turning right on a red light is illegal in most countries in Europe!


Across the Pond (and Beyond)

England is an obvious example of a country with very different traffic than ours. Indeed, right-hand drive cars are tricky to get used to and downright dangerous if driven without prior practice. If you aren’t confident driving on the other side of the road (or car), it’s best to take the many other forms of transportation available in the UK. Between the subway, trains, buses, taxis, and Uber, there is no need to drive if you don’t want to. The best way to avoid a car accident is to avoid driving a car!


Look Both Ways…

While driving may be optional when visiting the UK, walking is not. While you may have been a pro since the age of 7 at crossing the street, many visitors to England are injured every year due to looking the wrong way before crossing the street. It’s an easy mistake to make, as we are so conditioned to look to the left, not the right, for oncoming traffic in North America.


Pedestrians vs Cars

In many countries, the car is king. Unlike most places in Canada, cars in many other countries may not stop for you if you are waiting at a crosswalk, and, more importantly, if you are crossing the street, don’t assume they will stop either! Pedestrians in other countries often don’t have the right-of-way, and it’s imperative that you exercise extreme caution around traffic, especially in large urban centres.

The reality is that road traffic accidents, including car collisions, vehicles hitting pedestrians and cyclists, account for the biggest cause of death for otherwise healthy travellers. No laughing matter.


Roundabouts and Other Traffic Anomalies

Roundabouts are a good example of tricky traffic anomalies that we don’t experience much here in Canada. It can be difficult getting on and off of these circular conundrums and dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.


It’s best to inform yourself of the rules before attempting one, lest you get perpetually stuck in a traffic loop, like the Griswold’s in European Vacation (look kids, Big Ben!), or worse, cause an unnecessary traffic accident.


A helpful resource to learn about how to negotiate roundabouts and traffic in Europe can be found by clicking the link below:


Don’t Get Distracted!

Christie Brinkley in a Red Ferrari may have been Clark Griswold’s lone (yet dangerous) distraction in the 1980’s, but today we have so many more potential distractions when traveling.


Turf the Text

Avoid texting, or checking your phone while driving. It’s not only extremely dangerous but illegal in most countries in Europe.



Whether you’re using your smartphone or a GPS device, it’s best to plug in your destination before you start driving and follow the voice commands, keeping your eyes on the road at all times. If you think you’re lost, pull over when it’s safe to consult your GPS or smartphone rather than fidget with these devices while driving!


Consider Car Condition

The risk of accidents is especially high in resource-poor destinations: 90% of fatalities on the road happen in low- or middle-income countries (many in South-East Asia).

Vehicles in such places may not have seat belts, and lights and brakes may not work. Before getting into a vehicle in such locales, be sure to familiarize yourself with its condition and take the necessary precautions.

Keep Calm and Drive On

It’s easy to get frazzled when driving in foreign countries. What with toll booths, higher freeway speeds, and different traffic signs, it can be daunting experience behind the wheel.


The best way to deal with escalating stress is to remember to breathe, keep calm and alert. Losing your cool is a recipe for accidents! Don’t worry if you take a wrong turn–you can always circle back. Keep to the slow lane if you are uncomfortable driving at higher speeds. If you are tired or overly-stressed, find a safe place to pull over and take a break.







by Penny Gleave RN, BScN Penny Gleave RN, BScN No Comments

Tips to Keep Motion Sickness at Bay

Motion Sickness is an unpleasant feeling that most of us have experienced at some point while travelling.  An exciting journey can quickly change from fun to miserable if you experience this physiological response to motion.

Motion sickness occurs when our body, inner ear and eyes send differing information to our brain.  An example of this is when we are on a boat.   Our inner ear senses the motion, but our eyes do not see movement.   Motion Sickness can occur when travelling by air, car, train, boat or even while watching a 3D movie.

Who is most at risk?

Children two -12 years old

Those who are prone to nausea and vomiting

Women more than men; particularly women who are pregnant, menstruating or taking hormones

Travellers taking certain prescription medications



  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • feeling ‘unwell’
  • fatigue
  • increased salivation
  • sweating



Prevention is ideal to ensure you do not experience motion sickness in the first place.  Here are some things you can do before and while you are travelling:

Avoid moving your head as much as possible

Expose yourself to fresh air if accessible

Avoid heavy meals and alcohol before and during travel

Avoid strong odours

Look out the window in the direction you are travelling. This can help with visual affirmation of motion and align the inner ear and visual sensory input.

