Do You Need To Get Vaccinated?3 min read
When you’re getting ready for a trip, either for business or pleasure, you think about all the things you need to do before you leave. Make sure someone is holding your mail, arrange care for your pets, pack your clothes and toiletries, and more. But do you think about your health before you leave?
If you’re traveling internationally, especially to developing countries or rural areas, you may be exposed to a variety of health risks that warrant a series of vaccinations before you arrive. According to the Centers for Disease Control, these risks depend on:
- Where you’re traveling
- What activities you’re be taking part in while traveling
- Your current health status
- Your vaccination history
Vaccinations are a critical component of this. They can protect you from some serious diseases, such as typhoid and yellow fever, which are common in some developing countries.
Measles is one of the leading causes of death among children in some developing countries. On top of that, the U.S. has seen the importation of measles cases from about 20 countries so far this year. That’s why the CDC recommends that all United States travelers that are 6 months old and above receive the MMR vaccine (the measles vaccine) prior to traveling.
Just as with other aspects of travel, your vaccinations require a bit of planning. First, you should schedule an appointment with your primary physician four to six weeks prior to your trip. This appointment will give you the opportunity to figure out which vaccines you should get based on your destination and any routine vaccines or boosters you might be due for, especially if you have any current health conditions.
Seeing your doctor this far in advance of your travels not only gives you plenty of time to complete any vaccine series (yes, some require more than one shot) as well as allowing your body time to use the vaccines to build up your immunity. Another time consideration is that not all primary doctors keep a stock of travel vaccines. That means you might have to plan a visit to a travel clinic for your shots after speaking to your doctor.
You should check to see if the country you’re traveling to requires you to provide proof of a yellow fever vaccine. You can only receive this vaccine from a registered provider and it must be given at least 10 days before you travel. In addition, you’ll need to make sure you get a stamped vaccine certificate as your proof.
In addition to getting vaccinated, there are some other steps you can take during your trip to lessen your risk of illness.
Be careful about what you eat and drink. Not only can contaminated foods cause food poisoning, but they can also carry hepatitis A or typhoid, depending on where you traveled to. That means you should only eat food that is hot and fully cooked, fruits and vegetables you peel yourself, pasteurized dairy products, and drink bottled beverages with an unbroken seal.
In certain countries bugs, such as mosquitoes, ticks and some flies, can spread disease. Protect yourself by using insect repellent. If you’re in an area that poses the risk of malaria, make sure you’re sleeping in an air conditioned or screened room under a bed net.
You should also be wary of animals during your trip, especially monkeys, dogs and birds – these animals can also carry and spread illnesses.
Photo from Get Holistic Health.