In a car, sit in the front seat and avoid watching screens or reading a book

Watch the horizon and go out on deck when travelling by boat or ship – Arrange a cabin near the centre and at the waterline of the ship

When booking air travel, choose a window seat near the wings

Sleeping or closing your eyes while travelling

Avoid smoking

Sipping ginger ale or ginger tea may decrease motion sickness

Taking Dimenhydrinate (Gravol) 30-60 minutes before departure.

According to Bernice Li, Registered Pharmacist at Pharmasave Kitsilano, it is best to take Dimenhydrinate (Gravol) 30-60 minutes before travel as it is most effective when taken before exposure.


Acupressure –  There is no conclusive evidence Sea Bands help with motion sickness but if you are prone to motion sickness you it may be something to try preventatively.  Ensure you follow the manufacturers recommendations.  Correct band placement is essential.




Medication: Dimenhydrinate (Gravol) is available in liquid, chewable tablet and suppository form.  Suppositories are recommended if your child is vomiting.  A medication trial at home before you leave can ensure your child will not experience any side effects if it is the first time Gravol will be consumed.

  • Dose: 2-6 years, 15-25mg every 6-8 hours
  • Dose: 6-12 years, 30-50mg every 6-8 hours


Medication: Gravol is available in (chewable) tablets and suppository.

  • Adult dose: 50 mg every 4-6 hours

Side effects of Dimenhydrinate may be drowsiness and dry mouth.

Scopolamine trans dermal patches are available for adults only and can provide protection for up to 72h.  Check with a pharmacist or your family doctor before using Scopolamine to ensure it is a suitable option with your health history and medications.


Check with a pharmacist or family doctor to ensure you obtain the safest option during your pregnancy.


Tips to take away!

Prevention is the best approach to avoiding motion sickness – so plan ahead!





by TravelSafe Clinic TravelSafe Clinic No Comments

Really Big Fish, Richard Dreyfuss and the Truth About Water Safety

“I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat.”


That iconic line from the 1970’s film, Jaws, struck fear into the hearts of beach goers and swimming enthusiasts the world over! The movie’s tagline, “you’ll never go in the water again,” genuinely scared moviegoers into avoiding the water in fear of being eaten by over sized fish!

Realistically, attacks from angry, man-eating sharks were the least of their worries. The actual statistics regarding shark-related fatalities are minuscule compared to the number of people who are injured or killed every year in water-related accidents.

It isn’t Jaws we need to be scared of, but our own lack of preparation and water safe knowledge (and in my case, taking off my shirt in public after a winter of not working out once!).

With this in mind, here is some water-safe information that will help you stay safe this summer as you head out on the water!


Keep Your Children Water-Safe

Children need to be supervised constantly around water. Whether they are wading in a pool, beach, or lake, it’s important to always be within reach.

Young children can drown in less than 2 inches of water, which is the reason they need to be supervised at all times, regardless the depth of water.

Supervisors of children should be proficient swimmers and have knowledge of First Aid.

It is also recommended that any child over the age of 4, learn how to swim. In fact, children over the age of 1 will benefit from taking swimming lessons from qualified instructors.

Make sure to buy proper-fitting flotation devices and have your children wear them when near or in the water. Check the weight and size recommendations on the label and have your children try it on before heading to the water.

Sunscreen is a must. Make sure that your children are wearing a high SPF (40 to 50) and waterproof sunscreen. As they are most likely getting in and out of the water, ensure that they are re-applying often.


Stay Current on Currents

Rip currents are very dangerous and are responsible for many deaths every year. The best way to stay safe at the beach is to only swim in the ocean if there is a designated lifeguard present. Rip currents can form in any large open water area, such as low spots and breaks in sandbars.


Below are some rip current safety tips you can follow, provided by the Red Cross:

  • If you are caught in a rip current, stay calm and don’t fight the current.
  • Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, turn and swim toward shore.
  • If you can’t swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore.
  • If you feel you can’t make it to the shore, draw attention to yourself by waving and calling for help.
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.
  • If someone is in trouble in the water, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1.Throw the victim something that floats – a lifejacket, cooler, inflatable ball and yell instructions on how to escape the current.
  • When at the beach, check conditions before entering the water. Check to see if any warning flags are up or ask a lifeguard about water conditions, beach conditions, or any potential hazards.


Drinking and Swimming

There is one main rule when it comes to drinking and swimming. Don’t. Quite simply, water and alcohol do not mix (in the ocean or in your wine spritzer). Here’s why:

  • Alcohol in your system can lure you into a false sense of security when swimming
  • Your senses will become impaired, which can lead to risk-taking behaviour in the water
  • You may experience disorientation and confusion, as alcohol reduces the rate at which your brain can process information
  • Your sense of distance and direction will be altered, leaving you vulnerable to changing currents when river or sea swimming
  • The alcohol in your bloodstream will cause your body temperature to drop, which could result in hypothermia if you become stranded


Have Fun and Be Safe! 

So the next time you head out on the water, remember, you don’t need a bigger boat– you need more sunscreen and water-safe knowledge! Don’t let Richard Dreyfuss scare you! However, I did love him in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.



by Kristin Gagnon, RN Kristin Gagnon, RN No Comments

Is the Yellow Fever Vaccine Shortage Really ‘Bugging’ You?

Travelling to Africa or South America? You may be at risk for Yellow Fever.

If you are travelling to Africa or South America, you may be at risk for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially serious and life threatening disease caused by a virus spread by an infected mosquito. The best way to prevent yellow fever is to get vaccinated!

There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. A return to normal supply is only expected in late 2018. When travelling to an area with yellow fever risk, especially to areas experiencing an outbreak, the best option is to receive a full dose of the vaccine or to postpone travel.

When this is not possible, the Public Health Agency of Canada has recommended the use of a fractional dose of yellow fever vaccine. Based on existing evidence the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that a fifth of the standard vaccine dose (0.1mL instead of 0.5mL) will provide protection against yellow fever for at least 12 months.

The WHO states that a fractional dose does not qualify for a yellow fever certificate. Therefore, when receiving a fractional dose travellers are provided with a waiver which is valid for 12 months beginning 10 days after vaccination. An explanation that the traveller received a fractional dose due to a severe vaccine shortage is written on the waiver. This waiver should satisfy border entry requirements.


What should you do if you are travelling to Africa or South America?

Book your consultation at TravelSafe Clinic as soon as possible! We will review your itinerary, vaccine history, and medical history to determine if the yellow fever vaccine is recommended for you.

If you need the vaccine you will then need to book a separate appointment to return for a yellow fever fractional dosing clinic. You will be booked with a group of people at the same time to receive a fractional dose since the vaccine must be used within one hour once opening (so please arrive on time for your fractional dose!).

Depending on vaccine availability you will either return to TravelSafe Clinic for the fractional dose or be referred to another travel clinic for vaccination.


Is there any option to receive a full dose?

Due to the extreme vaccine shortage TravelSafe Clinic is only able to offer a fractional dose when the vaccine is in stock. You may be able to locate a full dose at other travel clinics in Vancouver that have a greater supply of the vaccine. There are also a number of yellow fever vaccination centres in major airports serving as transit points to Africa and South America.

This may be an option if you will not be at yellow fever risk or required to show the vaccine certificate for at least 10 days following vaccination and if you have no major medical issues. It may be possible to make a vaccine appointment if travelling through airports in Frankfurt, London, Munich, Paris, Johannesburg, and Mexico City. We can review your options during your consultation at TravelSafe Clinic.


Yellow fever certificates now valid for life!

As of July 2016 yellow fever certificate validity changed from 10 years to life of the person vaccinated. Therefore a yellow fever booster is no longer needed if it has been longer than 10 years since previous vaccination. The lifetime validity automatically applies to all existing and new certificates, beginning 10 days after vaccination. So hang on to those old yellow fever certificates!

Before you travel, protect your health.

TravelSafely with TravelSafe Immunization Clinic